Home Theatre: These boys mean business
A fortnightly column that focuses on notable content available on the streaming platforms around you, and this week it's the Amazon Prime series, The Boys
I found out about the Amazon Prime series The Boys by happenstance. A friend mentioned on social media that she had binge-watched it. Upon looking it up, I saw a description that made it sound like a humourous take on the Watchmen's core tenet: ‘Who watches the Watchmen?' While that's true enough, The Boys—based on the comic book of the same name—is so much more. It is, I verily believe, one of the best, most rewarding shows in recent times. And this, from someone who's not even a superhero comics fan.
The Boys is about the eponymous vigilante group, led by Billy Butcher, who are bent on taking down the powerful Superhero team called The Seven, which is backed by a huge corporation named Vought. The America of the show's universe is filled with superheroes aka supes, who are all sponsored by Vought, with The Seven being their flagship elite team. The Seven's number one is Homelander, a Captain America of sorts, the all-American invincible charmer. At the start of the show, one of The Seven retires, and a new recruit, Starlight, joins the team. Meanwhile, another member, A-train, accidentally kills a woman. This woman's boyfriend, Hughie Campbell, is recruited by Butcher to be part of The Boys, all of whom have suffered personal losses at the hands of supes.
And so, right at the beginning, it seems like the demarcation between the good guys and the bad guys is clear: The Boys are good, supes are bad. But as the show goes on, things become grey, and more interesting. In the course of just eight roughly one-hour-long episodes, The Boys covers a wide variety of themes, motivations, relationships, all while keeping the story moving along swiftly.
What stood out for me were the various parent-child themes that the series touches on. There are parents who push their own dreams on their children, there are those who do the opposite and hold them back. And then, there are those who act like parental figures, though they aren't. There’s a child who takes charge, a parent who obeys. There's also a really weird Freudian relationship in the mix, as well as a child who grew up without parents.
Another stand out in this series is the way romance is handled. The main couple's arc is quite lovely, but I was more taken with the unlikely romance of a couple of misfits (one of whom incidentally has had parental issues). I'm being purposely cautious not to spoil anything as this is a show that will immensely benefit from being watched with an open mind.
The humour in The Boys is extremely dark, the violence quite gory (the show is rated 18+ and rightly so), and yet, The Boys has a core of kindness that keeps it grounded. Even the scariest and seemingly irredeemable characters have their vulnerable moments, thus helping us connect with them on some level. That the performances of the huge ensemble cast—with names like Elisabeth Shue, Simon Pegg and Jack Quaid—are great, also helps.
The season ends with a sort of twist, and most characters being in the middle of something, but the story still feels complete. I also appreciate the makers for trusting us and their work enough to not bait us to watch the second season (which has already been greenlit) with an outrageous cliffhanger. Full credit to them also for giving us such an exciting show, that is unlike almost anything else we have seen. Bring on the second season, boys.