If I had to sum up Amazon’s latest comic book adaptation, ‘The Boys’ in the words of Billy Butcher, it’d go something like…
‘The Boys’ is an ‘orrible, gritty, ugly, glorious, c*nt of a show. And it’s compelling viewing, I blasted through all eight (roughly) hour long episodes in two sittings.
Adapted from the comic book of the same name, ‘The Boys’ tells a different side to the standard superhero story where ‘supes‘ are just as flawed as normal folk. But their abuse of power is covered up by slick marketing in the name of merchandising and profitability.
The series is the latest dive into comic book territory for Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg who also created ‘Preacher’. They’re joined by Eric Kripke, who one suspects is integral to the series’ clever writing.
With no holds barred, ‘The Boys’ routinely depicts graphic scenes of death and violence, scenes of a sexual nature and regular profanity. The latter provided almost exclusively from the mouth of Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Rarely will you hear the C bomb so profusely as in this series. Rarely will you hear such a bastardisation of a British accent either.
Originating from the East end of London, Billy Butcher is damaged goods. He holds a personal vendetta against one hero in particular – blaming him for the disappearance of his wife. Driven by hurt and anger, Butcher will stop at nothing to expose the indiscretions of supes. If a few get killed along the way? Even better.
Huey (Jack Quaid) is a regular guy. A mild mannered store clerk with his life ahead of him. A life soon turned upside down when ‘A-Train’, the fastest superhero in the world, runs straight through his girlfriend, liquefying her in front of his eyes. Collateral damage. Nothing more than problem for the Vought corporation to smooth over with a hefty cash payment and an NDA to protect their product.
Vought manage and market superheroes, in particular ‘The Seven’. The world’s greatest hero team led by the world’s greatest hero, ‘Homelander’ (Anthony Starr).
With vengeance and a lust for justice, Huey joins up with Butcher and his dysfunctional team. But life is soon complicated when he falls for the newest member of ‘The Seven’, ‘Starlight’ (Erin Moriarty).
Starlight, The Deep, Queen Maeve, Homelander, Black Noir, A-Train, Translucent
In an era of superhero saturation, ‘The Boys’ is not so much a breath of fresh air, it’s too grimy for that. It’s an antidote to the perception that heroes are morally well-adjusted, upstanding, selfless beings.
We soon learn that ‘The Deep’ (Chace Crawford) is a sexual predator. ‘Translucent’ (Alex Hassell) a voyeur. ‘Queen Maeve’ (Dominique McElligott) struggles with alcohol abuse and rejection. ‘A-Train’ is a junkie, addicted to compound V – steroids for supes. And most significantly, ‘Homelander’ is wracked with a need to be centre of attention at all times, but feels isolated.
Every one of them is uniquely vulnerable. The same can be said for Butcher and The Boys. All of whom battle their own demons.
It’s these human qualities that bring the show together. As viewers we know we should be repulsed by The Deep and his predatory nature. Yet we’re tricked into feeling sorry for a character belittled by his peers and stifled in his aspirations to be more than just “the fish guy”.
Huey manages to remain the underdog we’re rooting for, despite witnessing him murdering a supe with little hesitation. Admittedly it’s a moment of black humour. Our diminutive protagonist hits the trigger on explosives inserted into the hero’s anus – thus turning him inside out. But that’s a dark turn of events by any stretch of the imagination.
Billy Bucher and Huey
Even ‘Homelander’, a petulant child in the body of a god, is still a fascinating watch. Actor Anthony Starr portrays the character with such aplomb, his face alone tells so much of the story.
Characterisation aside, there are many integral components that make ‘The Boys’ such compelling viewing. Sub plots intertwine to reveal a far bigger picture. The incident that sees Huey’s girlfriend murdered in the opening episode can be traced through to the season’s conclusion and an event of global significance. Political and personal agendas collide in a grotesque way. Twists and unexpected reveals will keep you invested all the way.
Just as important to making the show believable are superb visual effects. As gross as witnessing human dismemberment is, it’s a spectacle to see people sliced in half by a superhero with laser vision. I’m not talking a clean, carefully cauterised slice either. Everything is spilling out.
Gruesome gore aside for the minute. Here’s an interesting fact. In the comics, the character of Huey was genuinely based on British actor, Simon Pegg. Pegg was always first choice to take on the role in any television or movie adaptation of ‘The Boys’. Unfortunately it took so long for this to happen that ultimately the actor ended up playing Huey’s father instead. His American accent is as bad as Karl Urban’s attempt at a British one.
Bad accents aside – great casting, clever writing, believable digital effects, gruesome violence and dark humour result in a real, action packed, fun ride of a show. Binge watch this one now – if you’re not put off by human insides that is.