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Why The Boys is Still the Best Superhero Show on TV

More people need to watch The Boys.

theboys
Homelander, as seen in The Boys. 
Amazon Studios

Personally I've been spinning around the Marvel cycle for close to a decade. It usually goes a little something like this…

A new show is announced, either focusing on a character I have a passing interest in or -- surprisingly regularly -- a character I've literally never heard of. I raise an eyebrow, make an Obama "not bad" face, and move along with my day. 

I hover around passively as the hype builds but then… the trailer! Oh my god this show, whether it's Loki or WandaVision -- this show looks like it's gonna be awesome.

Then the show comes out and it's OK. Not great. Sometimes they're flat out bad. I watch a single full episode, maybe two if I'm feeling saucy. Then I withdraw, and hibernate until the next show where the cycle begins anew. 

It's a testament to my goldfish-sized brain that I only realized this relatively recently, after watching the She-Hulk trailer. Which I loved. It's funny! It's sharp! It's a modern show with modern concerns filtered through the lens of a superhero! What can go wrong?

Thing is, it'll almost certainly go wrong. Or at the very least, go mediocre. That's what history tells me. Marvel on Disney Plus: Great trailers, slightly less great TV shows. I haven't been able to finish a single Marvel show ever, including the early ones on Netflix like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage.

The cast of superheroes, lined up in a row.

The Seven are the world's most powerful superheroes.

Amazon Studios

I brought my "this'll probably suck" energy into my first watch of The Boys on Amazon Prime. Against all odds, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

Like Marvel TV shows on Disney Plus, The Boys is a show about superheroes. That's probably the only thing the two have in common. Tonally these shows couldn't be more discrete. Whereas most Marvel TV shows focus on heroes trading slick banter and saving the world from a rotating lucky dip wheel of existential threats, in The Boys the world needs saving from the superheroes themselves. Superman-esque characters like Homelander are full blown sociopaths, drunk on power. Their godlike abilities have warped them to the point where casual, relentlessly brutal violence on normal human beings is taken for granted.

The perspective shift is a huge part of the appeal. It's fun to see the roles reversed. The ground level impact of the superheroes' powers is tremendously visceral in The Boys because it's seen through the eyes of the regular human beings impacted by their ultraviolence. The Boys is a smart superhero satire that veers erratically between comedy and the grotesque in ways that are often shocking, but almost always compelling. The quiet fascism of characters like Batman is spoken out loud, alongside the casual indifference the "superheroes" have for the people they're supposed to be protecting. 

Nothing is out of bounds here. The show takes aim not just at superheroes themselves, but the corporate Marvel machine that churns them out. In The Boys, superheroes don't just save the world, they star in bland, whitewashed movies based on their exploits, with endless sequels and tacky merchandise. The Boys doesn't just go hard on superhero shows, it goes hard on the culture that enables and idolizes them. No-one is safe.

The boys, all looking down at something out of sight.

The Boys themselves, a team of very human people trying to outsmart superheroes.

Amazon Studios

But beyond the high concepts and the smart-ass meta-commentary, The Boys has staying power because it has memorable characters and drama that feels like it matters. There are outliers, but tonally and aesthetically most Marvel products are indistinct from one another, featuring mono-characters with very similar goals. They're either fish-out-of-water superhero origin stories or slick, seen-in-all-before veterans mindlessly quipping from one action sequence to the next. The template is so well established it can be a literal chore to grind through. 

The Boys feels different in that regard. Characters have clear motivations, and they feel different in ways that actually matter. The drama feels earned and authentic as motivations come into natural conflict with one another. Everything just makes sense in a way that feels completely different from any superhero show you've ever watched before. 

So yes, for my money, the best superhero show on planet Earth doesn't live in Disney Plus and definitely doesn't exist in the Marvel universe. The best superhero show on the planet is The Boys and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.