WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the pilot episode of the upcoming Amazon series The Boys
All aboard the hype train that is the superhero genre and its coronation of becoming a staple in American pop culture. From movies, traditional television shows, video games, comic books to web series, superhero content has transcended media in a single bound at the speed of a locomotive and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Comics were once called funny books and now studios are laughing all the way to the bank, at the time of writing this article, a film based on superheros is the fastest film ever to gross over $2 billion dollars. With this financial success, the most valuable company in the world has launched a new, darker take on the genre with The Boys, a show that is based on the Garth Ennis comic book series of the same name, on their Prime Video streaming service.
In The Boys, the ‘supes’ are not goody two-shoes or noble, instead they embrace their darker side, and are corrupted by fame, their ego, engage in reckless behaviors and let their powers go to their head. Behind the scenes the dark-comedy is in good hands as it was developed by Preacher duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The cast includes Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Elisabeth Shue, Erin Moriarty, Antony Starr, Jessie Usher, Dominique McElligott and Jess Salgueiro. Spoilers after the trailer.
What A World
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, the pilot episode mostly focuses on world building and informing the audience on what type of characters our heroes are. Vought is an defense contractor that owns The Seven (a la Justice League) and hundreds of other heroes and teams. Vought contracts out heroes to various cities, towns, and organizations to help maintain peace and protect citizens all across America. The Seven are the “best” of the heroes that Vought contracts and they’re a complete parody of the Justice League. The Seven are lead by Homelander (Antony Starr), who is a parody of Superman. Other members include an Aquaman parody known as The Deep (Chace Crawford), a Flash parody named A-Train (Jessie Usher), a Wonder Woman parody named Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Black Noir (Alex Hassell) an Invisible Man type hero, and Starlight/Anne January (Erin Moriarty) the newest member of the crew.
The first 10 minutes of the series hits you in the face with what to expect for the rest of the series. Queen Maeve stops an armed robbery in progress in the most traditional superhero wey, even with a superhero pose, yet the show is self-aware of the collateral damage the heroes cause. Once we are introduced to “Wee” Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) the show fully embraces it’s sardonic, grimey, adult, and dark nature in the most unexpected way. Hughie and his girlfriend Rachel (Jess Salgueiro) are a young couple filled with optimism and discussing their dreams, planning out their futures with each other until things become tragic. Rachel is talking as there is a tight shot of Hughie’s face as he’s listening to every word she says until blood just splatters across his cheeks and we don’t hear Rachel talking anymore. Trachtenberg and the effects team did a fantastic job at capturing that captured grief in a comedic way.
A-Train, who runs at speeds that are comparable to Flash, ran through Rachel and this is the catalyst of the conflict between Hughie and our heros. Hughie is offered $45,000 by Vought to sign non-disclosure agreement, an offer his dad (Simon Pegg) tells him to take, but a sadden Hughie feels that Rachel’s life is worth more than that, plus A-Train didn’t even sound like he had a single ounce of sorrow when he apologized for the incident.
The show hammers home that these superheros do not care about anyone but themselves and being a “hero” is just a job to them. No moral code of conduct, no big speeches about great power and responsibility, just a bunch of overpowered employees who acts as worst as any human would. The B-plot focuses on Starlight’s initiation into The Seven. Starlight is from Des Moines, Iowa, she was in hero pageants, and grew up idolizing The Seven, and when she finally gets chosen to join this is her and her mother’s dream come true. In this dark and twisted universe, things aren’t as bright as the seem for Starlight when she has a #MeToo moment with The Deep, a hero that was her favorite ever since she was a child. How the series manages to explore and follow up this moment in future episodes is either going to make or break this series. When it happens in the pilot it’s used as a comedic moment so the resolution for Starlight’s character in a future episode has to have weight to it for this plot point to be worth it.
Made In A Lab
The most promising moments of the first episode of the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series happen when Hughie and Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) interact with each other. Hughie is a self-described Simon and Garfunkel type of guy, one that doesn’t like confrontation or violence and Butcher is the complete opposite of that. Butcher knows about what happened to Rachel and poses as an FBI agent to gain Hughie’s trust, so he can help Hughie scheme up a plan to enact revenge on A-Train and all the insanely egotistical heros at Vought. Which leads up to a violent yet predictable fight scene by the end of the episode.
The pairing of Urban and Quaid were the funniest part of this episode. The oddball pairing have good chemistry and their humor bounces off each other. Urban plays the role of the unpredictable wildman effortlessly and Quaid’s portrayal of the lack of self-esteem nerdy compliments him perfectly. Another dynamic performance comes with Erin Moriarity’s portrayal of Starlight. Moriarity knows how to balance her character’s naivety,apprehensive while showing signs of being fierce in possible future episodes.
Overall, The Boys brings sardonicism to the superhero genre with its tolerable pilot. The show has moments that are genuinely laugh out loud funny, yet it manages to get in it’s own way and stumbles at moments. It brings the graphicness and crude humor in a similar way as Kick-Ass and Watchmen and at times feels like something that should’ve came out during the time when those two were on the big screen.
As a pilot episode, it does a serviceable job at building the world for future episodes which is all anyone can ask for. One thing that The Boys has going for it are the minds behind the scenes, the love for superheroes in popular culture and another comic book based series to compliment the critically acclaimed, The Tick. When The Boys drops on Prime Video in July, it’ll be worth checking out, but hopefully, the rest of the series is closer to the highpoints of its pilot episode.
[All Mames Wey]
The Boys is scheduled to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on July 26, 2019.
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