Well, season 1 is over and Amazon Prime has already confirmed there will be a season 2. So what to make of The Boys?
I loved it, but it's the kind of show I love. It has super-powered types, and the world they inhabit is in what I call "third generation superheroes". Most superhero TV shows are first-generation. Superheroes are a new thing to whatever world they inhabit. The 50s Superman is new, the 60s Batman is new, the 90s Flash is new, the 00s Spider-Man of the movies is new. They may act like they've been around for a while, but with a few exceptions (like the Batman/Green Hornet team-up), it's all very new and different and the show acts like the superhero is all alone in his particular universe. Whichever show it is never develops much of a following, so there are no sequels or crossover.
Now superheroes have caught on, and with the DC Animated Universe, the Marvel Live-Action Universe, the Netflix Marvel Universe, and the CWVerse, superhero programs have graduated to the "second generation". They've been around for a while, they've met each other and shared heroes and villains, and their world acknowledges they're around. Although Marvel has dabbled with crossovers in their animated shows down through the years.
We've had a few "third-generation" superhero shows and movies. These shows explore how the world deals with superheroes and incorporated them into their setting. In the comic book Watchmen, Adrian Veldt has retired and runs a financial empire. In the upcoming Watchmen series there's an army of Rorschach lookalikes. In Powers, supertypes do Viagra commercials and are celebrities.
Granted, it's not a perfect theory. Pennyworth is a prequel to a prequel, Gotham, which itself doesn't fit into one of the generations above. And the 1997 Justice League, who knows? One suspects there were studios begging not to be part of that continuity. Not one of David Ogden Stier's prouder moments.
That brings us to The Boys, which is a third-gen "post-modern" superhero series. Superheroes are part of the landscape, at least in the U.S. A company, Vought, sponsors most of them, including the primary superhero team The Seven. The Seven is a thinly-veiled parody of the Justice League, with members Homelander (Superman), Queen Maeve (Wonder Woman), A-Train (The Flash), Black Noir (Batman), and The Deep (Aquaman). And Translucent, who can turn invisible and is invulnerable like J'onn J'onzz. A former member, Lamplighter, may or may not have been a proxy for Green Lantern. Lamplighter is dead and Vought has brought in a new "Supe", Starlight.
Supes are celebrities in this setting, having marketing deals and counting up their points in movies and TV. Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) can only watch as his girlfriend Robin is killed when a drugged-out A-Train runs right through her. Later, a mystery man, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), recruits Hughie to agree to sign a NDA with A-Train so he can plant a bug in the Seven's HQ. Translucent catches on, goes after Hughie, and Hughie and Billy take Translucent down. And that's about where I left it when I reviewed the first episode.
The next seven episodes primarily present the formation of "The Boys", Billy's former gang of CIA types that helped Billy keep tabs on Supes and deal with them when they got out of hand. One nice thing about the first four episodes is each one brings in another member of the Boys: first Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), then Marvin "Mother's" Milk (Laz Alonso), and finally the Woman (Karen Fukuhara).
In the second episode, "Cherry", Billy takes the captive Translucent to Frenchie, who is an expert on dealing with Supes by building specialized weaponry. Translucent's carbon skin not only lets him turn invisible but is all but impenetrable. They get around that by inserting C4 up Translucent's rectum and threatening to detonate it. Translucent breaks and reveals A-Train was using a drug, Compound V. The Boys are forced to flee, and Hughie activates the C4 before leaving with them.
"Get Some" has Billy recruiting Mother's Milk, who is a supervisor at a juvenile facility. The Boys start investigating A-Train and Compound V. A-Train is competing against another speedster, and Homelander is at the stadium where the race is taking place. Homelander sees Billy and almost recognizes him, and the team find out where A-Team stashes his supply of V. With his girlfriend, Popclaw.
"The Female of the Species" has the Boys track down the V, which is being manufactured by Filipino drug gangsters. Said gangsters are also holding The Woman captive. When she gets free, she kills them with her bare hands. Frenchie takes a liking to her, and after she flees, they go after her. Frenchie manages to calm her down enough she goes with them, and they learn she was part of a terrorist organization, fed V, and has Wolverine-like healing powers.
In the last three episodes, the Boys get closer to the V supply and learn Vought is manufacturing it. Also, someone is distributing it to terrorist organizations, creating super-powered terrorists. The trail leads to Vought, but the U.S. government can't do anything to them because Vought is the only one with American Supers to fight the terrorist Supes. So Vought sends a squad of operatives to bring in the Boys. Frenchie, Milk, and The Woman (who we find out is named Kimiko) get captured. Hughie breaks them out, and a running gag of the first season is Hughie is the most competent among them. Each of his teammates have their moments, but Hughie is the one who kills Translucent, finds out where the V is coming from, and rescues his newfound friends.
Running up behind this is the exploits of the Seven. Homelander (Antony Starr) is a dick who at one point sacrifices a plane of innocents he can't rescue after terrorists hijack the plane. He has a weird breast fetish with the Seven's Vought liaison, Madelyn Stillwell (Elizabeth Shue), and is jealous of the time she spends with her baby.
Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) is Homelander's former lover and was forced to abandon her female lover, and is an alcoholic. A-Train is a junkie who kills his girlfriend, Popclaw, when it turns out she's betrayed him to the Boys after they blackmail her. The Deep (Chace Crawford), forces new member, Starlight, to give him a blowjob and then, in a weird tonal shift, tries to save endangered ocean life, gets a dolphin and a lobster killed, and is banished to Sandusky, Ohio where he mopes around his hotel room because everyone thinks he's a joke.
Starlight (Erin Moriarty), is a young fresh-faced girl from Des Moines, Iowa, with light powers and super-strength. She eventually speaks out against the Deep (which is why he gets banished to Sandusky). There's also Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), who doesn't get much of anything to do. We see him performing a Japanese tea ceremony in a promotional video, and later he intimidates a musician into yielding the piano at a party so the Supe can play it himself. Also, Homelander is impressed by him, noting Black Noir is the only one of the Seven who hasn't screwed up recently. In the comics, Black Noir is much more than he appears, but whether they play that out in the future remains to be seen.
There's also Translucent, who hangs out naked and invisible in restrooms. But has a son from a previous marriage. Another of the running gags is since Translucent is invisible, Vought has no trouble covering up the fact he's dead by claiming he's on a secret mission. During the aforementioned video, the only "shot" of him is of a playground swing blowing in the wind.
As noted, Starlight speaks out against the Deep and generally rebels against Vought's management. They want her to do team-ups (they get better ratings) and promotions, Starlight wants to fight crime and generally do good. She also runs into Hughie, and the two of them date. This causes problems because she occasionally helps Hughie without knowing he's part of the Boys. And Hughie knows Starlight's origin isn't what she believes, but she got her powers because of secret childhood treatment with V.
Eventually, Homelander finds out the Boys are involved, and there's a whole subplot of how Homelander seemingly raped Billy's wife, Becca, and she died giving birth to Homelander's baby; which supposedly drowned in his mother's blood. Billy has learned enough of that, that he's really PO'd at Homelander.
In the season 1 finale, Billy kidnaps Madelyn, rigs her with explosives, and prepares to blow her up in front of Homelander since that's the only way he can hurt him. Antony Star is the MVP of the season, and in a chilling speech reveals he's the one who has been distributing V to create super-powered terrorists so that he has super-villains to fight in "sequel after sequel". Homelander burns out Madelyn's skull with his laser vision, and Billy triggers the explosives anyway. He wakes up on the front lawn of a suburban house, and Homelander brings out... Becca and the supposedly-dead child, who has superpowers.
Along the way we get Kimiko taking out A-Train by sneaking up on him and breaking his leg. And in the finale, A-Train has a heart attack after fighting Starlight. Hughie revives him and then flees. That's after Hughie rescues Frenchie and Milk, shooting at their opponents with a borrowed semi-auto rifle while yelling "I'm sorry!" repeatedly.
My main gripe with The Boys is we still don't know much about Supes in the series setting. The Supes are more interesting than the Boys, which is probably why the creative team spends so much time on them rather than the titular non-powered humans. The show has a decent F/X budget, and at the same time, they keep the superpower stuff down to a minimum. But it doesn't seem forced. When Homelander and Queen Maeve need to hover in the air and watch a plane go down, the creative team gives us exactly that. There's none of them standing on the ground and watching a plane fly off into the distance.
The Boys main strength is the characterization. Homelander has moments of humanity despite the fact he's a major villain. Even if it starts out poorly with Starlight's #MeToo blowjob incident, the Deep gets more development as the show moves along. Maeve is an alcoholic who was forced to leave her lover, is stuck with Homelander who she hates and knows is a psycho, and quietly encourages Starlight to do the things she could never do because she sold out. A-Train is a brash young speedster who works with his brother Nathan (Christian Keyes) to stay at the top of his game. Even Black Noir and Translucent have their moments.
As far as the Boys, Karl Urban is the best part of the show. He's tough, ruthless, full of obscene insults, and gets a maniacal gleam in his eyes when the moment arises. Like at the end of episode five, when he grabs a baby with laser vision and uses it as a weapon against some agents. Milk doesn't have too much to do, since he plays the typical family man who is forced to lie to his wife. Frenchie does better, although it's hard to say why. Tomer Kapon presents him with a lot of little mannerisms that make him seem like a human being rather than just a character made up for a TV show.
Jack Quaid is a decent leading man, and he and Erin Moriarty have some good onscreen chemistry. Their meet-cute in the park is a bit too coincidental and stretched, but there are lots of other scenes of the two of them together, bantering back and forth, to make up for that. Like Milk, Hughie is keeping a dark secret from his soulmate, and that provides a lot of the non-Homelander conflict in the end. Starlight eventually finds out what Hughie has been doing, isn't happy, but eventually comes around.
The Boys is doing well for Amazon Prime, which has already renewed it for another season. The season ends with the reason for Billy's quest for vengeance eliminated when he discovers the wife he thought Homelander killed is still alive... and has a Supe for a son. Homelander has Billy in his grasp, Starlight is working with the Boys, and they're hunted by Vought and/or the U.S. government. Hopefully in season 2 we'll get more Supes, more world-building, and more of the Boys.
Amazon Prime is still running ads for the show, so I'd take their advice and watch it. Then hunker down for the long wait until season 2 next summer.
But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Written by Gislef on Aug 21, 2019