I’m a little bit late to this party, seeing as the final episode in Season 2 of Amazon’s The Boys aired in October – but there really is no bad time to promote great content.
From any angle of analytical approach, this series is nothing short of excellent. The Boys establishes a new standard for superhero series by pushing the boundaries of its own genre, and sets a precedent for new series being developed in any genre.
Let’s get into the details and methods of those accomplishments.
The Boys wholly deconstructs the superhero trope and positions preconceived notions into a critical light. For an evolving discourse on social roles, gender roles and prejudice based on what we see in the media, this is an imperative decision for any chance of realism inside a series about superhuman characters. And in this sense, The Boys excels.
Exteriors are deceiving, media is lying to you, and Superhumans are human, too. Another highly interesting point for character development are the many, many very human flaws of every character: The actual boys – a mostly „regular“ group of men with tumultuous pasts, each wronged by a superhero, working with the FBI – who fight the Vought Corporation – go through their extreme struggles, grief and hardships; but so do the Seven, the most famous and celebrated superheroes of the world.
Everything is ambivalent. The notion of no one being only good or truly evil applies to all of the characters, reaching from the justification of their destructive actions, into their individual weaknesses. The way extreme ideology stems from years of intrinsic programming, and the reactions to an established system of values crumbling down could not differ more.
Even an extreme psychopath like the leader of the Seven, Homelander has a human weakness for his son, and even a seemingly empathic Queen Maeve, second in command, is more than capable of killing ruthlessly. The notion of who the Final Big Bad actually is, constantly changes.
And that’s what makes The Boys extremely interesting: the series doesn’t rely on visual effexts or supehero-y gimmicks but delivers highly interesting plots and characters with a truly original story behind them. After the season finale it is still not quite clear who is good and evil – and that is a true accomplishment.
No shortage of graphic scenes. Although individual development, psychological details, plot twists and character dynamics are what truly make the series, The Boys does not skimp on violence, nudity, explosions, deeply disturbing physical mutations and the showing of interesting superpowers.
We are talking about a show that exploded a person onto the street in the very first minutes of the very first episode, having bits and drops of her flying through the air in slow motion, her boyfriend holding onto her hands – the only part left intact. This scene alone should give the viewer a sense of what is about to happen.
No kink shaming. Predominantly Homelander’s childhood isses and deep-rooted narcissism cause his somewhat unusual sexual needs and fantasies. That he is first and foremost a mentally ill individual, is out of the question. The very explicit demonstration of the effects of his issues is disturbing, but in a way, destigmatizing due to their transparency. The decision to go all the way with portraying him like this and going into his childhood to show the psychological depth of his development has, for me, pedagogical importance.
But since the other characters of this show are no ordinary humans either, they also tend to get off in individually unorthodox ways. As long as there is consent, why should anyone raise an eyebrow?
The sexual explicitness is bound to raise both eyebrows, but the many controversial couplings (and… groupings?) of The Boys‘ story puts into perspective the lines between kink and perversion – which, in itself is an interesting discussion to have, on a human level alone. Imagine the possibilities with those characters. Again, the story really digs into every aspect of being superhuman, which is to be commended.
Freedom of speech. The Boys very openly mimics events from present times and puts these into a critical light using tools of satire and irony. The nature of a political agenda, corporate relations, and depictions of how the U.S. sees themselves as superheroes when it comes to „defending“ other countries and fighting terrorism, is very on-the-nose and in-your-face.
The media conglomerate behind Vought International and its many advertising alleys into a regular person’s mind are shown to have lethal conscequences. Although the show makes a humorous ordeal out of current issuses with dialogue and situational humor, the corrupt nature of these institutions is very clearly highlighted. The fact that a show goes as far is, also, highly commendable.
It seems Season 3 is edging towards the White House – the topic of agenda, public image and the reality behind a persona will mirror a politician’s modus operandi to those of the Seven. We did find out that there is someone on the rise inside Washington who hides their superpowers and kills in huge quantities, and this is a person with an immaculate reputation and public image. At this point, the series tweaked the storyline from the original comics to adapt to current reality, which gives it even more of an edge as political commentary.
To summarize: The Boys would excel as a regular superhero series, the character arcs and individual plotlines being as interesting as they are, and really all of the actors (literally and figuratively) killing it in their roles. However, the series makers have chosen to elevate it so much further in adding commentary, sociocriticism and a very harsh mirror to show current uncomfortable realities.
If you haven’t watched this series yet, I highly recommend you do. It is simply excellent.
Cover: © The Indian Express / Amazon Studios