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The Boys Review

Whatever side you're on, it's difficult to ignore that modern American culture and social values today are interlocked within a culture war. There are, in truth, many competing sides and political factions and special interests all nebulously cajoling one another for a chance at mainstream attention and the vast amounts of followers and resources that'd accrue, but our media establishments have mostly boiled down this confusing miasma of ideologies and splinter ideologies and beliefs into two umbrella terms depicting contrasting sides: the liberal left and the conservative right. Democrats and Republicans.

It also cannot be understated how immensely these cultural divides have infected the very fiber of American society and thought, extending into even the franchises we consume for entertainment, and no better could this principle be espoused than Eric Kripke's 'The Boys'. A play off Garth Ennis's comic series deconstructing the Superhero genre, Kripke's boys takes the political under(more like over, frankly) tones of Ennis's work and remodels them for our current twenty-first century hellscape where everything is dominated by social media and skewed public perception, where truth's become an afterthought and your victory is determined by how loudly you scream your points against the opposition. Certainly, the Boys is a story about our favorite superheroic archetypes turned into depraved embarrassments of their idealized selves, and why no one person should have that level of power, but simultaneously, it also regales a story of how demagogues use our broken political and social systems for their advantage, how easily society buys into lies spread if they're accompanied with enough truth and outrage-bait, and ultimately, how fragile our democracy today truly is. With that in mind, how does the Boys show compare to its comic predecessor, and should you spend time watching it? Let's find out.

Firstly, the Boys masters a storytelling art that seems deeply elusive to many television programs today. I personally call it the 'Art of the Hook', wherein every episode's ending leaves one 'hooked' and therefore wanting to know more, therefore keeping their attention squarely on the show for its entire runtime. Breaking Bad, for example, mastered this art perfectly and was able to retain consistent and increasing viewership for a multi-year five-season run. The Boys is taking a similar formula. From the getgo, every episode ends on some dramatic hook promising the development of established plotlines and the creation of new ones within the next episode. Season Four, which is currently airing at the time of my writing this, excels the greatest at this art. The latest episode, Season 4 Episode 5, leaves an ending where I simply must watch the next episode to see how the characters react to these events having taken place within their universe. To hook audience attention is the greatest and truest goal of television, and the Boys certainly provides that, I can assure you.

The characters themselves are more of a mixed bag. We have outstanding front-row hitters like Homelander, played by the impeccably talented Anthony Starr, and William Butcher portrayed by timeless actor Karl Urban (who's been in practically everything by this point), supported by slews of supporting characters with their own fun nuances and stories to explore. However, it does sometimes feel the show diverts attention from the overarching Human vs Superhero conundrum taking place, especially with characters like Frenchie, whom engage in small-scale mafia-esque plotlines involving local criminal groups and seem far-removed from any relevant standing of the show. Characters are also sometimes forced by the hand of plot to make stupid, unbecoming decisions that go against the fiber of their personality to ensure the story's sanctity; such as the climax of Season 3, which sees William Butcher turn against his ally Soldier Boy for reasons easily resolvable through an alternative means, though it was obvious if Soldier Boy remained loyal the series' overarching threat Homelander would've perished early.

Nevertheless, while the Boys does critique and often times parody the superheroic genre giants of our time (Marvel and DC primarily), it executes such within a regard that makes it feel respectful and tasteful. Homelander's demented nature as the inversion of Superman, instead of kindness and love, driven by greed, narcissistic ego, and insecurity; is very clearly portrayed as the result of manipulative corporate American oversight and callous experimentations with disregard for human life. Similar themes are discussed throughout the show, as most the heroes sponsored by the mega-corporate 'Vought' Company, (clearly a representation of Amazon, Disney, and other such giants which seem to hold as much power as small countries nowadays), know nothing but an artificial life of curated saves, depraved pleasures, and essentially every indulgence they could fathom handed to them atop a silver platter a-la your average child celebrity after their golden eras conclude. If anything, the show makes the audience grateful for fictional figures such as Batman, Superman, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and beyond considering despite all the petty influences of human societies, they have remained mostly untouched and pure regarding their quests for justice.

This same principle could be applied for the show's political allegories. Homelander and his newest colleagues in Season Four, Sister Sage and Firecracker, utilize the power of social media and warped public understanding of events to create a platform for themselves, built off hatred of Homelander's chief political enemy Starlight (previously a member of his Superheroing Seven team before her defection to the titular Boys) and their blind support for Homelander and his actions, viewing them as righteous and just unequivocally. It's obvious the right is more raked over the coals within the annals of this show, but the left does face fire too, embodied by Victoria Neumann, a figure who seems the epitome of change for young people in America, only for the revelation she's a puppet of Vought CEO Stan Edgar. Like Ennis's comic which greatly parodied 1990s and early 2000s America and Britain, the Boys show superbly mirrors the ongoing sociopolitical story of today and how its veritably shaping our country's future.

Ultimately, to spoil too much of the show would be ruining an excellent watching experience. There are admittable character flaws and plotlines that seemingly go nowhere, but the overall meat of the narrative holds strong even after Four Seasons, with low audience scores more probably attributable to those angered by the show's controversial messaging rather than its actual content, which continues remaining a spearheading with the new wave of 21st century Superhero Media. I rate it a strong 9/10, and would highly recommend it for any prospective viewer. And stay tuned for more reviews coming this summer. Enjoy your Fourths of July everyone, and God Bless!

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