The Boys on Amazon Prime Video: Why everybody is talking about the R-rated superhero show
Rude, lewd and extremely naughty, The Boys is the perfect antidote to the superhero genre overload. Ahead of season 2, find out what you’ve been missing…
The Boys was the wildest new TV show of 2019 and everyone who saw season 1 is counting down the days before season 2 lands on Amazon Prime Video.
Not even a global pandemic can stop the rise of Billy the Butcher, Frenchie, Hughie, The Female and Mother’s Milk from kicking butt, blowing stuff up and getting covered in lots and lots of blood.
The Boys' first outing skewered the Marvel Universe with a mixture of biting satire, subversive anti-capitalist messaging and outrageous bad behaviour.
Making Deadpool look like a Sesame Street character, The Boys ramps up the blood, guts, sex and bad language as it poses the question that every comic book fan has probably wondered at some point – what would people really do if they had superhero powers?
The answer in The Boys is bad things - very bad things.
Warning: Video contains adult content
All the superheroes in The Boys are managed by Vought, a definitely-not-based-on-Marvel multi-billion dollar conglomerate. They keep the Supes’ dirty secrets under wraps for them, flogging merchandise and reality shows for their biggest assets - The Seven.
They also have an unsettling amount of influence over those in political power due to the skills of the Supes in fighting crime and snaring secrets about every politician.
If Vought is the shady, mysterious villain lurking in the background of the Boys, The Seven are the shameless faces of the business doing their bidding.
A mixture of the hapless, the broken, the sinister and the seedy, the Seven are led by Antony Starr’s dastardly Homelander – a mix of Captain America and Superman with disturbing dark twist.
They also include depressed heavy drinker Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), bed-hopping, party-loving A-Train (Jessie R Usher), Translucent, who uses his power of invisibility to lurk in ladies’ bathrooms, the powerful and mysterious Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) and misogynistic dolphin-botherer The Deep (Chace Crawford).
At the start of the series, they are joined by the newest member of The Seven, country girl and god-loving Starlight, played by Erin Moriarty.
Starlight’s character has evolved considerably from the comic book series and although she still suffers at the hands of the Seven, Moriarty brings a steeliness and nuance to the character, which feels fitting for the #MeToo era.
On the side of The Boys we have Hughie (Jack Quaid), a blue collar worker who has his life turned upside-down by the actions of a Supe. The trauma, injustice and fall-out brings Hughie into the path of Karl Urban’s badass Billy Butcher.
Cockney vigilante Butcher has his own reasons for wanting to bring down the Seven and his meeting with Hughie inspires him to get his old Supe-fighting band back together. The only problem is that the rest of the Boys - Frenchie and Mother’s Milk - can’t stand Billy or even be in the same room as him.
The joy of The Boys is the richness and variety of characters, which means the pace never relents across the eight episodes and the show is able to flick a switch on the tone from nail-biting action to outrageous comedy.
Speaking of outrage, if you've never seen Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s previous R-rated comic book adaptation Preacher, prepare for jaw-dropping moments unlike anything you’ve seen before on TV.
And even if you have watched Preacher, The Boys pushes the needle even further with at least one moment in every episode that will leave you wondering whether they're really allowed to show that.
Season 2 of The Boys arrives on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, September 4. Here are three reasons everyone is talking about it...
1. Come for wild antics, stay for the subversive politics
"[The Boys are] all basically the little guy. They're blue collar, the 99%. In one way or another, they’ve all been f***ed over by these massive tectonic plates of power, from corporations or the superheroes,” explains show producer Eric Kripke.
"They just get ground under the wheel as just collateral that aren’t given a second thought…these guys have all suffered personally. What makes them different is that they’ve decided to fight back against the 1% of the 1%."
It’s this underlying message that provides The Boys with a heartbeat, preventing it from becoming a sequence of stunts and set-pieces.
There’s a burning anger at the heart of The Boys about everything from big business and religion to corrupt politicians, which means the show has an enduring quality way beyond its shiny comic book gleam.
Kripke might also have a certain blonde-haired political leader in his sights with the show.
"The Boys are the heroes because they sit together, are loyal to each other, they’ve got each other’s back. And are willing to admit vulnerability and weakness," he said.
"What I love is that the heroes of the show are the people who express vulnerability. The villains are the slick people who stand in front of the world refuse to admit weakness and somehow think demonstrating strength at all times is good when it’s actually dictatorial, autocratic and full of bull****.”
2. Karl Urban and this cast absolutely nails it
From his ridiculous cockney accent to his splendid line in Hawaiian shirts, Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher is an OTT joy that absolutely steals the show.
From motivational speeches about the Spice Girls to ass-kicking Supes, Urban’s Butcher is electric to watch. And when his heart-breaking backstory is added to the mix, Urban manages to bring empathy and softness to a character you’d seen bashing heads only moments ago.
But it’s not just Butcher you’ll fall in love with in this series. Erin Moriarty is outstanding as golden girl Starlight who has everything she believed in ripped apart by the darkness at the heart of The Seven.
Jack Quaid is utterly endearing as everyman Hughie, perfectly cast to take on the role that was based in the comic book series on actor Simon Pegg.
Antony Starr steals nearly every scene he’s in as the all-powerful and utterly contemptible Homelander and Chace Crawford’s The Deep manages to make you hate him and also pity him as he falls from one fishy disaster to the next.
No character is wasted on The Boys, from the silent but deadly Karen Fukuhara’s The Female to Tomer Capon’s multi-talented Frenchie. We can’t wait to get to know everyone a little bit better in season two. And possibly meet some new heroes and villains along the way.
3. It has one of the best TV soundtracks
Warning: Video contains adult content
From stone cold classics like Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town and The Kingsman’s Louie Louie to a modern edge from Royal Deluxe and Gizzle, the soundtrack to The Boys is banger after banger.
And it even throws in Spice Girls classic Wannabe, because it’s what Billy Butcher would have wanted.
Judging by the season 2 trailer's use of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire, we can expect more surprising pop classics to soundtrack the latest episodes.
Catch up on The Boys season 1 now on Amazon Prime Video.
The Boys season 2 starts on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, September 4.