Not your typical superhero drama …and it all began with The Boys Season 1!
S P O I L E R S
The Boys started life with Image Comics in 2006 before subsequently moving on to Dynamite Entertainment. Created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, the series’ main intent was to offer a different look at superheroes – darker and more cynical, with socio-political commentaries on celebrity and capitalist corporate cultures.
Since its debut, the series had first been explored as a film project before making more sense as a TV series in the streaming era with Amazon’s confirmation in 2017. Produced by Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, The Boys Season 1 began streaming on Amazon Prime in 2019 and was an instant smash success, with a second season slated for September 2020.
Where the boys are …
While the series is named after the group of clandestine vigilantes viz. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) working to bring down Vought International and its superheroes, the story – at least for the first season – is really about Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid).
Yes, I believe that Hughie is the main character for The Boys Season 1. The story really begins with the death of his girlfriend Robin, by the speedster A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). Hughie’s refusal to accept Vought’s wrongful death compensation brings him to the attention of Butcher, who recruits Hughie to Butcher’s anti-superhero cause.
The series does an excellent job in developing the superhero characters as well viz. Homelander (Antony Starr), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), The Deep (Chace Crawford) and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) are all given layered characterisations. These superheroes form The Seven, an obvious analogue of DC Comics’ Justice League of America.
BUT it’s fair to say that the story is mainly concerned with what happens to Hughie in the course of the eight episodes, his specific character growth and relationship with Starlight. Sure, there are several other relationships that underpin the story e.g. Homelander and Madelyn Stillwell (Elizabeth Shue), Frenchie and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) but none as central as the Hughie – Starlight dynamic.
This is where The Boys Season 1 succeeds wildly – in presenting multi-faceted characters that engage, even the supporting cast have just enough detail to keep things interesting. That keeps the interactions organic and realistic, with plot lines a natural consequence of the same.
Feel flows …
With a strong grasp of the characterisation and the interpersonal interactions, the writers were able to take the plots of the comic book series and extrapolate very natural behaviours and logical storylines that are built on this understanding.
And rather than be slavish to the plot already rendered in the comic books, the series deviates in a satisfactory manner to land an ending that is thoroughly unexpected and yet utterly sensible. With Hughie’s arc concluding with him taking action to rescue MM, Frenchie and Kimiko and convincing Starlight to commit to his cause in a very tangible way, the spotlight moves to Butcher for that twist denouement. Genius!
No children allowed …
R-rated super-heroics began with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and proven commercially viable with the Deadpool movies. Thus, The Boys was able to take advantage of that precedent to push the envelope as far as the sex and gore quotient was concerned. This made The Boys distinctive from everything mainstream audiences were used to in superhero movies/TV in terms of tone and style.
A natural selection …
Another factor in The Boys’ success certainly lies with the casting and the performances. Every actor seems perfectly suited for the roles. That is quite some achievement in its own right. Seems churlish to highlight any one actor but Antony Starr managed to convey the narcissistic menace of the Homelander so chillingly well, that I just had to mention him. Not forgetting how spot-on Chace Crawford nails the Deep’s pathetic affinity to the ‘fish-guy’ loser trope – played not as a parody but straight. Kudos!
Can hardly wait …
Is it any wonder that Season 2 is now such a hotly anticipated event in the streaming calendar? With that cliffhanger, fans are beside themselves contemplating what the new season might bring for our favourite band of anti-superhero vigilantes!
Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
… still there’s more …