The Boys Review: Knocks Superhero Saturation to Its Knees

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We're absolutely inundated with superheroes these days.

From DC adaptations on television to Marvel's mega movie franchise, it feels like we should be all tapped out.

Then a show like The Boys comes into the picture, and superheroes are suddenly fun again.

The Boys Poster Tall

The series is based on Dynamite Entertainment's The Boys comics created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson (Preacher).

The boys of The Boys are the heroes of this story, but they're not super. They are comprised by a group of humans who have been wronged by the superpowered heroes and aim to put an end to their reign -- or at least drag them down a notch or two.

Mother's Milk and Billy Butcher

In many comics adaptations currently on television, especially in the Arrowverse, superheroes begin as vigilantes. They don't all have powers, and even if they do, their efforts are often frowned upon by the general public.

In the world of The Boys, superheroes reign supreme. They're not only seen as heroic, but they're worshipped on the same level that our peers worship the stories themselves.

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Law enforcement and the military utilize the superheroes for their defense strategies and to put an end to terror even on the most basic level.

Even if they didn't want to, it doesn't seem like it would be in their best interests to turn away the assistance because the superhero PR system is always in hyperdrive. They can make a bad cop look good or a good cop look bad.

Waving at the Crowd

So who are the heroes in this universe? They're plentiful. Superpowered people around the globe work on a small scale doing what they can to fight for justice, but it's one group, The Seven, who rule the roost.

The Seven are the equivalent of Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Batman, and just like the world's populace views those characters as mighty and powerful, the world also views The Homelander, Queen Maeve, A-Train, The Deep, Black Noir, and Starlight as mighty and powerful, but also benevolent.

They look not to conventional humans to save them from catastrophes big and small, but to The Seven, a corporate-sponsored gang who, behind closed doors, present as some of the worst the world has to offer.

The Deep and Starlight

Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) is the Vice President of Hero Management at Vought, a corporation that manages every aspect of the superheroes from their background stories to their rescues carefully crafting The Seven to appear to be the answer to all of the world's problems.

Merchandising is vastly critical to the success of The Seven, and it rakes in profits for Vought.

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Stillwell acts not only as the corporate arm of The Seven, but as a mother-figure, nudging them into areas where they might not be comfortable, but where their expertise is needed to appease the masses and thereby increase profits.

Her most loyal subject and the world's best crusader is Homelander (Banshee's Antony Starr). Homelander presides over The Seven's meetings, and it's by his rules that they function. He's also the biggest jerk of the entire lot.

Madelyn Stillwell

Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) is the Amazonian woman who is most often at the side of Homelander, and they're the world's most talked about duo. At the point we meet her, she's becoming a bit disillusioned with their fame and fortune.

The Deep (Chase Crawford) is a hilariously useless Aquaman type whose angst at serving so little purpose often puts him at odds with the rest of the group.

We first realize the negative impact of The Seven when A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), the group's Flash, runs directly into a woman on the street, blowing her into smithereens.

That woman's boyfriend, Hughie (Jack Quaid) then becomes the voice of everyman in the story as he tries to piece together the reality to the elaborate ruse that is Vought and The Seven.

The Beginning of Eternal Torment

In his search for justice for his girlfriend, Hugie merely gets Vaught's terse acceptance of guilt on behalf of A-Train and the offer of a small pittance in return for his silence on the matter.

It doesn't sit well with Hughie, who is unwilling to sweep the death of his love under the carpet.

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He reconsiders accepting the offer after his first brush with and a counteroffer from The Boys.

Hughie is asked to infiltrate The Seven's headquarters, so they'll get access to the team's machinations, thereby aiding The Boys in their quest for vengeance against The Seven and to enlighten the populace on The Seven's true nature.

Guilty A-Train

The Boys leader is The Butcher (Karl Urban), a man whose wife and unborn child got killed by Homelander. His team consists of a man with whom he once served in the military, Mother's Milk (Lal Alonso), and Frenchie (Tomer Capon), a chemist and ballistics expert.

The Butcher reaches out to Hughie because of their similar experiences.

At the same time Hughie is getting up to speed with The Boys, a new superhero, Starlight (Erin Moriarty), is getting up to speed with The Seven.

Recruited out of all the other superpowered people across the globe to join the elite, Starlight wears her heart on her sleeve and genuinely believes their purpose is to protect and serve. It's not a sentiment that lasts.

Tool of the Superhero Trade

The Boy's central plotline is the humans trying to expose and dethrone the superpowered in any way they can. 

The Boys strength is in taking the superhero oversaturation in the entertainment market and playing directly into its hands. A whole lot of gory and raunchy fun can be had when the purported little guy gets angry enough.

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Nothing is ever as cut and dry as it seems, and as the story progresses, the superpowered get humanized as the extent of Vought's influence over the team gets revealed.

At the same time, the actions of the Boys also reminds you that humans are a flawed bunch and even when they believe they're on the side of justice, their motivations can lead to questionable actions.

Queen Maeve

Developed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, The Boys has a similar feel to their other projects (Preacher, Future Man, This Is the End) in that they are darkly comedic, full of action, and unafraid to manifest some truly insane visuals.

Showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Timeless) knows his way around character development, and it's to his credit that although there are some sterotypical aspects overall, he's also willing push through them by ensuring very few characters are too narrowly focused.

With multi-dimensional characters on all sides, it narrows the gap between the heroes and the villains making the story more than the comedic gorefest it could have become in the hands of someone else.

A Different Captain America

The Boys can be called a lot of things. It's vulgar, crass, violent, and bloody. It's absurd, but earnest. But The Boys has something to say about hero worship and absolute power, and it blends well even with the often indelicate delivery.

And while there is hidden meaning behind The Boys, it never forgets its first goal is to entertain. From the first scene to the last, its exhaustive pace delivers on that promise.

The Boys drops on Amazon Prime Video on July 26, 2019.


Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Boys Quotes

Homelander: Hey, guys, um, I just have one question if that's OK.
Ashley: Yeah.
Homelander: Yeah?
Ashley: Yeah.
Homelander: Alright. So, what happens if I do, uh, I don't know, I do this. [boxes Blindspot's ears] And now, you're just another useless fuckin' blind guy. This must be some kind of a joke. Ashleyyyy, what made you think I'd ever allow a cripple into The Seven?

Starlight: Hey, get some sleep.
Hughie: I'll sleep when I know you're safe.