The Boys (Two Season Review): Better than the Bunch

7 Jan

If Alan Moore’s Watchmen, released over a span of a year between 1985 and 1986, had the nerve to bring comics into an adult realm, being that Alan already proved with Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and his other comics deal with moral ambiguity, sexual frustration, rape, violence, in mature ways, nothing since its publication has captured the eye since. Yes, the Dark Knight trilogy, directed by Christopher Nolan, was exhilarating, and definitely had bits of Frank Miller and Alan Moore combined. Joker (2019) with Joaquin Phoenix is the only thing that bears any resemblance to Alan Moore’s tone. Heath Ledger’s Joker was amazing and thrilling and psychotic at the same time, but Joker proved that subtlety and comic books could work. So, when I first heard of Amazon Prime’s original series, the Boys, I wasn’t ready to jump on it. I despised the Marvel films cutesy behavior but welcomed people to like them, because the establishment in Hollywood hated it. 

            Whereas the critics hated Joker (2019), and then took it back, because the people loved it, I am not coming from bias. To put it perfectly, The Boys, is what Zach Snyder should have made instead of Watchmen, which was received poorly by critics, “65 percent” on Rotten Tomatoes and I still say that it should have followed Terry Gilliam’s advice about making it as a series and not a movie. Upon retrospect, it wasn’t a great adaptation but it’s the only adaptation that seems to hit the notes in all the wrong ways. (https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/watchmen). 

            The first season of the Boys, produced by Amazon, created by comic legend Garth Ennis, is predictable but emotional. Karl Urban, who plays Billy Butcher, avenging his wife’s rape by Captain America/Superman look alike Homelander (played by Antony Starr like a savage who seems to be channeling Michael Fassbender from Shame and X-MEN’s Magneto more than he thinks and pulls it off wonderfully), as rape should be the oldest trick in the book to gain sympathy between characters, always work. Rape, family conflict, even between strangers who form a bond, but feel it breaking always makes good source for drama. Good work is done by all the actors in both seasons. 

            Ironically, I jest when comparing to Zach Snyder, but there’s more sadness and hurt that can be felt from the series, which Zac Snyder is not capable of delivering. He’s good for wild action, like in 300, but the creators of the Boys go for the throat. Which hasn’t been done in Superhero stories since Alan Moore entered the scene in the 80’s. 

            There may be a lot of comparison to Alan Moore’s work because the Boys seems to achieve and reside in Alan’s themes far more than any comic book film has ever done.

            What are the positives? The Boys series handles the tough questions: work place assault, vengeance, arrogance, child enslavement, breeding programs, mommy issues, which are all things that have been used since humans could write or tell stories. Series have more connection to the Oral storytelling perspective. It’s a conversation between people. And the silent terse moments of The Boys shines most of all. The edgy anger of this group of super hero’s is about as daunting as detailing Charlie Manson’s sex life. And the Boys does it in spades.

            Where Marvel never had a quiet moment in its movies, and series, The Boys actually made me uncomfortable. This hasn’t happened for a long time. It seems to understand the minutiae of an existence in the Boys Universe. The characters are lived in, and complex, and not everyone is good or bad. It’s an unlikely position to feel when watching a show produced on a streaming service. All of the acting, writing, character development works with such conviction that it made me uncomfortable to watch, and that’s what a series about deconstructing superhero’s should do.

            What works in The Boys, season one, is what others liked about it. A solid base around new characters, while I felt it was somewhat predictable, enjoyable, full of convenient plot twists, that I saw coming. It’s better than rewatching all the Marvel and DCEU films and should be the benchmark for most superhero series to date. 

            Season 1 overall rating: 7 out of 10.

            While Season 1 of the Boys is predictable, and much more narratively structured, the point of pride I felt when watching Season 2 of the Boys happens to declare independence from its narrative confines. Billy Butcher, after the 1stseason, is stranded, and the Boys must find there way without his presence. 

            The show takes dips, but not in Breaking Bad ways where the show becomes impossible to deal with and I didn’t want to continue past season 3. It takes risks that most creative people who make movies by surprise. Movies were dead since Lord of the Rings and Passion of the Christ took audiences by surprise, made us cry, and realize films were never going to be the same. It does seem to lose steam but the characters are still there, wounded, confused, and more psychologically fucked than Marvel could ever produce when they aren’t scissoring Brie Larson to get “woke points.” 

            What can be said is that every time I think violence shouldn’t be the way to end Vought, the fictional company that protects the super heroes, with lawsuits, they can corrupt judges, and maybe violence is the only path left. Or the Super heroes in Vought going off and forming there own company, and refusing to help the government or Vought, all together. 

            In a scene where two characters have sex, the couple are smoking. It reminded me of 90’s films and how sexually liberating they were. I always wanted to do that with someone I loved about movies in general. The exhale of a cigarette blown after sex sends melatonin to the eyes. A release. Essentially Season 2 of the Boys is an exhale of the first season. It delivers on the promises the first season never offered. 

            All the while I kept seeing how Butcher was a piece of shit more in the Second Season than in the First Season, and reconciling how he must treat his team. Hughie, the soft spoken character, is at his limits, and Mother’s Milk (played brilliantly by Alonzo) calls Hughie Butcher’s “canary.” 

            The Canary is Butcher’s coal mine. The limit the characters are all reaching. Butcher must identify who his allies and foes are, and even how he might yet experience his future as part of the Boys. As a destructive Ahab on his quest to destroy his white whale, Homelander, or retreating and hiding from his mission. 

            Even so, we get to see the past from narrative perspective of the French killer, who should feel like an added character, gains more depth as Season 2 grows. Like I said, Boys Season 2 is an exhale.

            Also, while I praise the series, there are some cringe moments too.

            The unlikely timing in all of this is when the battle must occur, when two opposing forces must meet, Butcher and Homelander. If people were mad about how the second story built up the division the characters feel, and how the journey pays a heavy price. If Butcher is Ahab, Hughie is Ishmael, Mother’s Milk is Queequeg (which the irony is not lost on me considering that Queequeg is of Caribbean descent, and Mother’s Milk is African American, but Queegueg and Mother’s Milk share the same drive to help Butcher on his quest), and every other character is just another passenger on Butcher’s journey. 

            Another character, Stormfront, who turns out to be crucial to Season 2, is linked to the Vought Superhero corporation, as she was in league with Hitler, and the cringiest part, is that she a social media provocateur. Yes, this might actually work on a leftists, but not with me. There is a level of brilliance to Stormfront’s performance (played by Aya Cash) who plays her with conviction and cunning. She’s almost the anti-thesis to Lea Skywalker, as Lea is a matriarchal figure, Stormfront is the evil version of Lea, and brilliantly played.  

            If Season 3 continues to expand the characters and create a third and final act, it might just even out the trilogy. Get ready to inhale for the third season, because anything can happen. There are some cringe worthy moments too. Like how the villains are anti-SJW, and it seems like they were reaching too hard for that, making the establishment look like the villains, as it was a missed opportunity. Another cringeworthy scene is a boy who is influenced by the villain Stormbringer, and shoots an convenience store owner who thinks that he’s a Supe. This is the only time a cringe moment existed in Season 2.

            If Occam’s Razor is applied to the end of Season 2, it seems to have a complete circle, and should just retire before they start trying to out do Season 2, if it was final. But then, the ending does pose one final question that will be answered in the third season. Will the finale force the Boys into one more triumphant battle before they retire?     

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

Louis Bruno is the author of more than 15 books, The Michael Project, Thy Kingdom Come, The Disintegrating Bloodline, Apocalypse Soldier, Hierarchy of Dwindling Sheep. His books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu. He can be found on Gab, https://gab.com/thereallouistbruno, Parler https://parler.com/profile/therealLouistbruno/posts, Instagram, and Twitter, only for shitposting. 

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