To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘The Boys’ is a cynical superhero must-see

I would like to thank my friend Harry who introduced me to “The Boys.” I went into this show completely blind and it pleasantly surprised me. Afterward, I was so hooked that I bought an Amazon subscription. So, stop reading here to avoid any spoilers, give it a watch and subscribe to Amazon to support the show. It’s that good, and I don’t know if I can do it justice here. With that said, let’s get into it.

A quick synopsis with minor spoilers: “The Boys” is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, set in a world where superheroes are supervillains. These “supes,” as the show calls them, are part of a group called “the Seven,” which is owned and backed by a multi-billion-dollar corporation called “Vought.” The Seven are perceived by the public as champions of justice, though that’s merely Vought’s marketing ploy: most members of the Seven are self-important, morally bankrupt crooks. The parodies are obvious. There is Homelander, who is basically an evil Superman with serious mommy issues; the Deep, who’s like Aquaman but painfully self-aware about how useless he is compared to other supes; Queen Maeve, a Wonder Woman-like superhero; Translucent; Black Noir; and a Flash-like character called A-Train who dopes a lot. 

A-Train accidentally kills protagonist Hugh “Hughie” Campbell’s girlfriend in the show’s opening moments. Driven by grief and vengeance, Hughie joins the titular “Boys,” a vigilante group aiming to tear down Vought and its supes. Meanwhile, Annie January/Starlight joins the Seven as a new recruit who quickly learns the true nature of the heroes she once admired.

The show is unapologetically cynical toward the idea of superheroes, which could be a major turnoff for people who just want to casually binge-watch a light-hearted show like “The Flash,” but I absolutely adored the show’s attitude. It nonchalantly frames the supes as sell-outs that embody artificiality. They spout corporate talking points while engaging in hypocrisy and abusing their powers. It exposes the fact that people with superpowers are still people who are subject to corruption and all sorts of flaws, even extreme vices and errors. It doesn’t frame the supes as purely evil either, but rather as struggling individuals, each with their own personal problems. “The Boys” is a story that humanizes superheroes as these abominable villains that are somehow still relatable.

But it’s mainly a story about bringing them down, and that’s a job for The Boys, the stars of the show, who bring what it means to be an anti-hero to a whole new level. The vigilantes are led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban,) a hard-boiled ex-CIA operative who harbors intense hatred for every super-abled individual, showing no mercy or hesitation in his quest. He compares The Boys to “The Spice Girls,” who are useless alone, but together, “they are the Spice Girls.” The team dynamic is volatile. It consists of very different people who frequently clash with each other over their differences in personal philosophy and past grudges. But together, as The Boys, they complement each other to achieve their goal. Their interactions are a big part of what makes the show so fun to watch. However, in the interest of not giving away spoilers, I won’t say anymore. 

The show may seem super edgy and dark. It often is, with most of the edge coming from Butcher. But it’s always fun to watch him, brilliantly played by Urban, who is absolutely ruthless on his path to bring down the supes. It’s obvious the guy is unhinged and consumed by vengeance, but I found myself rooting for him and The Boys nonetheless. And then there’s Homelander, who’s just an unstable psychopath and a big bully to other members of the Seven. Actor Antony Starr does an amazing job. The character is legitimately terrifying whenever he enters the scene and yet weirdly likeable at the same time, probably because of how far removed he is from the conventional version of a superhero.  

Other times the show is just plain weird and hysterical, and I mean that in a good way. It combines over-the-top gore with ridiculous concepts to great effect. There’s a scene where Butcher picks up a baby that shoots laser beams, slicing everyone in the room in half. In another scene, a dolphin pops out of a truck, slams onto the pavement, and is run over by another vehicle, all in slow motion and accompanied by a happy background soundtrack. There were so many moments that left my jaw loose and made me question what I just witnessed. My article can’t do it justice. It’s a show that has to be experienced. 

In retrospect, it seems absurd that nobody came up with this idea of ordinary (well, maybe not so ordinary) people going up against corrupt superheroes before“The Boys.” It delivers the cynical premise beautifully. It’s definitely worth the watch.    

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