Developed by: Eric Kripke
Starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Laz Alonso, Tomer Kapon, Karen Fukuhara
IMDB Rating: 9.0/10 Stars
THE BOYS is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes, who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods, abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. It’s the powerless against the super powerful as The Boys embark on a heroic quest to expose the truth about “The Seven”, and their formidable Vought backing.
Led by the phenomena of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superheroes are everywhere. You can’t avoid them. An entire industry has been fuelled by the creativity and the action-packed superhero flicks. These films often depict our superheroes as beacons of hope, the moral compass in this twisted world, and the ultimate good guys. The Boys shatters this squeaky clean image of what a superhero should be. They take the pedestal these heroes are placed on and use it as a way of demonstrating the manipulation and fabrication of this image highlighting how our adoration contributes to their destructive, almost god-like persona.
Led by Homelander (Antony Starr), we have the equivalent of the Justice League/Avengers in The Seven. The ultimate superhero force who happily exploit their images as a means of building their commercial brand. Of course, every company needs a marketing team and it’s in Vought that we really get to see this manipulative narrative take shape. The Seven, even with all their superpowers, provides social insight into issues plaguing contemporary society. The actions of the Seven are uncomfortable to witness and through the eyes of the innocent Starlight (Erin Moriarty), their newest member, we really get to see how perverse, narcissistic and unhinged these superheroes are.
With that, every superhero needs a villain, and in this case, their biggest foe comes from the most unlikely source. After witnessing the brutal death of his girlfriend, Hughie’s (Jack Quaid) world is upended by the stark realisation that the superheroes he once admired are not what they seem. His anger and grief make him the perfect recruit to a ragtag team of heroes that know first hand what it’s like to be a superhero’s collateral damage. Billy Butcher has a score to settle with the Seven, and Karl Urban does a phenomenal job of tapping into Butcher’s crude, dark humour that covers the deep pain hiding behind his anger. As the series progresses, and we learn more about his past, we get to see how his anger drives him to the darkest corners, effectively blurring the lines between hero and villain as his no-hold-barred suicide mission threatens to tip him and the team over the edge.
The Boys would not be what it is without the dedicated performance from our cast. The dynamic between Jack Quaid and Karl Urban is built on the mutual experience of losing someone to the Seven. Hughie could easily follow Butcher’s path, but his burgeoning relationship with Erin Moriarty’s Annie (Starlight) serves as a reminder that not all superheroes are villains. The friendship between Butcher and Hughie is tested on several occasion, and the shows closing scene could further distance the two as their common denominator is shattered.
The biggest surprise of the show comes from Antony Starr’s portrayal of Homelander. A Superman/Captain America mash-up, Homelander serves as the leader and face of the Seven. A symbol of national pride and hope to the public, Starr’s stilled performance subtly evokes a sense of unease and unpredictability in Homelander, making the moments he effectively loses that control shows just how unhinged this character is. Homelander is by far the most dangerous member of the Seven and with the personal stakes between Butcher and Homelander rising, the dynamic between these two is destructive.
The Boys provides critical insight into the dangers of worshipping false heroes, and in doing so highlights a cynical view of society as even a character’s most personal trauma can be commercialised into a selling point. The violence may be off-putting to some viewers, but its infusion of dark comedy serves as an effective counterbalance allowing moments of levity even in the most horrific setting. The Boys is a show that is all about shattering our perception of superheroes while highlighting our own failings in placing them on such pedestals.
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