The screen world is currently infatuated with all things superhero. As the Marvel and DC universes continue to pump out cinema and television offerings, one might ask if there is anything new to say about superheroes.
Boy oh boy… does The Boys have something to say.
Based on the comic series by genre heavyweight Garth Ennis (Preacher), Amazon Prime’s The Boys is a darkly comedic, cynical and hyper-violent exploration of the cult of hero worship; a frank character study of the impact superhuman abilities would have on human nature.
The series opens with everyman Hughie (Jack Quaid) sharing a light-hearted and romantic conversation with his girlfriend Robin – before she is killed by ultra-fast superhero A-Train (this universe’s equivalent to The Flash) running through her at high velocity for less than heroic reasons. She explodes in a slow-motion shower of gore, and this sets the tone for what is to come. The scene is graphic, shocking, and immediately signposts whether this series is going to be for you. Following this, Hughie joins the mysterious character of Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) in a mission to take revenge on The Seven, the top group of superheroes that is owned, managed and contracted by a shady multinational corporation.
The Boys is about much more than simple shock factor. It uses its universe to explore weighty, contemporary themes and highlight the dangers of a society that idolises and idealises hero and celebrity culture, yet shields the privileged few from the consequences of their actions. In a scene that starkly represents the many stories that have come out in the #MeToo era, the new young female addition to the team, Starlight, is the victim of sexual coercion, harassment and assault at the hands of one of these heroes.
Too often, simplistic black-and-white morality frames stories within the superhero realm; characters are either good or evil. Sure, they may have a few flaws, some may change sides, but rarely do we see people that exist within a truly ethical grey area. The Boys presents us with fascinating character studies where motivations are questionable, often unclear – and it makes for riveting viewing.
If you can stomach the often shocking (and frequently hilarious) content that The Boys has to offer, you are in for a wild ride.
By Arieh Offman, producer & curator