Recent years have been a sub-embarrassment of riches for anyone who adores comic book superhero TV. From the Arrow-verse to the Defenders-verse to everything Hulu has on the way (including Ghost Rider), the number of super-powered projects just keeps on rising. Even in that growing crowd, however, Amazon's recent release The Boys stands out in nearly every single way possible.
The Boys' star Erin Moriarty, who portrays the new recruit Annie "Starlight" January, spoke to the notion that The Boys' wild and over-the-top nature is in response to the large number of superhero projects taking over broadcast, cable and streaming. In her words:
Because we've been sort of oversaturated with this genre, things are changing. Some of the bigger studios that pump out these films and TV shows are increasingly aware of that, so they're defying the formula we expect. The Boys took that even further and turned it into a satire that simultaneously pays homage to this genre. I also love dark comedies. It's probably my favorite genre. I like things that have enough levity to make you laugh, because life is funny and I think dark comedy probably would be the genre of most of our lives if we were to depict them. At the same time, while making you laugh, [The Boys] also makes a lot of commentaries on the political, religious and corporate qualities and goings on of the world right now.
From the very beginning of the show to its final scene, any five-minute chunk of The Boys will immediately raise flags in viewers' minds that what they're watching is extremely different from traditional takes on capes and masks. Based on the already extreme comic books written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Darick Robertson, The Boys became more than just a simple adaptation in the hands of showrunner Eric Kripke and executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Starlight's story starts with the hero-idolizing Annie joining the premiere group of supes, The Seven, as headed up by Antony Starr's all-powerful Homelander. Within that arc, The Boys tackles sexual harassment/abuse, shady corporations, metahuman privilege, and lots of other nuanced topics that only get broached in the broadest manner in 95% of other superhero TV shows, if they're referenced at all.
As impressive as anything else is The Boys' ability to tackle sensitive topics with comedy still inherent to each situation, but not in a way that disrespects Annie or any of the other more victimized characters. Eric Kripke's ability to find the humor in extremely dark circumstances is just one talent of many. Another would be guaranteeing fans that each episode of The Boys contains at least one moment that will turn a viewer's mind inside out. No spoilers, but there would be a lot to spoil by way of laying out many of those badass sequences.
In her interview with CNET, Erin Moriarty talked more about The Boys' successful ability to anchor the fantastical superheroics within a fully human world.
But then the cool thing about I is that…despite the circumstances of the show being so extreme and taking place in a world where superheroes exist, the issues we deal with are very human and quite universal. It has that grounded human component that a majority of superhero TV shows don't contain. . . . And then it's just so wild. It's so irreverent. The shock value is so extreme, but in a way it's just super fun. It'll make you laugh. And then it'll also perhaps make you question things and sort of satisfy some of the frustrations we have with our current day society when it comes to the Me Too movement and sexual abuse and corporations and organized religion.
It's true that superheroes have gotten a little more political and topical as of late, particularly with the race-driven stories on Supergirl, Black Lightning and Cloak & Dagger. As well, dirty corporate dealings aren't exactly ignored by the genre. But other than factoring into Daredevil, religion is one of those subjects that tends to get left by the wayside in superhero fiction. That obviously wasn't going to stop The Boys from scrapping "Christ for Capes" and other religious references.
Just when it looked like superhero TV might be getting a little long and stale in the tooth, Amazon's The Boys showed up and gave the genre a well-deserved shot in the keister. We're not sure what was in shot, but it was probably Compound-V.
Thankfully, fans don't have to wait and worry about The Boys' fate, as Amazon put in a renewal order for Season 2 during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The season is already in production, with those involved having shared some first looks, and Seth Rogen is already preaching high praise about the Season 2 premiere, which will likely hit Amazon in 2020.