Ever since Amazon Prime started pushing season two of their original series, The Boys, I’ve been curious and a little skeptical of it. I saw ads for the show everywhere, and it seemed simultaneously like something I would love and hate. Mostly because the title, The Boys, made me feel like I wasn’t the show’s demographic. I had sort of written it off because of this, but after a friend gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up, I gave it a try. The verdict? I love it, but it isn’t without its issues.
The premise of The Boys is this: in a world where superheroes are commonplace, they are commodified like Disney characters and pageant stars. They’re easily corrupted, they abuse their power and they get away with those abuses with little to no consequence. The series follows Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) and William “Billy” Butcher (Karl Urban) on a quest for revenge against the Seven, the most respected and powerful team of Supes in the world. Basically, they’re the Justice League if Superman liked killing civilians for fun.
If you’re thinking of checking out The Boys, keep in mind what my friend who recommended the show told me: you will know within the first six minutes if you want to watch the show. Obviously, I kept watching.
By the end of the two seasons, I found many things to like and dislike about this show. Here are just a few.
Reasons to watch The Boys:
1. The girls.
The show might focus on those boys, but honestly? The women are the best part of the show. Erin Moriarty shines as Starlight, a newcomer to the Seven who is quickly disillusioned about the heroic life she’d envisioned for herself. Dominique McElligott delivers a nuanced and heartbreaking performance as Queen Maeve (the Wonder Woman-type of this universe).
Most captivating is Karen Fukuhara as Kimiko, a super strong, super healing badass and the only permanent member of The Boys that isn’t a boy. Her friendship with Frenchie (Tomer Kapon) is one of the highlights of the series.
2. The found family dynamics.
If you’re a sucker for people from different lives and backgrounds coming together and becoming a family, this show will deliver.
3. The thoughtful and timely critiques of our world today.
The Boys is nothing if not topical. The first season spent a significant amount of time examining how women are treated when they try to report sexual abuse in the workplace, how women can be accomplices to the men that commit these abuses, and a general condemnation of the late-stage capitalism we’re currently living in.
The second season took on American politics and the rise of extremism as well as the tactics that members of the alt-right use to recruit people to their causes. I’ll give as little away as possible, but by the end of the season you will get to see a neo-nazi get what’s coming to them, and it is delightful.
4. The costumes.
This show goes all-in with its hero costumes, and they are fantastically flashy. I am extremely envious of Starlight’s cape.
Reasons to skip The Boys:
1. Treatment of female characters.
It wouldn’t feel right to not acknowledge that this show follows the long-time comic book tradition of killing off (mostly) female love interests solely to motivate male protagonists into action. The inciting incident of the show sees Hughie’s girlfriend killed in a horrible way, leading him to want revenge against the man who killed her. This isn’t the only instance of this trope in the series. Like Hughie, Karl Urban’s Butcher seeks revenge against another hero for an even more horrific series of events that led to the disappearance of his wife.
Throughout the show, it’s the female characters who are subjected to the most graphic violence and gruesome deaths. Their trauma is more visible and personal than that of the men, who mostly have to deal with the aforementioned emotional pain of the women in their lives being hurt.
2. Specifically Kimiko.
There’s also a lot to critique about the show’s treatment of Kimiko, the only major Japanese character and the only disabled character on the show. For a good portion of the show, she has no concrete way of communicating with the other characters, having become mute after childhood trauma.
Kimiko is eventually given a voice in the show with her own style of sign language, but even the showrunners have acknowledged the problematic ways that Kimiko was portrayed in the first season. Based on this and some other sketchy choices made for the show’s few characters of colour, it’s clear that The Boys could benefit from a more diverse writer’s room.
3. Excessive amounts of gore.
I love a gross, bloody moment as much as the next person, but the bar for the amount of blood and guts in an episode is set high in the pilot, which means the show spends lots of time trying to out-gross itself. I hate to say it, but sometimes it can be a little bit too much!
Despite these flaws, I’m excited to see what they do with the third season. Hopefully, they will cultivate a more diverse cast and crew going forward, ensuring that the writers can actually tackle the issues they take on in a respectful way and writing a show that doesn’t alienate the people it’s trying to represent.