By John Magee
I wasn’t sure what kind of show I was going to be watching when I first turned on Amazon Prime’s original show “The Boys”, I’d seen the trailers for it so I knew it was a dark take on superheroes but other than that and the show’s R rating I didn’t really know what I was in for. This is a problem “The Boys” solve very quickly into their pilot episode.
The show opens on Hughie, a salesman at what is essentially the show’s version of a Best Buy. His workday is interrupted by the arrival of his girlfriend Robin and the two flirt and discuss the possibility of moving in together. The camera cuts to a close-up, slow-motion shot of Hughie’s face which is suddenly covered in blood, the audience then sees that Robin is now a fine mist of blood and guts, and a man in a blue superhero uniform stops, comments on how he has to keep running and super-speeds away. The show then follows Hughie’s journey to finding closure for Robin’s death and hopefully holding the hero who killed her responsible.
It was in this scene that I finally understood “The Boys” for the first time and became completely hooked by it. This show is an attempt to show what a world with superheroes in it would really look like, there have been dark and gritty takes on superheroes like the Watchmen, and some of the early DCEU movies focused on how our world would view and possibly corrupt superheroes but “The Boys” isn’t trying to do anything like that which is why it is so interesting. For as dark as this show gets it is often more a dark comedy than gritty realism.
This is best exemplified by comparing this show with HBO’s Watchmen series, even though the show hasn’t even aired yet there are clear themes that will be important in the show. What is the role superheroes play in this society and should they continue to serve in that role or leave policing to the institutions? What happens when those institutions fail to police people justly? Both very serious questions that can be asked of a world with superheroes in it, but this is where “They Boys” differs from other “dark” takes on superheroes.
It doesn’t have an overall message it just creates a world where people have powers and it looks at what might naturally happen next. Despite not having an overarching message through the show “The Boys” does bring up relevant social issues. Superheroes are celebrities in the show and when an aspiring young superheroine Annie is asked to join the seven we learn a little about the pageant life that young girls with powers can get sucked into. When Annie does finally make it to the big leagues of superheroics and joins “The Seven”, this shows version of The Justice League, her first experience of being in the group is a sexual assault where she is coerced into having sex with another team member, a moment that has been heavily influenced by the recent Hollywood sexual assault scandals.
Overall “The Boys” is an interesting, often disturbing, and incredibly captivating show that is much closer in tone to something like Game of Thrones as opposed to the Avengers, it certainly a show I will keep my eye on for any future seasons.