J-Review: The Boys (Season 1)

Over the weekend, I’ve been binging on this new series from Amazon Prime Video called The Boys.

The show stars Jack Quaid, Karl Urban, Elizabeth Schue, Antoni Starr, and Erin Moriarty, just to name a few.

Just in case you don’t know, Amazon recently made its streaming service available here in the Philippines so I decided to sign up and enjoy their free trial. And The Boys just happen to be my first ever show from the streamer.

Now the show is based on the comicbook series of the same name, by Garth Ennis, whom you may have heard of as the creator of another beloved comic title, Preacher. That show was also adapted for television and airs on AMC in the United States. Other than sharing the same comicbook creator, both shows are executive produced by Seth Rogen. Eric Kripke, the creator of the long-running series Supernatural serves as the developer and showrunner of Amazon’s The Boys.

I really enjoyed watching the first season, having only sampled the first episode out of curiosity. I’ve been seeing the teasers and trailers for it this past year and I wanna see the show for myself. In a time where there is simply a surplus of superhero led-shows, The Boys stands out from the pack for its no-nonsense approach in the genre and flipping the roles of who is truly on the side of good and evil.

The show is set in a world where superheroes are as common as your manufactured K-POP boyband. Not only do they save the world on a daily basis, they also have merchandise, reality shows, movies, albums, promotional tours, and everything that makes them idol-worshipped celebrities. An evil corporation called Vought International manages these powered beings, like multimedia talent agency who boasts a strong PR machine.

There is even a superhero league called The Seven, composed of Earth’s most celebrated heroes, led by the one and only Homelander, who looks like a cross between Superman and Captain America, but looked more off than your clock’s cuckoo bird.

Now the story begins when a simple electronic store salesman named Hughie bloody lost his girlfriend after becoming collateral damage to a superhero encounter. Apparently, such incidences are not rare that there is a survivors’ support group for it.

He is then recruited by a mysterious rugged British man named Billy Butcher, offering him a way to avenge his love. Along the way, we met jack-of-all-trades Frenchie, social worker Mother’s Milk, and non-verbal but lethal femme fatale Kimiko.

Now the series takes its time to flesh out many of the major players in its first season. And one thing I like to point out is how it portrays grief as its own character in the show. Hughie, having experienced his girlfriend’s death before his very eyes, such vivid memory of his still lingers as he tried to make sense and realizing the reality of the superhero-filled world he was brought up in. From suddenly freezing in the first few times he met eye-to-eye his girlfriend’s killer A-Train to seeing flashes of her at random moments to blowing up a Supe with an attached explosive out of rage, he had no proper channel to express this until months later, when he fell for a superpowered being named Annie. By that poi

Anger, on the otherhand, dictates the actions of one Billy Butcher. Stemming from learning that his wife was allegedly raped by Homelander, and that she is nowhere to be found for over 8 years, he is the living example of the saying that “the end justifies the means”. He could care less on who he hurt or kill, as long as they serbe a bigger purpose for the greater thing at hand, and that is to take down Vought and most especially Homelander. He has reason but cannot be reasoned with, simply put.

Trauma can mean so many things to many people, and in this show, it affected a few of the show’s characters, like Hughie and Kimiko. But nothing is as traumatic as the true tragic story of Homelander. 

In the latter part of the first season, we learn that the reason why Homelander basically had no background to speak of is because he was literally manufactured to be the superpowered ambassador to the corporation that made him who he is. It was telling earlier on that Homelander was unraveling. In a scene with the person who “helped” raised him, the former’s  failure to provide a caring home for Homelander as a child has what made him who he is, a superpowered man slowly driven into madness with a sinister smile on his face.

Now, the women of The Boys are not to be underestimated.

Up-and-comer Annie, who goes by the superhero name Starlight, was basically raised a pageant girl the moment she started manifesting her powers at an early age, with the belief that she can save the world. But once she was given the opportunity to be part of The Seven, she realized that the industry she has dreamt to be in, is not as pretty as she thought. From having sexually harassed by a co-worker to being told to act a certain way in order to conform to the way things are done, to discovering that she was a corporate lab rat whose powers was a product of a drug made by the very people who recruited her to become part of the Seven, she questioned her sense of self and her place in the world. At the end of the season, she stuck to her guns to take control of her life.

Kimiko on the otherhand showed a different angle in the story. Separated from her family and was forced to become a soldier in a terrorist organization, she became an unwilling victim who was injected with the chemical known as Compound V in a bid by Vought to produce superpowered terrorists in exchange of earning money. Trafficked into the United States and basically caged like an animal, she harbored distrusts to anyone who came near her until she met Frenchie who not only accepted her of who she is but treated her as an actual human, more than everyone else. I saw that hope in her eyes wanting to be able to express what she wanna say but couldn’t but Frenchie never gave up on finding a way for her to communicate, to say what she needed to say.

There is just so much to mine from these aspects but I guess I’m getting myself a little too far ahead with little research to back by at the moment. After-all, I’m merely reacting a show I’ve only finished watching less than 24 hours ago.

With that said, I can see why many of the superheroes are what they are. For the likes of Annie (as crime-fighting Starlight) and Queen Maeve, we see the before and the after of how one becomes consumed in the whole fame machinery for the purpose of achieving whole time fame. This is quite the commentary on the entertainment industry, which is probably much more apparent in the local showbiz scene here in my country as well as the K-POP industry as a whole.

With Korean entertainment agencies churning out manufactured boybands and girlbands left and right, probably scores of them within a single calendar year, fans are obviously blinded by the flashiness and glamour these idols bring on stage, without realzing that darker truths that is pretty muched talked about but have never been taken action against for the sake of performers who earn little to no income, who are forced to be of a particular size, and such pressure from the industry have already led to many reportedly turning to drugs, and driving others to commit suicide.

Trailers of the show suggest this to be very nitty gritty, violent, and promises of unnecessary gore and nudity. Having seen the actual series, I can happily report that while it is nitty-gritty and violent, it’s not as gory as everyone thought it would be. In fact, unlike most premium shows that try to be shocking for the sake of shock value, these are done for the purpose of advancing storytelling. They simply won’t be a random occurrence, I can guarantee you that.

There’s also some nice touches of comedy to balance out the darker nature of the show. Lots of call-outs addressing the superhero genre will certainly make you tingle.

With that said, I highly look forward to Season 2 and I can’t wait to see what happens next after that *spoiler alert*cliffhanger.

There is so much to be said but you can check The Boys out, with all ten episodes available to stream at Amazon Prime Video.

SIDE NOTE: My favorite episode would probably be Episode 1×04, only because I was pleasntly surprised to hear some authentic Tagalog dialogue in a couple of scenes there. Laz Alonso, who plays Mother’s Milk, even spoke some lines in the language. While it has that American twang, it still sounded good in my ear as a native Tagalog-speaker.

Ang galing lang!