I was told about The Boys being released by a new friend, who has read the source material and said I would probably really enjoy it. He gave me the basic premise – lots of superheros and the boys are trying to hold them to account for the collateral damage they create. (Something that the DC universe has tried to touch on, somewhat unsuccessfully). I then googled and discovered that the awesome Karl Urban is in the show, so I was sold.
I watched the pilot with the friend above so we could enjoy together, myself with no expectations, he with some. Although the warning came up that the show is rated 18, and I was not fully prepared for how dark and graphic it would be. We both enjoyed the pilot thoroughly and I then quickly binged the series over the next couple of weeks (I downloaded and kept it for my trains to and from Fringe).
Quick basic synopsis for those that want to watch without spoilers. America has many superheroes, who work for and are leased out by a super corporation. The most famous are ‘The Seven’ who have movies, TV shows, toys, etc.. basically whored out by the corporation. We follow a young ‘supe’ Starlight joining the Seven and the issues she faces. Whilst simultaneously we follow Huey who has suffered from the collateral damage caused by one of the Seven, and is approached by Billy Butcher who wants to help him get revenge.
It is much darker than the Marvel films, and the majority of the characters are morally ambiguous although you sympathise with and even support their decisions they are not necessarily redeemable. There is blood, gore and some very sexual elements including a weird sort of rape, and the aftermath of this on the character.
Overall I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next Season. Continue reading only if you have seen the show or are happy to have some spoilers….
So apparently, the source material has Huey based on the likeness of Simon Pegg, so my friend who I watched it with was initially commenting that Huey in the show didn’t look enough like him…only to discover that Simon Pegg plays his Dad. Turns out Simon Pegg has always been flattered to be immortalised in the comics and wanted to be involved, but was too old to play Huey.
So we meet Huey with his girlfriend Robin and they quickly establish that they have a loving relationship and are going to move in together, they are holding hands and sharing a kiss when Robin explodes. And I do mean explodes – blood, bones everywhere. So graphic and so dark I gasped, the special effects were great but nothing is left to the imagination. I guess so we see exactly what Huey sees. One of the Seven – A-Train who has super speed (and we later find out what hopped up on a Supe heroin substance) ran through her.
The corporation Vought, attempt to pay Huey off for his loss but he declines and is approached by Butcher who claims to be from the FBI and wants to help Huey bring down A-Train. We later discover that Butcher is acting along but does have links to the FBI and the CIA (a history that we get snippets off but is not fully explained) and that he has an axe to grind against Homelander – the figurehead and most powerful of the Seven. Huey goes down paths he never thought he would and ends up doing some very dark things including murder, but not of the person he wanted revenge on and we see how he changes throughout the show but also how he justifies his decisions. His evolution from a innocent to becoming more like Butcher is really interesting. Particularly when we later meet the person that created Butcher by promising him exactly what he promised Huey.
Meanwhile we meet Starlight and her secret identity Annie, and see that she comes from humble upbringings with an overbearing mother who wants to live her regrets through her daughter. Arguable Starlight is the only character in the show who is ‘good’ and who’s motives and actions are never questionable. I do hope they explore this in Season 2, as she feel’s far to perfect to fit into the dark, corrupt world they have created. Starlight meets the first member of the Seven, The Deep, who quickly demands that she go down on him or he will get her chucked out of the Seven. She relents and we see her vomiting in the toilet and feeling violated.
Later in the season we find The Deep having to apologise for what he did to Starlight and sent to some rinky dink town in Ohio as penance. It’s here he comes home with a girl who essentially gill rapes him (yes, weird) whilst playing with herself. We seem him scared and in pain and protesting – it’s pretty dark. I generally detest rape in TV and film – it’s used for shock value, can be far too graphic and it’s generally used as a trope to traumatise a strong female character. But this was interesting as we see him being violated but in a way that is specific to him, but also we seem him having a breakdown later and shaving all of his hair off. I am interested to see where they go with this – to see a male character deal with feeling powerless, small, dirty and used, but also to see if he recognises his own previous discretions and repents.
(Note: I spent ages trying to figure out where I recognised The Deep from – then realised he’s Nate from Gossip Girl. Yes, I have watched Gossip Girl and yes, I am ashamed. It’s utterly shit but sort of addictive.)
There’s so many other themes covered – grief, guilt, corporate greed, human experimentation, religion and some links to the far right that I could keep going for ages. Overall it’s a really strong show – good characters, well-acted, good effects and not afraid to deal with challenging issues. And I am a sucker for a show with anti-heroes and moral ambiguity. Definitely worth a watch.