HomeTelevision'The Boys' Series Premiere Review: Brilliance Beyond The Blood & Bravado

‘The Boys’ Series Premiere Review: Brilliance Beyond The Blood & Bravado

The Boys Series Premiere
Photo Credit: Amazon

The Boys should simply not work. It’s a show that tries to take very wildly disparate storylines and weave them into one cohesive unit. Historically, shows like these never work. They’re messy, one story usually is more developed than the other, and things like performance, nuance, and character development are often pushed to the background.

Yet, judging by The Boys Series Premiere, of the Amazon Prime series which debuts on Friday, The Boys is not only going to work, but it has the potential to be the big budget action/drama that becomes the draw for Amazon Prime it’s been searching for.

The Boys Series premiere as previously stated, has two major storylines, and in the premiere episode these storylines feel like two completely different shows acting living in the same show.

The first major storyline is a bloody and guts, foul-mouthed odd couple action/comedy focused on down-on-his-luck nobody Hughie (Jack Quaid), and fast-talking cock-of-the-walk, shady as all hell operative loose cannon Billy Butcher (Urban). Hughie is brought kicking and screaming into Butcher’s mission — trying to expose the seedy underbelly of the superhero world.

The second storyline is an extremely slick, well-polished satire of superhero culture meets verbose corporate thriller. The focus of this storyline is The Seven, a Justice League/Avengers super team who are not only the elite crimefighters of the world, but also the biggest movie stars. Pulling their strings is the monolithic corporation Vought headed up by puppet master CEO Madline Stillwell (Elizabeth Shue). There’s a lot more happening in this world as we follow a wide-eyed but quickly jaded new recruit Starlight (Erin Moriarity), a way-too-good-to-be true Superman meets Captain America named Homelander (Anthony Starr), and the kill them with kindess manipulator (Shue).

The wide margin of difference between these two stories should cause the series to not work. However, the writing, acting, and production work too well for The Boys too fall into all too easy traps.

The disparity between the two storylines works to its advantage especially when the grimy, gritty and gross aspects of the Hughie/Bill storyline is what lies beneath the surface of The Seven’s storyline. Yes, the superheroes are actually scumbags, and the scumbags might actually be the superheroes (powers notwithstanding). The choices made of when these two stories come together has also, so far, been done tastefully, and in moderation. Too much, too soon would lead to disaster.

Yet, it’s the performances that really stand out here. From the trailers, performance seems like the last thing we’d be discussing about this series. It was all muscles, and guns, and sex, and chaos. Yet, the performances is what drives the initial episodes.

The most impressive, without a doubt, is Elizabeth Shue. She creates an absolutely deliciously wicked, and sinister character. You just literally cannot get enough of Shue owning scenes with a performance that feels absolutely lived in, despite its very tired characteristics (aka the evil CEO trope). Her best moments come when she completely kneecaps alpha male characters with a soothing voice, and that patented Elizabeth Shue smile.

Jack Quaid, son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, really channels the best qualities of both his parents, particularly his dad’s glare, and his mom’s comedic sensibility as Hughie. However, Quaid’s performance is more than just a mash-up of his famous parents. He’s able to take this extremely tired character arc and turn it into something more nuanced. Hughie might be scared of life, too worried to take any risk, but Quaid plays Hughie as someone whose true self is barely contained under his worrisome surface. Quaid’s scenes with his dad, played briefly and beautifully by Simon Pegg, is truly powerful stuff.

Erin Moriarity’s role as Starlight is a bit more complicated. The plot immediately takes the wide-eyed Midwest girl and plunges her immediately into a scummy world filled with #MeToo moments, lies, deceit, and corporate greed. The character is not one of the strongest written characters (yet), but Moriarity lifts the fairly 2D character into a very sympathetic, yet strong character.

Karl Urban, who showed his comedic chops in the Star Trek franchise, delivers a lot of well-earned and well-placed laughs. However, he also has a lot buried under his scuzzy facade, which will absolutely be dissected in future episodes. Former Banshee star Anthony Starr, almost steals the entire second episode as the way-too-good-to-be-true Homelander. Former Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford chips in a cutting, shit heel performance as the Aquaman clone, The Deep.

The Boys is an engrossing subversion of the superhero genre spiked with better than expected performances, and a storytelling style that deftly weaves two very different stories into one must-watch package.

You can catch The Boys Series Premiere (and the entire first season) on Friday July 26 on Amazon Prime.


Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

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