Amazon’s The Boys has been achieving a lot of notice, not only due to making its superheroes the corrupt people in the story, but also due to the extreme graphic nature of the content Amazon has allowed on to the air, which ranges from language to violence and even some gross sexual stuff. But how did The Boys co-creator Eric Kripke and the rest of the team figure out where to draw the line?
Eric Kripke recently talked out in an AMA how “shocking shit” was chosen when it came to adding to The Boys and he made it clear the show was never attempting to be gratuitous.
One, when it came to shocking shit, we just wanted to make sure it serviced the story or characters, so it wouldn't feel gratuitous. As for story, the interesting thing about the Boys comic is that it's pretty episodic, self-contained stories. Every couple issues, they're on a new case. It would really work on a rated X-version of CBS. But streaming (and its necessity for binging) dictates one continuous story.
As a person who can’t help but get sucked in to a large number of procedurals (particularly those like Endeavour with a bit more substance), I would probably have been sold on this type of case-of-the-week show, too, but the one gift Amazon has really given The Boys is allowing the show to do whatever the eff it wants in terms of plots. Kripke has previously said that Amazon has been a good creative partner and only told the show to cut one scene as it was going through the editing process. Yet, to make binge-watching work responsibly, the creator said the show really need a through line.
The interesting point to take from all of this information is that the creative team, then, is generally responsible for policing itself, in this case setting the tone of the show, figuring out where the line is and making its story more continuous than what the comics fans have been given.
In fact, the co-creator of The Boys also talked a little bit about the main rule the show had to make sure it was on the right side of the line in further detail. Even if the show is over-the-top and goes hard, the goal wasn't simply to be offensive TV.
We never really discussed what would be too offensive. The main rule was whether it furthered the story, the character or the world. We didn't want to be shocking for shocking's sake, we just wanted to create this world as realistically as possible. Which meant sometimes seeing really brutal things, because that's what would really happen if, say, a super fist really met human flesh. We chose not to address 9/11 for several reasons -- one being it's already 18 years ago, and none of the current Seven would've been there. Again, we try to approach everything as realistically as possible and begin there.
Ultimately, there is “shocking shit” in The Boys, and yes, I’m about to get into spoilers for the remainder of this article. Don't say I didn't warn you. The Boys actually kicks off with a crazy shocking moment when superhero A-Train runs into protagonist Hughie’s girlfriend. Her body basically explodes as he runs through her and Hughie is left holding her dismembered hands in his. Later, we also see superhero The Deep accidentally killing a dolphin he’s trying to save when it flies out of his vehicle and lands directly in the path of an oncoming truck.
I don’t even really want to get into graphic detail about The Deep’s gills assault, here, either. The point is, this is really only the most notable stuff that stands out, but it's so unsettling it makes other stuff that happens during the episodes -- stuff that would stand out in literally any other show -- seem a bit more commonplace here.
During the Reddit AMA, Eric Kripke also talked about how the show took some of the elements from the comics and reconfigured them into the show we ultimately got on Amazon, which is how the series worked to get away from the procedural element. A lot of plot specifics had to change to make the new formatting work, but Kripke also made a point to note that fans of the comics should still recognize stuff from the new series. Oh, and James Ellroy was involved in a sense.
I had dinner with Garth Ennis, and he mentioned the book was inspired in part by James Ellroy. So wanting to keep Garth's spirit, we had the notion to create an Ellroy-like noir mystery, like LA CONFIDENTIAL, where something simple (Robin's death), eventually twists into a large and dangerous plot (Compound V). In that framework, we then tried to fit in as many of the moments from the comics that we loved. It's kinda like a remix, at the end of the day. The plot specifics change, but you work hard to hold onto the spirit.
Ultimately, while Amazon doesn’t release ratings for its TV projects (and doesn't plan to, unlike Netflix, which has started at least celebrating good news), The Boys has been getting a lot of buzz. It’s also already been renewed for Season 2, so if that’s not a vote of confidence in the project, I’m not sure what would be.
That said, if anti-heroes and morally corrupt people isn't your thing, or if you don't like your cynical TV served with a side of violence, The Boys may not be the best fit for you. Luckily, there's plenty of other superhero content out there.
If all of this sounds great and you haven’t checked it out yet, all eight episodes from Season 1 are currently available streaming through your Amazon account, which also houses such Amazon hits as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Jack Ryan, although I'm not sure how much audience overlap there is for all of these. (I guess I should point out I do watch all three, so there must be some overlap.) In addition, you ca find out what else is coming to TV this fall with our schedule.