Amazon’s “The Boys”: A Review

Posted: 08/12/2019 in Uncategorized

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At a crisp 8 episodes, Amazon delivers a tour de force over the top reinvention…or subversive attack… on the superhero genre. This is the grittiest, nastiest and best thing I have seen in some time. Violent, visceral, disturbing, “The Boys” presents an all out take no prisoners volley taking on everything from government, organized religion to of course the notion of super powered individuals being honourable and good. Thinly veiled jabs at both Marvel/Disney and DC abound. My review follows below.

I had deliberately endeavoured to read as little as possible about this series as I wanted a fresh perspective when I actually watched it. It was riveting. From an opening sequence featuring every man character Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) to all moments that follow, we get a brutal, twisted yet engaging take on super heroes and what such entities would be like if they did indeed exist and fell under corporate management and control. The Frankensteinian aspect comes to roost and a deep game is played regarding the main series ‘hero’/villain Homelander. While members of the Seven…essentially the series’ Justice League all get their moments, it is Homelander who truly takes the stage as arguably the most vicious, brilliant, narcissistic and duly terrifying villain to be offered on series tv in years.

Anthony Starr, best known from his time on “Banshee” is a stand out. Playing by times a petulant child, a tyrannical bully and beneath it all something truly, truly evil; his performance is masterful. Homelander is leader of the Seven, the face of  Vogt industries and unquestionably the most terrible, twisted personality to be put forth regarding the superhero milieu.  The notion of what would happen if superheroes could be corporate controlled, mass marketed  – and weaponized when needed – is given a brilliant display with Garth Ennis’ latest offering. With Homelander we get an equal demonstration of what would happen when the creation surpasses the creator. All moments between Starr and his handler Elisabeth Shue as Madelyn Stillwell are a study in psychological manipulation. Each jockeys for dominance until the matter is clearly resolved in a taut, anxiety laden season ender. Holy heck…this show just gets so much done in a tight 8 episodes.

There are numerous terrific performances..more than I can name in a brief review but I have to heap praise where it belongs. Karl Urban is solid as hell and has been for years. His film credits are a sci fan/fantasy fan’s dream. His work in Dredd was superior. His performance in Red no less so. He also had some cool scene stealing moments in the critically acclaimed Thor-Ragnarok…not to mention a heroic turn in the mildly well known Lord of The Rings films. Here however he is gritty AF. He is a normal human being engaged in confronting and bringing down gods…essentially. His near rhymey profanity, his Spice Girls pep talk, there is just so much right with Billy Butcher. His back story as the leader of the fractured group known as “the Boys” is doled out in perfectly even increments. Urban’s performance is tense, restrained so much so that when he has outbursts, they are delivered to optimal and terrific effect. A scene at a grave yard with a sledge hammer is among my favorites for its sheer emotional punch. A later scene featuring a hospital and his gleeful “effin diabolical” pronouncement was just awesome.

Jack Quaid is a find. As Hughie , he  is the every man, the guy who goes along to get along and is likeable and non confrontational. He is happy for the little he has…..in other words…he is any one of us…until he isn’t. His trauma is sickening and captures the viewers’ immediate sympathy. You pull for him and do so without question from beginning to end. His burgeoning relationship with a super-Starlight/Annie January (Erin Moriarity) is beautiful. Moriaity too kills with her performance. Beginning as a small town, Christian girl with deep morality and the desire to help people, her journey is a fascinating watch. The us and them dynamic is bridged and nigh eliminated via her relationship with Hughie. Both have experienced deep disillusionment with their perceptions of what they believed versus what truly is. Her speech at a religious “Believe” event was perfect.

The Seven’s remaining members are a mixed bag with only Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) eliciting some sympathy. Her moment with Homelander on an ill fated rescue mission on a terrorist occupied plane is among the most unsettling I have seen in some time. Her attempt to do the right thing is trumped ultimately by self preservation but really as we get to know her back story, she never really had a chance. A later segment between her and Starlight is superior as Maeve offers hope and direction regrettably no longer afforded her.

The remaining members of the group are a creep with privacy issues, a junkie and a sexual predator. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) almost nearly attains a level of viewer empathy until his actions in Cuba. “Translucent” (Alex Hassell) is creepy and his attempted manipulations earns him the fate he has avoided for so long. “The Deep” (Chayce Crawford)- the series’ Aquaman-esque character, is anything but. Shallow, vile and ultimately  – astoundingly stupid. A later moment in exile in which he experiences victimisation of his own again earns no viewer sympathy. These guys are a pretty bad lot.

Where the show shines is with the titular “Boys”. Frenchie (Tomar Capon) is an excellent character. Damaged as hell and exceedingly lethal, he is nonetheless kindly and his moments with the equally damaged “Female/Kimiko” (Karen Fukuhara) are among the show’s best. Fukuhara last seen in “Suicide Squad” gives a nearly feral performance with elements of child-like innocence interspersed. Laz Alonso rounds off the group as “Mother’s Milk” or “MM” as Frenchie often calls him. He is both the group’s conscience and level headed-ness. His moments with Hughie gift us with such golden comedic offerings as “You’re like the Rain Man of effing people over” to which Hughie plainly responds “not a compliment”. Quaid kills with his performance as a man now forced into a deeply violent life and yet feeling more alive and purposeful while doing so.

“The Boys” finale is mind blowing, casting the series on its ear and absolutely assuring viewers will be tuning in for the second season which cannot come soon enough. “The Boys” stands as simply outstanding, well worth your time and is easily one of the best new series to come out in 2019.

 

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