The Boys is the type of series that starts off just good enough to keep watching before a distinct moment or episode where it finally gets awesome and, generally speaking, stays awesome. Unfortunately, with all due respect to compliment sandwiches, we need to be upfront about one glaring problem: The Boys is “Fridging: The Show.”
Just about all of the dudes in this show are motivated by their wives or girlfriends being murdered, maimed, assaulted, and vaporized, aka “fridging.” It’s one of the laziest writing topes ever. Fridging usually doesn’t bother me this much because I resigned myself to the waking nightmare that is America in 2019, but The Boys is the most extreme case I’ve seen in a while. Holy poop!
Okay, now that I got fridging and poop out of the way, let’s dive into the mostly pretty good The Boys. Easily the bleakest depiction of superheroes I’ve seen in a movie or series, which doesn’t mean it’s not funny, The Boys drops us into a world where caped crusaders are power-mad celebrity divas. The sinister Vought corporation leases superhumans to major cities and uses their heroics to reap billions in movie deals and merchandise sales. When Vought’s evil twin version of DC’s Flash runs over a civilian at 3,000 mph, her boyfriend is (lazily) motivated to join a small band of rebels aiming to take down all “supes.”
Led by Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher, the gruffest character the notoriously gruff actor has ever gruffly portrayed, the crew work together to takedown Vought’s Superman figure and Avengers-like team. The Boys makes no qualms about the superheroes it’s parodying, which pays off about 80% of the time. Antony Starr is Homelander, a passive-aggressive psychopath who’s American as apple pie; it’s a take on Superman that feels like all of the bad parts of our country rolled up into one little petulant god. He’s a showstealer among showstealers and good enough to make me forgive the other 20% of this running gag that falls oh-so painfully flat. Tidbits like the invisible superhero being a peeping Tom, because of course he is, or Vought’s Wonder Woman stand-in being an ice queen just seem like very expected territory to cover.
Early on, The Boys suffers from a little bit of Game of Thrones-it is, as it packs as much bizarre sex, gore, clumsy depictions of assault, and invisible perverts it possibly can into each episode for no other reason than it’s trying to make a name for itself as an edgy show. When the series finally settles down after a few episodes, it becomes a genuinely fascinating depiction of superheroes as fascist enforcers. I’ve seen plenty of superhero media argue “Um actually, you don’t really want superheroes to exist.” The Boys is the first time you really feel the gravitas of how freaky it would be if any of these folks were real. Not that The Boys tethers itself to reality, but the narcissism of these heroes and brutal depictions of their powers feels uncomfortably honest.
A second season of The Boys was greenlit ahead of the premiere. If it continues the trend of slowly getting and better, it’s well within the abilities of The Boys to become something truly great. The series isn’t that far off but—again, holy poop—the fridging stuff needs to go. I don’t even want to see an actual fridge next season. I don’t care if all of the kitchen scenes look awkward. The Boys is set in a world where an evil corporation controls everything. Just say Vought is recalling fridges. It’s really not that much lazier writing than fridging.
Grade = B+