The Boys (TV series 2019-)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Hughie (Jack Quaid from Star Trek: Lower Decks) is in love. He holds his girlfriend’s hands while they kiss goodbye in a quiet street. She’s one step off the footpath. Then superhero A-Train (Jessie T Usher from Independence Day: Resurgence and Level Up) runs through the girlfriend, who explodes in a shower of blood and guts. Hughie stands holding just her hands. In his grief and rage, he joins The Boys to take the so-called superheroes down.

Starlight (Erin Moriarty from Jessica Jones) was born a superhero. Her mother is one of those beauty pageant mothers, constantly pushing Starlight to watch her calories, be a good Christian superhero and aim to join The Seven, the pinnacle of a superhero’s possible career. She is successful. Then, in a private meeting, superhero The Deep (Chace Crawford, Family Guy) demands a blow job or he’ll destroy Starlight’s career. Shattered, she complies. She feels so dirty, so shaken, and Mommy Dearest has no sympathy.

Season 1 and 2

Both seasons have a story arc involving political issues relevant to contemporary culture. The Boys reflects our era where the average person has no justifiable confidence in governments, politicians and big business. Most of them have revealed their venal corruption.

The first season focuses on corruption, greed and sexual misconduct, including rape, murder and coverup while revealing the “heroes” as petty, venal and wealth-obsessed.

While second season continues these themes, including the “right” for rapists to be restored to their former glory, this story arc scrapes the bottom of the barrel when key “heroes” reveal their white supremacist foundation, including one who is, quite literally, a former Nazi. Or perhaps not so “former”.

The Boys vs race

Each story arc is intelligent, inextricably entwining its social comment with a kick-ass plot. Just when I thought “I’ve seen this before” a scene involving a black man and a white man engage in dialogue too intense and intelligent to be dismissed as “banter”. The screen writing is so sharp there must be blood on the writing room floor.

The Boys vs the womens and gender

With a title like “The Boys”, and a key “Captain America” type “superhero” (Homelander, played by Anthony Starr from American Gothic and Banshee), you could be forgiven for expecting your traditional misogynistic superhero story.

Not only is Starlight determined not to stay a victim, there are other powerful women including Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott from The Last Tycoon and House of Cards).

Maeve is complex: a bisexual who had a relationship with Homelander because she’s terrified of him and what he’ll do if he doesn’t get his own way. And, for the record, Maeve dresses like Xena. The first time she comes on screen, you just know to expect sexual complexity.

The Boys spoofs all the tropes regarding Maeve’s sexuality. And I mean it: this is no Joss Whedon perpetuating unhealthy tropes by pretending to spoof them without interrogation in Cabin in the Woods. The Boys delves into the tropes, interrogating them, challenging them. When Maeve comes out, Voight Industries (the company that owns The Seven) decides to capitalize on her relationship with another woman, branding her as “Brave Maeve” and a lesbian. Maeve challenges this, complaining, stating that she’s bisexual but that’s too complex to sell well. And the writing, if possible, just gets better from there.

Homelander has a really weird mother-complex where he’s jealous of a non-supe-colleague’s baby, wanting to suckle from her in a weird Oedipus-type relationship.

Women are, in turns, victims, strong, fearful, awe-inspiring and vicious.

The Boys vs disability

Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara from Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and Craig of the Creek), a woman of color the Boys rescue, cannot speak. She also suffers post traumatic stress disorder. Gradually her personality emerges, like a flower opening petal by petal. A really powerful, blood-thirsty, vengeance-seeking flower. The Boys realize Kimiko is a supe herself, which causes conflict between them.

Kimiko’s muteness and superpowers are not linked. The muteness and PTSD are due to trauma. The superpowers came later, during a process that was also traumatic but were in no way linked to having a disability. Can I get a “hell yeah”?!

The adorable Frenchie (one of the Boys, played by Tomer Capon from When Heroes Fly) tries to save her – white saviour complex? – and learns his lesson. So much wit in the writers’ room.

The verdict

I loved the first season and burned through the whole season really quickly. Quite often second seasons aren’t as good so I wasn’t as motivated to continue watching. However, hubby was. The series won me over again, after flipping the table – at one point literally – on everything I thought I knew about superheroes and villains. Wonder Woman it ain’t! A word of warning: this series has boobs, butt, and lots and lots of blood. Not for the faint of heart. However, I highly recommend The Boys.

Series details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Creator: Eric Kripke
Production co: Amazon Studios
Stars: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr… Ever noticed how IMDB prefers male actors over women? This show would bomb without Starlight (Erin Moriarty), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and the rest of the womens.
Running time: 2 seasons so far, 8 episodes per season, about an hour per episode

The boys: supes and humans are collaged together with Homelander looking like the entrance to a fairground house of horrors