Two weeks ago, the amazing, gory and brutal show that is the boys, returned with a bang.
I initially planned to write the first three episodes and then the fourth episode review and then episode by episode review for this show, just as I have done for other shows, but seeing that I began a little late, and I still have Kenobi episode 5 and The BOYS episode 5 not to mention other backlogs, I decided on a compromise and that one catching up article is fine this time around.
Also with the boys, every season, at least so far, has been a very tightly woven narrative, and its difficult to talk about one episode without bringing up the previous ones and without the knowledge of what's to come, littlest details in the episodes can come back in ways that no one will expect. For example, when Homelander and Maeve leave a plane full of passengers to die, I thought it was while being a thematically brilliant scene, a one and done scene, I sure didn't expect it to come back in season two, on Maeve's phone, and then, I sure didn't expect that to be what saves Ryan and Butcher.
I will say, initially I wasn't much into the boys by which, I mean I watched the first two seasons much later compared to their release dates, and that's mainly because I just saw it as a super edgy, unnecessarily violent and overwhelmingly pretentious critique of superheroes, "Oh guys, did you know giving specific people massive amounts of unchecked power will end badly?" Yeah, its called politics, its almost like, superhero media are... fiction or something.
Fuckin, mind blown...
Now, before moving forwards I will say first, I love the boys, but it is necessary for me to get all the negative thoughts I have out of the way first, because only then can I express why I love the show so much as I do now, so keep that in mind while reading ahead.
And I thought so because, firstly, the trailers did and continue to do a poor Job of portraying the nuance, creativity and effort that has gone into this show, instead just resorting to 'what if superhero bad?' and oh look! Violence! You like violence kids? Here is Violence. And I think its Genius, What? You think the last bit of that statement was so tonally inconsistent with the rest of it that you have a metaphorically broken neck from tonal whiplash? Don't worry, I'll explain it soon enough.
Before that though, let me get to my second reason for thinking all the above things and that is millions of pretentious online pundits coming in and saying that the boys is an absolutely picture perfect description of exactly what would happen if superheroes were present in our world, and how the boys is, "saving us from superhero culture".
Firstly, no, the boys makes a lot of specific choices that make it very much not a accurate description of superheroes in real world, firstly, all superheroes are manufactured using the same drug compound V, and if that were the case, we wouldn't have varied superpowers, like in the show, its very likely that we would have repeats of the same power or variations of it, because believe it or not, despite our differences, human physiology is largely the same and so while there would be some variations in the powers, it wouldn't go from super strong and invulnerable to "me shoot lightning".
And also, Vought is the progenitor company, i.e. they created compound V, and progenitor companies rarely are the best at making a profit with their product, give it enough time and someone will use the same product or a variation of it, and make a better profit simply due to their better marketing prowess, simply because coming up with ideas and marketing them require two completely different skillsets, the only way to circumvent this is copyright or trademark or Patent, its the reason it exists, so that those who come up with ideas and products, are rewarded just as much if not more than those who are very good at taking existing ones and marketing them.
Now compound V, was a secret so it obviously wasn't patented, in which case, someone would have stolen the idea and there would have been multiple companies with this, it would have been on the black market, people would run amuck with it and create supervillains, and many more people frustrated with this state would somehow get it and become vigilantes, aka a very similar situation to a gritty version of the superhero comics? Remember, supervillains weren't already a thing when the show began, even though by that time Vought had been standing for god knows how long. And also, if multiple companies had this product, no way would half of the stories be possible, in fact, no way could superheroes be such assholes, cause you know what happens when a company has competition? They air each others dirty laundry out, ergo, all of superhero antics would be on full display.
Also, this premise goes with an idea that I am truly against, its that the rich and the powerful are inherently shady, that they are all lovey-dovey in front of the cameras but assholes behind, that is far from the truth, while this is certainly true for many cases, because yes, power does corrupt, more often than not, the case is that they are very polite, and good people, a little Japanese movie called parasite put it best, "She is not rich in spite of being rich, she is nice because she is rich." The idea here is, life is kind to people with power and privilege, so it irons out their kinks. Ergo, they have the luxury of being nice.
The idea of the rich, powerful and privileged being assholes is something that is sold to us, by others like us, because its a comforting idea, it's something that we like to use to make ourselves sleep at night.
Now I am in no way saying the opposite, i.e. all powerful people are in no way nice, both of these stances are equally stupid they have good and bad traits just like others, and yes their actions do often harm those less powerful and privileged, but more often than not, that's unintentional, and it's very important that this be understood, or everyone will delude themselves that just because they aren't being openly malicious its not an issue, that's not true, and it is harmful to think this way, the privileged and the powerful(which the show uses supes as a metaphor for) have good and bad traits, it is simply that their power and status, amplifies the consequences of all of their actions, and we generally tend to notice the negatives more than the positives, as is always the case. (with great power comes great responsibility)
So what I'm saying is, privileged and the powerful are humans.
Also, this idea that The Boys, has "saved us from superhero culture" is utter nonsense, it implies that traditional superhero media has never shown us the darker side of superheroes.
There is a reason, The Falcon and the winter soldier was compared to the boys, because that's what it what it was, the show was based on a comics run from the late 1900s BY MARVEL, and it criticized the power and position of Captain America Heavily, and aimed to figure out what would happen if someone like John Walker was in its place.
There was the Demon in a bottle story line that showed Iron man at his worst with his drinking problem.
These are just two of the litany of examples where traditional superhero media explored its darker aspects, and way before 2006, which was when the first boys comic came out, if you think about it, The Boys is super late to the party, it just happened to get an earlier adaptation, because Disney bought Marvel, and all the darker stories in marvel movies needed to be removed. And amazon prime beat them to the shot.
So the boys takes a very specific premise which would be very hard to achieve in real life, (again I understand that that isn't necessary for good entertainment but again, since the boys is lauded as the definitive representation of superheroes in real life...) and it takes an extremely cynical and illogical approach to superhero criticism which by the way, it wasn't even the first to do. In other words, its bad faith criticism at its finest, and that's not surprising seeing that the Boys' writer Garth Ennis, hates superheroes, in fact, he will be happy to tell you in excruciating detail, why.
There is good faith and better representation of what superheroes would be like in real life, and I'm not going to Justify it here even though its controversial, because that would detract from the point of this article, and that is invincible, Maybe, I'll explain this in a future article.
Okay, so I have said all this, then why do I like the show? Well if you were paying attention, none of these were criticisms of the show, they were simply a rebuttal to how the show is perceived, and why I hated it BEFORE watching it.
Yes it isn't realistic, yes it's not a fair or god faith criticism of of Superhero media, but those aren't necessary factors for me enjoying a show, I watch a show for entertainment, and because its NOT real life, otherwise, what's the point?
A criticism doesn't have to be well thought out or good faith to raise some important and interesting points, and at the end of the day it provides a very interesting, and very relevant lens through which it and it exclusively views superhero culture and media, that's interesting.
Not to mention, the characters are incredibly well rounded and well thought out, and they are a Joy to watch on screen, tell me I wasn't the only one, who laughed his ass off when Butcher told his Dog Trevor to fuck a Homelander doll.
Or when he lasered a room with Laser baby.
And last example, when Hughie is forced to watch superhero based porn with Lamplighter every line uttered by Lamplighter is gold, espescially when he brings up Starlight Pulls an A-train, one his current girlfriend, and one responsible for the death of his previous one.
Both featured in a porno, what a life.
But as I said, because of the marketing and the fanbase full of people saying "the boys has destroyed superhero media" or some shit (again I know its not the whole fanbase, just a vocal minority, but as usual they ruin it for the rest.) I would have never watched the boys.
But hey, thankfully a friend of mine asked me to and she's the kind of friend I'd do anything for, so...
Now to get to justifying why even though the trailers did a poor job of portraying the show, I still believe, it is marketing Genius.
As I said earlier there are no supervillains in this show, meaning, that any physical conflict would be over in seconds, in narrative story telling, if a character is physically overpowered, the only kind of narrative conflict that makes sense, is internal conflict.
And the show does this brilliantly as every characters motivation, fears, and internal struggles are laid out very well, and so for example, if Homelander doesn't laser Stan Edgar to death, in spite of his lack of superpowers we know exactly why, because he that's not what he wants! He want's fear and admiration, a feeling of total control, which he isn't getting.
And to put it short, the whole series is a huge political conflict, but isn't afraid to show gore when the narrative, calls for it.
But! Here's the thing, intricate political and psychological conflict is very difficult to market in a 2 minute trailer, and much harder to sell, people aren't here for a psychological study, they watch Media for... entertainment.
And so, what does, one do? Market purely based on the gore! And Violence! And Sex! As shallow as it is, those things sell. But that can be a double edged sword these things are used by people for snap pleasures, extremely attractive but easy to get bored with, and therefore is good for bringing in new viewers but not for retention, therefore you give them an intricate political and psychological drama, and you are done!
No! Because there is yet another catch people can feel betrayed! But somehow they don't in case of the Boys? Why? Cause it Delivers on every bit of Violence and gore it promised, everything else is extra, it's just that there is so much extra that what was promised and delivered brilliantly is a small portion of the whole.
And now to get to the most important trick in the bag that the boys pulled, and that is, marketing itself on criticism of something popular, there's a reason why whenever some directors come out with movies that they want to market, they often say something controversial or criticize something popular, because, anyone who holds an unpopular opinion, holds so against a world filled with people telling them that there is something wrong with them doing so, and so they become overly defensive and increasingly loyal to the opinion and anyone who echoes it back to them regardless of logic.
Okay, now I have officially covered my monstrous backlog, now to get on with more pressing matters. To Episode 5!