The Boys: A Subversive Tale of Superheroes
What if superheroes are actually evil, not the paragon of goodness we are often led to believe?
In the TV series The Boys, we look at how the commodification of heroism hides the ugly underbelly of the truth to keep up the veneer that we need superheroes and that they are good.
In this highly watchable TV series based on the comic series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, humor, gore, and really bad superheroes are the fascinating highlight while the real heroes, The Boys, are actually a ragtag group of regular folk without powers but a whole lot of street smarts led by Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher.
All of them have a stake in taking down the “Supes”, as Butcher coins them.
Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) lost his fiance to A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), a speedster supe, who killed her in the most flippant manner. I don’t think I’ve seen a death like that on TV.
Serge, aka Frenchie (Tomer Capon), carries the guilt for not stopping Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore) from killing the grandchildren of The Boys founder Colonel Grace Mallory’s (the exquisite Laila Robins last seen in The Blacklist as Katarina Rostova).
Marvin T. (Laz Alonso) aka “Mother’s Milk” or MM, loyal and steadfast, is in it to help his team at great risk to his family. Some of the best scenes are MM making a dollhouse for his daughter in their hideout.
Kimiko Miyashiro (Karen Fukuhara), a reluctant Supe with super strength and healing, is saved by The Boys and remains to help them at great personal cost, as she will find out in Season 2.
Their leader, the former SAS operative Billy Butcher, lost his wife due to the actions of Homelander (Antony Starr in a darkly twisted role after his time as Lucas Hood in Banshee), the narcissistic and exceptionally cruel leader of the elite Supes, The Seven, who is a twisted version of Superman, with his cape, his powers, but not an ounce of his goodness.
How do they take the Supes down? With a combination of ingenuity and luck, and help in the right places from Mallory who is the former deputy director of the CIA, Susan Raynor (Jennifer Esposito) the current deputy director of the CIA, and Starlight aka Annie January (Erin Moriarty), the one purely good Supe in the Seven.
Of course, the Supes themselves are highly layered and conflicted characters.
Homelander had no childhood to speak of and was raised like a lab rat with no love in his life.
Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), The Boys stand-in for Wonder Woman, had a life before the Seven and began her career with good intentions but eventually became swayed by Homelander to do wrong.
Speedster A-Train is addicted to power, drugs, and being number one, not caring if he destroys everything in his way.
The Deep (Chace Crawford) is a misogynistic substitute for Aquaman who can speak to fish and breathe underwater.
The Boys surprises with thrills and unexpected reveal that make the viewing fun and exciting ride. Like The 100, it is often hard to predict what the next episode brings.
It is, on occasion, darkly risque, à la Game of Thrones, sometimes abruptly coming out of nowhere. I wouldn’t recommend watching this when the children may wander in and accidentally catch a scene.
There are many cameos that make this universe feel immensely expansive.
The recent episode featuring a visit to a supe hospital gave me the same delight as I felt during the school scene in X-Men 2 when the students demonstrated their powers while escaping from the bad guys. Shawn Ashmore appeared in this episode and I enjoyed the irony of him playing a fire supe versus his portrayal of Iceman in the X-Men franchise.
Other cameos I especially loved include Haley Joel Osment’s mind-reading Mesmer, Ess Hödlmoser’s Cindy who possesses the exceptionally powerful skill of being able to crush things with a gesture of her hand, Dan Darin-Zanco’s Doppelganger who can mimic anyone, and of course, the supe baby in what is arguably the best scene in the series.
As The Boys wraps up its second season, with a third on its way, there is no better time to catch it. There is enough story to satisfy and a firmly paved road to new adventures to look forward to.