The Boys was somewhat of a surprise property to be made as there wasn’t much hype around the comics before it was greenlit for the big screen. It also doesn’t really fit in with the glorification of superheroes that comes with the dominating Marvel Cinematic Universe. I haven’t read the comics, but I’m familiar with them, writer Garth Ennis and some of his other work. I recently finished the show, but I almost didn’t more than once.
The first season of The Boys was released as eight episodes last month to Amazon Prime. The show is about a world with superheroes who deep down are very human. They do everything that regular and bad people do, but the world is kept oblivious of it. A small group of people(The Boys) personally learn the harsh reality that these superpowered beings do terrible things and want to take them down. The Boys work together to try and find a weakness or way to expose the truth. Not only does the plot stand out by focusing on unveiling the ugly truth about superheroes, but the show is also rated for mature audiences.
Before I go any further, just as it hit me in the first episode, I have to bring up the “but”. A significant event takes place early on in the first episode that changes everything. The action that takes place is relatively brief, but it’s violent and gory. I was taken aback by this particular scene. It definitely has shock value though that I think is important to this specific event and the plot of the rest of the show. Unfortunately, this same type of shocking violence and gore keeps happening. I do not think it is needed to the degree that it occurs each time. I don’t think the content should be neutered, but I don’t think the gore helped the story. There were at least two times when this gore and violence left such a bad taste in my mouth that I wasn’t sure if I would continue watching the show at all. I am usually not one to be turned away by gore, but it almost always felt shocking and unnecessary in this series. It took away from what I was watching the show for the story, characters, and superheroes. So my disclaimer for the show is if you have a sensitive stomach or don’t like shocking violence this show is probably not for you. I think the show would be just as good without the shock factor, but it is definitely a significant part of the series and likely a draw for many viewers.
I wasn’t in any hurry to watch The Boys, but I knew I would check it out eventually and possibly get hooked. Right from the first episode, I found myself interested. The characters, dialogue, and style seemed pretty impressive. There is a unique sense of mystery and wonder in the first episode as we see this new superhero-filled world that feels oddly familiar. I like that The Boys directly mirrors the subjects and people from our world. It makes me think twice about our world’s versions and issues. There is a central team, especially that mirrors a major superhero group from DC comics that instantly grabbed my attention.
I also quickly felt a connection with the main character, Hughie. He is also just a regular mild-mannered guy, but as he learns more, he gets angry and wants to make a difference. You can sense his powerlessness and his rage as they swirl inside him. We follow along and empathize with him on his painful and eye-opening journey. I am fascinated by Karl Urban’s character, Billy Butcher, as well. He is an enigmatic, charming, and vulgar alpha male. He is nothing like most people or me, and his personality and determination make him seem superhuman. He steals every scene he is in, and you never know what he’s going to do next. Karl Urban looks like he’s having fun as he owns the role and executes his deadpan comedy.
The story is electrifying and unique, and despite the superpowers, very relatable. Although the topics and scenarios are familiar, we don’t know how they are going to play out in this world. We watch with anticipation imagining how these same things could be or might end up in our society. All the truths and answers are slowly revealed over the eight episodes. Each item we learn thickens the plot and drives us to want to learn more. The subject matter is still superheroes, though even if they are in adult scenarios. I think comic book fans as well as casual superhero movie viewers can dive into this story and characters.
The series also has a great sense of humor. Some jokes go a little too far; for each of these, two others are on target. The seriousness of the subject matter is broken down with this humor to make it more easily digestible. The show could surely be a straight forward action thriller, but it would be very dark between the hard topics and brutal violence. It gives the show another facet to enjoy on top of the story and superheroes.
The episodes are paced well, and I never really felt bored while watching it. Choosing eight episodes rather than thirteen like the Marvel Netflix shows keeps the content tight. This is important as some comic book adaptations have too much excess dialogue and drama slowing them down. We get to see what is needed for the story, character development, and a few extra laughs, but that is about it. Unfortunately, the series also feels like it ends abruptly as a result of this. The second season has already been confirmed though, so we are just left waiting for the next episode.
I think The Boys is a massive success for comic book shows. Its final product is impressive, and excitingly tells the story to a much wider audience. This is definitely a trailblazer for future comic book properties. There are countless other independent comic book shows, yet to be made, that will only work if the show stays true to the original adult content like this. I imagined how it’d even be great for Watchmen to be remade in this same character-driven, mature content, eight-episode format.
The Boys gives us just enough to fall for it and leaves us wanting more. Hopefully, this style can be replicated in at least one more season to provide the story with a more complete feeling. Although I wasn’t a fan of the shocking blasts of violence and gore, I found it worth it to withstand these to see the story through to the finish.