This is a (mostly) spoiler-free review of The Boys Season 1, which on DVDs now with DVDSHELF Australia DVD Online Shop. The Boys has already been renewed for a second season.
The Boys is an absolutely bonkers superhero show in the best way. Showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural) successfully adapts Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s best-selling graphic novel into a wonderfully irreverent, gratuitous, and stylized drama that explores the complex nature of not only what it means to be a superhero, but also the profound effect superheroes have on ordinary people. When the show lets its superhero flag fly, the results are impressive, but those moments aren’t as frequent as we’d like. Thankfully, The Boys has a myriad of memorable, nuanced characters, that distinguish it from similar offerings within the genre.
The story centers on Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), who joins a group of superhero-hating ruffians after his girlfriend is horrifically murdered by a speedster known as A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). Hughie and “The Boys” are an engaging gateway into the minds of non-meta humans, with each member having their own reasons for wanting the supes dead. Quaid’s Hughie is a charming “aw shucks” kind of protagonist, but it’s Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher who steals the spotlight. Urban is incredible in his portrayal of Butcher, as his character searches for the hero responsible for killing his wife. Gravitas is required when one leads a group of strongly-minded individuals into battle, and Urban has plenty of it.
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Tomer Capon’s Frenchie is another effective member of The Boys, half poet, half psychopath. His relationship with newcomer The Woman – played by Suicide Squad’s Karen Fukuhara – adds a nice bit of humor and tenderness to an otherwise bleak and violent story. The Woman also serves as a powerful counterpoint to Butcher’s “the only good supe, is a dead supe” mantra, since she has a few hidden abilities of her own. One of the best aspects of The Boys is its willingness to blur the moral lines between heroes and villains, by simply treating them as complicated humans first, instead of superhero caricatures.
And speaking of heroes, The Seven are a dynamic bunch to follow, even if you only get to know three or four of them really well (Season 2 better have more Black Noir, played by Nathan Mitchell). Like The Boys, The Seven are a complex troupe, who are more than their douchebag appearances would lead you to believe. Chace Crawford’s The Deep is a misogynistic d**k, but he genuinely cares about sea creatures; unfortunately, every time he tries to save one of his beloved animals, something goes terribly wrong in a very funny way. And even though he treats women like crap, Crawford portrays The Deep in a surprisingly sympathetic way. Of all the members of The Seven, he’s the one who’s constantly pushed aside and left to fend for himself.
Antony Starr’s Homelander is a deadly cross between Superman and Captain America, minus the good upbringing. Starr has proven that he can play emotionally enigmatic characters – most notably in Cinemax’s excellent Banshee series, but his Homelander character is on another level entirely. Imagine if Clark Kent didn’t have Ma and Pa Kent to mentor him, but instead, endured a traumatic upbringing while possessing god-like powers. That scenario would likely mess anyone up, and Kripke plays with that narrative to great success. Homelander’s wavering sense of what it means to be a hero makes him the most unpredictable character on the show and one we can’t wait to learn more about in future episodes.
While the character development is superb, The Boys needs more superhero antics in Season 2. Perhaps the lack of heroics is due to budgetary reasons, which would explain why we don’t often see Homelander fly. However, when the action is on full display, it’s ultra-violent and really cool. Homelander’s heat vision is particularly delightful, as he cuts villains in half with ease. Black Noir’s ninja-like skills are impressive, and The Boys join in on the fun by means of explosives or cleverly-placed traps. The central will they/won’t they narrative between Hughie and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is the show’s weakest link, mostly due to its predictability. Thankfully, it doesn’t get in the way of Kripke’s sharp pacing throughout The Boys 8-episode arc.
The Boys is irreverent, amusingly gratuitous, and one hell of a ride, with overly-violent setpieces and compelling storylines, especially when it comes to Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher and Antony Starr’s Homelander. Showrunner Eric Kripke’s frenetic pacing keeps the plot moving nicely, but we want to see more superhero antics in Season 2.