You know what I have really come to despise? The ‘evil-Superman’ trope. We’ve seen it plenty of times now, such as with the Injustice games/comics with an actual evil Superman to that Brightburn movie that no one seems to remember. It isn’t a bad idea, but so often the writers don’t do anything with it beyond just having a bad guy with Superman powers; there’s rarely, if ever, any actual depth given to the idea.
That was the main reason why I’ve avoided watching The Boys for so long. Despite all of its overwhelming praise, I had one fear that kept me from watching it. And that fear was that Homelander, the character everyone kept heralding as the main reason to watch the show, would just be another one-dimensional Superman-but-evil character and that he would fill the show with pointless gore meant only to shock you.
And I have never been more wrong in my entire life.
Hughie’s perfectly normal and happy life suddenly comes to a gruesome end when his girlfriend is brutally and ‘accidentally’ murdered by an irresponsible super hero. Shortly afterwards, he’s recruited by Billy Butcher, a supe-hating psychopath out to bring them all down. Now Hughie and the other members of The Boys must use their wits and cunning to defeat the god-like superheroes and the corrupt mega-corporation backing them: Vought.
The character writing in this show is truly something spectacular. I haven’t come across characters this complex and interesting since the glory days of Game of Thrones and my first time watching Breaking Bad. There’s a depth to every single main member of the cast; no one is all-good or all-bad. Each one is given proper motivation for doing either one, which makes them incredibly difficult to predict in the more high-stakes situations. It’s a much-needed breath of fresh air after the last few decades of repetitive and predictable Marvel movies.
The best example of this is yes, Homelander. Who is so much more than I feared he would be. Sure, he’s a violent psychopath who uses his Superman-like powers to brutally murder people and do whatever the hell he wants. But he also cares about his image as the pure and righteous hero. Thus, in any given scene, you have a hard time predicting what he’s going to do; is he going to protect his image, or is he going to indulge in his murderous desires? This makes him an almost entirely unpredictable and wholly terrifying villain who steals every single scene he’s in. None of which would have worked without Antony Starr’s jaw-dropping performance as the character.
What makes this show interesting isn’t just the phenomenal character writing, but also its core themes. The Boys satirizes not just the superhero genre, but also the film industry responsible for it. On top of that, it also dives deeply into the current political climate of America, sometimes to an uncomfortable degree. Sure, sometimes it explores these themes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. But it does explore them intelligently, which adds another level of intrigue to the show.
Writing wise, this first season is an easy ten out of ten. Unfortunately, visually speaking, I don’t think that’s the case. To be fair, it isn’t awful; the special effects are often very impressive, all of the costumes look amazing, and the cinematography and editing are both a treat on the eyes.
Most of the problems stem in the lighting, use of color, and the action scenes. The first two sort of go together. Often times scenes are too dark or too yellow or too washed out looking; it makes the world feel gross, but it isn’t exactly nice to look at. As for the action scenes, they feature the lowest points of the special effects and employ basic camera and editing tricks to try and hide that, which ultimately just makes them look worse.
Don’t get me wrong, the show never looks so bad that it hurts your eyes. But very rarely does it look truly impressive.
That said, I do love the sheer brutality of the show. Not just because every character curses like a sailor. But the gore is actually extreme enough to make me uncomfortable, which is a difficult feat to manage at this point. It works narratively and visually, narratively because every single moment of bloodshed is important to the overarching story and visually because the VFX team gets to do their best work. Which is also their most disturbing.
As a whole, I really enjoyed the first season of The Boys. It was a delightfully shocking and gruesome subversion of a genre that we’re all getting rather tired of. Honestly, I’m mad at myself for not having watched it sooner.
Now, the question is: will seasons two and three drop the ball?
Probably not, I’ve heard those two are just as amazing.
3 responses to “The Boys (Season One) is Diabolical”
The first season of The Boys impressed me as well, it was the best superhero anything that I had seen in years, and is still my favorite season of the show so far.
The second and third seasons go down in some areas, there are still some good moments, though, and it is still worth watching; but they are not as good as the first season in my opinion.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s a shame. Still looking forward to watching them, though.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Some people liked them better than the first season, so you might end up being one of them, but my brother GC & I still like the first season the best.
It is a bit like Westworld where the first season is the best, but The Boys quality drop is probably not as much as Westworld later seasons so far in my opinion.
LikeLiked by 1 person