“The Boys” Season 1 – An Amazing Deconstruction of Super Heroes and the United States

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     “The Boys” is one of the best deconstructions of Super Heroes and the toxic aspects of the culture and politics in the United States that I have seen. I have not read the comics but I am intrigued to see how closely the show takes inspiration from the them. I really liked this show. The characters and ideas are explored so well and the writing is fantastic. Before I get into spoilers, this is a show I recommend to anyone tired of how predictable Super Hero narratives in television and films can become and one looking at a great critique of the power structures and politics in the United States.

The series was created by Eric Kripke for Amazon based on the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

The story follows Hughie (Jack Quaid) following the death of his girlfriend from the super-hero A-Train (A member of The Seven) seeks revenge under Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his “Boys.” During this time his friendship grows with the newest member of the Seven Starlight (Erin Moriarity), who discovers how corrupt the Seven and the corporation Vought who runs them truly are.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Seven – The Seven are controlled by the Vought Corporation who created them through use of the drug Compound V. They are the face of the corporation and are used in films, in coordination with the Religious Right and as law enforcement, eventually being used to fight terrorists abroad. They are lead by Homelander (Think an evil Superman) and have members including The Deep, Black Noir, Queen Maeve, A-Train, Translucent and Starlight.

Black Noir – Black Noir is the one character this season who is just doing his job. Unlike all the other members who see be outright corrupt or greedy in different ways, Noir doesn’t talk and just shows up to work. I’m curious to see what we learn about him next season as he is the biggest mystery at this point as a member of the Seven.

Homelander – Antony Starr was brilliant as Homelander. He is charismatic and threatening and his arc involves him finding out the truth about what happened to his son and the cover-up by Vought Corporation. He ends up turning on his lover and boss Madelyn and the implication when he finds his son and how he sees anyone who isn’t a super as worthless means he is probably going to aim to form a fascist regime under him. He is a fascinating villain and I’m curious to see what he does next.

Starlight – Annie January / Starlight is the only member of the Seven who cares about the public and is driven by good. This is true even after she is molested by the Deep and bullied by the members of the Seven. Her arc involves her growing close to Maeve who is burned out but reminded why she wanted to be a hero in the first place by Starlight’s strength. Starlight stands up for he beliefs and doubt of God of at a Christian Right Conference and also stands up against what The Deep did to her. Starlight also saves The Boys and Hughie from A-Train when she learns the truth about Compound V and how her mother used her and how Vought has been using her for their own gain. Her relationship with Hughie is beautiful and she is one of my favorite characters on the show. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes.

The Boys – The Boys are an organization lead by Billy Butcher who are trying to kill the Supers and destroy Vought Corporation. Butcher’s main drive is to hurt Homelander as he believes Homelander raped and murdered his wife. The other members of the group are Mother’s Milk and Frenchie who have worked with Butcher in the past and don’t trust him, the Super Kimiko they save from Vought and Hughie.

Billy Butcher – Karl Urban is fantastic as Billy. Billy is a man driven by hatred and rage and his toxic to everyone around him as he seeks to takeout Vought and the Supers. He is driven by the belief that Homelander killed and raped his wife and this has lead him to care nothing for others beyond how he can use them against Vought and the Supers. Hughie is where we see his humanity as Hughie reminds him of the person he used to be. In the end he is alone when he tries to takeout Homelander until Homelander gives him a revelation that ends the season.

Hughie – Hughie, like Starlight is one of the only good people in this universe. His arc is him finding his courage to take on Vought and the Supers. He is the one who kills Translucent after Frenchie puts a bomb in the member of the Seven but in the end he doesn’t become Billy, as after A-Train tries to kill him and has a heart attack, he tries to save A-Train. This shows his base goodness that exists, even after A-Train had ran through and killed his girlfriend with his super speed. Jack Quaid is fantastic in the role and I’m curious how his character will change now that he and the Boys are wanted.

Deconstructing Super Heroes – What would humans be like if given super powers? What would be the cost of vigilantism? How would an organized group of vigilantes like the super heroes in comics come about? These are questions that are beautifully answered in such comics as “Watchmen,” “Miracle Man,” and is done here in “The Boys.” In “The Boys” supers are made by a powerful corporation using Compound V and marketing the Supers to make money. From here we see the effect this has on the Supers as most of them are corrupt and use their power and fame to their own ends. We see this in the stories of the Seven and how eventually what may arise out of it is fascist control under a Superman via the aims and planning of Homelander in this universe.

Critiquing the Religious Right – The religious right is tied closely to Vought and the governors as many senators have them as their base. From this we see how it is used to justify power. Homelander is preached as being chosen by God to lead and Vought makes money off of all the religious conferences they throw around the United States. It is very much pointing out the nature of power here. You have people like Trump who are irreligious and only after power who the religious right believe in because the leaders of their faith tell them too. What the leaders do doesn’t matter as long as they claim to believe a certain thing, in this case God or Jesus. Their actions do not matter. It becomes power for the sake of power and that is how fascists like Homelander rise, where power is the only thing they believe in. Morality was never part of the story, it was only ever about power and control.

The Cons:

Cliffhanger Ending – The season ends with a Cliffhanger as Starlight is trying to save A-Train from a heart attack after his failed attack against her and Hughie as Hughie and The Boys escapes. At the same time Butcher is with Homelander after Homelander saves him as we meet Homelander’s son and Billy sees his wife for the first time she went missing. It is a gut punch of an ending and I’m curious to see what happens next.

This was an amazing show and I’m glad it got renewed. There are so many big ideas that are explored and the characters are written so well. As someone who enjoys reading Super Hero comics and watching their films and shows, this was a wonderful deconstruction of the ideas that are often postulated in those mediums. How would humans act with super powers? What would this do to the culture? Where would power be? This series presents a depressing picture of it but in doing so critiques the toxic aspects of the culture around power and privilege here in the United States. Suffice to say I highly recommend you check this series out.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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