Walking into the Amazon Prime activation for the world premiere of "The Boys," I immediately realized this might not be the kind of programming that I'd normally watch. The rows of chairs each had a red foam hand giving the finger. Our party wristbands told us: Never meet your heroes.
On the screen was a quote with enough f-bombs to make it clear this isn't a family-friendly fare:
"F*ck Superheroes. F*ck their stupid magic lassos and Norwegian hammers. F*c their caves and lairs and sidekicks and b*ll-hugging Spandex. Why? Because this is the real world."
For someone who believes f-bombs are an abomination and has never flipped the bird, this is strong evidence. The activation for "The Boys" has us enter the workplace Hughie Campbell, the bitterly angry boyfriend of the late Robin (Jess Salgueiro). A car has crashed through the front and Hughie has disappeared. Participants have to find hints left by Hughie to understand what has happened while being yelled at. We never meet Hughie at the activation, but we did see him later that evening when Amazon Prime screened two episodes. Based on the American comic book series of the same name, "The Boys" is about a world where superheroes have been corrupted by their powers. They are represented by a PR firm, Vought, a company led by Madelyn Stillwell (Elizabeth Shue).
The most influential team of heroes, The Seven, is welcoming a new member, Annie January (Erin Moriarty), whose superhero identity is Starlight. Unfortunately, part of her induction requires oral sex. The Seven includes Homelander (Anthony Starr), Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), A-Train (Jessie Usher) and The Deep (Chace Crawford).
Hughie (Jack Quaid) is recovering from an unfortunate incident where his beloved Robin was killed when she took one step off of the sidewalk and disintegrated when A-Train ran through her, leaving Hughie holding two dismembered arms. Finding that he can't sue The Seven, he is recruited to a CIA team of questionable methods by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Hughie then becomes one of The Boys.
The first two episodes show the beginning of a loss of innocence for both Hughie and Starlight. While women might be revolted by the treatment of Moriarty's character, Starlight, Moriarty assured reporters that her character, despite having a #MeToo moment, gains strength to deal with the workplace sexual harassment and that might be of comfort to some. Starr's Homelander comes across as the only original Seven member who stays true to the good guy code, but even in the first two episodes also displays some disturbing tendencies (e.g. being overprotective of Shue's Stillwell). Stillwell exercises considerable control over people and is perfectly willing to try a little blackmail to get her way. The dual nature of the supers is well-portrayed but who knows how fans will feel about this adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's comic book series.
For those who prefer superhero stories with clean cut heroes and no nudity, swearing or sexual situations, you've been warned. While this ensemble hits the right tone, "The Boys" just isn't my type of entertainment. "The Boys" will premiere on July 26 and a second season has already been ordered.