By : Webster Tilton
It finally happened. After months of threatening behavior, Netflix finally went a month without releasing any remotely interesting feature films. In fact, so far as I can tell, there were only two features released by Netflix in August (prior to my deadline). One of them was called ‘Otherhood’, a midlife crisis movie about a group of women who go to NYC for Mother’s Day weekend, and ‘Sextuplets’, a Marlon Waynes comedy.
Otherhood looked virtually identical to Wine Country which I’ve already reviewed, so that was out. I’ve seen several other Marlon Waynes movies before, and I noticed two things; 1) they’re all exactly the same and 2) I passionately hated them. So, Sextuplets was out. And before you point a finger at me for dodging that bullet, remember that last month I reviewed Adam Sandler’s ‘Murder Mystery’. Then it occurred to me that I’d already watched something amazing that was new this month, it just wasn’t on Netflix. So, I decided to do something I haven’t done before; review a series.
My verdict up front; by all means, watch The Boys. The content warnings on this one actually mean something, so pay attention to them and make an informed choice of whether or not to proceed.
‘The Boys’ is an Amazon original adaptation of a comic series by Garth Ennis. I was vaguely aware of the comic series but I’d never read it, so I was avoiding ‘The Boys’ because I was sick to death of superhero movies. Then I read the synopsis and realized that I wasn’t the only one.
Imagine this: instead of being kind and selfless, the Avengers are amoral, cold blooded, bought out, greedy corporate shills willing to do anything to boost their profit margin. Now imagine that someone finally got sick of the massive collateral damage the ‘heroes’ were always causing and decided to do something about it. This is the basic premise of ‘The Boys’.
To call the series cynical would be like calling Mt. Everest tall. But it’s so well written, acted, directed, paced and produced that I have great difficulty finding anything objectively wrong with it. The series has a hard MA rating for a good reason, but unlike other series that include graphic violence just to suck in a certain demographic, this violence is there for a reason. It exists to shock the audience with how thoroughly disgusting, abhorrent and selfish the ‘heroes’ in this series are. Or at least most of them. The show does have a moral core in the form of two people; Hughie and Annie. Hughie is a young man out for revenge against a ‘Supe’ who carelessly butchered his girlfriend, offered him a fig-leaf of a forced apology, and then barely even remembered doing it later on. Annie is a new recruit for ‘The Seven’, the most corrupt superhero group of all. Almost the first thing that happens in the series is her ugly introduction to the realities of her new team, who are supposedly Earth’s greatest heroes.
As events progress Annie’s naivete is demolished and replaced with a determination to do things differently, and Hughie gets a good look at what vengeance has turned him into and begins to question if his mission is worthwhile. Each of them is flanked by their respective team, none of whom spend much time questioning if they’re on the right side. And even the slime-balls get a character arc. A really good show has complex villains and this one has nothing else. Homelander, the homicidally-narcissistic leader of The Seven stands opposite Butcher, the single-minded, vengeance driven leader of ‘The Boys’. And while they never interact physically until the very end of the season, they’re clearly influencing each other every step of the way. Each man has long since buried the needle on their path to self-destruction, but they can still be hurt and surprised by betrayal. Homelander’s corporate mistress is evil, cold, calculating…and still somehow comes off as a real, believable human. Even ‘The Deep’, a particularly disgusting member of The Seven, has an expositional arc that explains why he acts the way he does. It doesn’t excuse him, but it does make him into something much more interesting than just a ‘bad guy’.
I hesitate to call The Boys perfect, but if there’s anything wrong with this series then I couldn’t find it. This one is up there with HBO greats such as Deadwood, Rome and Game of Thrones in terms of the ultra-high quality and consistency it delivers. Season two has already been green-lit and its easy to imagine it’ll go on long after that. So, then, let’s hear it for ‘The Boys.’