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The Boys (Season 1 and 2): Superpowers, Political Corruption, and Grit, Oh My!

Written by Mike

The Boys is a set in a world not too different to our own; there are normal people living normal lives, but there are also…superheroes! The superheroes in The Boys, known as supes, are more grounded parodies of other common comic book superheroes that you can find in media today. The supes are all employed and controlled by the pharmaceutical mega corporation Vaught with the most famous superhero group, The Seven, living in Vaught tower. Vaught not only employs The Seven, but also handles their public relationws, housing arrangements, and when necessary, they cover up any of their…less than legal or moral activities.

The story starts off by introducing us to Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) whose girlfriend is tragically killed when A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), a member of The Seven, accidentally runs into her with his super speed while apparently intoxicated. Vought covers up A-Trains impairment, and shifts the blame saying that Hughie’s girlfriend was standing in the street and that her death was an unfortunate accident that she herself caused. Shortly after these events Hughie is approached by a shady FBI agent, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who offers him the opportunity to get justice by planting a bug at Vought headquarters to help with an undercover investigation into the supes. Translucent (Alex Hassell), a supe with invisibility, witnesses Hughie planting the bug during a legal meeting with Vought lawyers. Translucent later tracks him down. The ensuing altercation between Hughie, Translucent, and Billy sucks Hughie into a world of greed, corruption, and lies as he reluctantly joins a group known as “The Boys” that is dedicated to taking down Vaught and the supes.

There are eight episodes in each of the two currently released seasons of The Boys; each of the episodes are roughly an hour long. The show has 3 main story arcs, Hughie and The Boys seeking “justice” against the supes, Starlight (Erin Moriarty), an innocent up-and-coming supe, becoming the new member of The Seven and realizing some dark truths about Vought and her superhero idols, and the story of the leader of The Seven, Homelander (Antony Starr), as he navigates life as a superhero celebrity. Later in the first season there is also a mystery about what caused the fairly new occurrence of people developing superpowers. The show is a gritty, realistic, and thrilling character study in a fantasy setting much like Game of Thrones (to which it is often compared). The audience will grow attached to each of the characters, including the villains, and will be put on a rollercoaster ride as they watch each of their individual stories unfold with many close calls and some fatal endings.

The Boys is heavily carried by both Billy Butcher and Homelander; their similarities, differences, and conflicts are the hook that will keep you watching. Billy is a terribly broken and angry man who seeks justice for past wrongs done to him by the supes and Vought. While he has a righteous end goal, Butchers thirst for revenge is so strong that he is often blinded acting irrational and unpredictable, and often leading him to make choices without caring what innocent people may be hurt by his actions. Hughie plays the straight man to Billy’s wild card, often being seen as the weaker but more rational person in the room. As the show goes on, it is interesting to see how Hughie and Billy begin to drift closer to each other on the “rough and tumble badass/caring gentleman spectrum”. Starlight is made very relatable by representing for the audience what it would be like to grow up idolizing your favorite superhero group, and then one day joining their ranks only to discover that things are not as glamorous as they seem on TV. Antony Starr steals the show with his portrayal of Homelander. He represents himself as very kind and happy to the cameras, but behind the scenes he is cold and calculating. While he is the show’s most prominent antagonist, he is not a true villain. He is instead a very twisted man who enjoys the fame brought by protecting the innocent, but has very little genuine concern for the lives of those he sees as less than himself.

I give The Boys a rating of excellent on my five-tiered scale (Bad, Below Average, Average, Above Average, Excellent). You don’t need to like superheroes to love The Boys. This show uses superpowers in some of its characters to create a narrative of powerful vs powerless, and to show what happens when you mix normal human issues and urges with extraordinarily inhuman strengths. It’s a very realistic depiction of what kind of political corruption could take place in a world of superhumans, and begs the question “even if superheroes are cool, would they really create a better world?”. The show is rated TV-MA and has drug use, nudity, and very realistic violence, but it is a must-see for anyone who does not mind those things and has an Amazon subscription; for those of you who do not have one it may just be worth the price of getting one after May of 2022 when the third season comes out even if you cancel it after a binge watch.

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