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SDCC 2019: The Boys (Episodes 1 and 2) Review

July 26, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Boys
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SDCC 2019: The Boys (Episodes 1 and 2) Review  

During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Amazon Prime Video invited 411mania to attend the world fan premiere for the new comic book TV series The Boys, which is slated to debut on the streaming platform on July 26. Based on the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic book of the same name, the new TV series is a satirical, deconstructionist, irreverent riff on a post-superhero world.

In the world of The Boys, superheroes exist. Except in this world, they are much more like everyday people. In other words, they are probably the last people equipped to handle superpowers and the task of protecting the world. They lack the humility or idealism of a Steve Rogers/Captain America. Also, most of the worlds superheroes are controlled by the interests corporate America, specifically the Vought Corporation, headed up by Senior VP Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue, making a welcome return to the screen).

However, the world of average, A/V salesman Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) is upended when his girlfriend is blown to pieces by a so-called superhero named A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). A-Train’s employers at Vought attempt to sweep the incident under the rug and buy Hughie’s silence, which he refuses. Instead, he’s unwittingly recruited by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Butcher claims to be a federal agent in the business of monitoring and handling unruly superheroes who step out of line and don’t act as their line of work suggests. Eventually, they form a ragtag group looking to uncover Vought’s dirty secrets and expose the truth behind the world’s superheroes.

Garth Ennis comics are always known for their very over-the-top, outrageous style, a near cartoonish level of violence and gore, and general weirdness. The Boys is no exception. The new TV series is definitely entertaining with showrunner Eric Kripke adapting and presenting Ennis’ rather crass style. In some ways, based off their earliest episodes, Kripke does a better job at this than Preacher. Basically, Kripke plays around with familiar comic book tropes and character types and puts them in depraved, disturbing and unsettling situations.

Karl Urban is easily the highlight of The Boys as the anachronistic, slightly flamboyant and swaggering would-be federal or possibly ex-federal agent Billy Butcher. Urban’s charisma shines as he plays a rather gruff, cockney Englishman, which is actually a nice change of pace for him. He tends to get the attention in all of the scenes he is in. It’s somewhat at the cost of Jack Quaid’s Hughie.

Simply put, Quaid’s performance is still up for debate after the first two episodes. It’s a bit jarring to get over how much he resembles his father, Dennis Quaid. Jack Quaid is very much going for an affable, everyman type who is teetering closer and closer to the edge and pushed out of his comfort zone by the acts of the Vought superheroes and Butcher himself. Quaid’s performance might come off better after viewing the rest of the season. Interestingly enough, while Hughie’s character in the comics shared a strong resemblance to real-life actor Simon Pegg, Pegg does play a recurring role in the show as Hughie’s father. And while it’s definitely great to see Pegg in an adaptation of a Garth Ennis comic, and he definitely has some amusing lines of dialogue playing a decent, almost stereotypical, American dad, it feels like a bit of a waste of Pegg’s talents.

The other standout actor in the cast is most definitely Antony Starr, best known for his work as Lucas Hood on Banshee, in the role of Homelander. Homelander is essentially an analog for Captain America and Superman in this universe. He has Superman’s powers, Captain America’s dashing and heroic good looks, and an outward demeanor of being the traditional American superhero. Except underneath all that, he’s clearly very disturbed. He’s developed an unhealthy fixation on his boss, Madelyn, and he has no problem going through any lengths in order to protect her interests and the Vought Corporation. Basically, Starr is playing a Superman type of character with psychopathic tendencies, who has already gone over the edge and is nearly unhinged. Imagine a Superman who resented humanity and believed in his godhood even more than the Zack Snyder version, and that’s basically the idea of Homelander. The Boys plays around a lot of with superhero tropes, archetypes and conventions.

Thus far, the show is an amusing fantasy play on superhero comics and characters, which are all the rage with film and TV now, by showing them in much more depraved and insane scenarios. As a writer, Ennis is always good on leaning into the darker sides and urges of human nature, even if they are exaggerated to a degree; and Kripke definitely brings out that style well for this series. The Boys potentially works as a show for people who despise or loathe superhero shows, or it can simply work as a refreshing palette cleanser if you want to see characters resembling those in popular Marvel and DC shows, comics or films really get pushed passed the limits of good taste.

At times, the edges of the TV budget for The Boys definitely show. Sometimes it’s to the show’s benefit as there’s quite a bit of unpolished griminess to the production. Most of the production values and visuals look fairly acceptable for a streaming TV series, all things considered, if not a bit on the cheaper side. In the show’s defense, Game of Thrones did essentially raise the bar and spoil the pot so to speak in terms of expectations for genre TV storytelling.

Thus far, The Boys is off to a promising start for its first two episodes. The group hasn’t completely assembled. The good news is that, as the cast and crew announced at Comic-Con, the show has already been renewed for a second season. At the very least, the show will have one more season to continue developing the storyline.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Boys is a new TV series that's a nice, refreshing, albeit depraved, take on the world of comic book superheroes by depicting super-powered individuals who absolute scumbags and don't really care all that much about saving the world, protecting the innocent, and being a beacon of hope for all mankind. The show features a rather solid cast, especially with the likes of Urban, Shue, and Starr playing prominent roles. Some of the leads haven't completely sold their talents for their parts, but hopefully, they can pull ahead for the rest of the season.