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Homelander: The Greatest Villain In TV History

Gordon Lipton

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Homelander The Boys image
Amazon Prime

Seasons one and two of The Boys is streaming now on Amazon Prime. Would it be fair to say that Homelander is the greatest villain in TV history? I think so, and here’s why.

To put it mildly, this is a phenomenal show. It has excellent action, and intriguing story, and – most notably – incredibly well-designed characters. All of the characters have multiple layers. The good guys of the show (notable the titular Boys) all have flaws. The villains (such as most of the members of The Seven) all have at least one trait that make them even semi-redeemable.

However, none of the characters are as expertly designed and portrayed as Homelander.

Homelander, as portrayed by Antony Starr, is one of the most fascinating TV characters in recent years. It is still early in the show’s run, but one could argue that he might even end up in the upper echelon of the all-time great TV show and movie villains.

But why is he such a phenomenal character? What makes him stand out among his peers in villainy? In this article I will take a look at exactly those questions. So let’s don our America capes and dive in!

Before we move any further, an obvious note, there are SPOILERS in this article. If you haven’t watched the show yet and want to appreciate Homelander in all his glory on your own, turn back now.

Who is he?

In The Boys, Homelander is the leader of The Seven.

On paper, he is the Greatest American Hero. He even wears a cape that is decorated with the American Flag. He has super powers such as flight, near invincibility, and powerful heat vision. If that sounds familiar, it should – he is very much analogous to other All-American DC Comics stalwart, Superman.

He appeals to the masses and inspires them to love their country. He is represented as the Greatest American, representing true American values and all that is great about his country. When a documentary is filmed about his upbringing, his childhood home is presented as a vaguely Midwestern locale where farmland, fresh air, and baseball rule the day. He seems wholesome and true, and unlike his brethren in The Seven he is driven by his desire to help others and make the world a better place.

In reality he is…very much not any of those things.

Well, when you really stop to think about it, he might actually be all of those things. But just not in the way that you might think on the surface level.

To put it mildly, Homelander is essentially the Evil Mirror Universe version of Superman. If Superman is everything that is good about America, Homelander is everything that is wrong about it. Or perhaps, everything that is accurate about it. Superman is how America sees itself; Homelander is how the rest of the world tends to see America (there are actually quite a few excellent memes about this topic).

Superman is everything that makes America great. Homelander is what Makes America Great Again. Like Superman, Homelander is an assumed to be an alien who crashed into earth as a baby. Superman then did grow up on a quintessentially American farm and lived an idyllic life early on. But Homelander? He only pretended to grow up on a farm, as noted earlier in his documentary. In truth, he grew up in lab being experimented on using Compound V. He was either an alien or a baby stolen from his family and warped to become the American Ideal.

He seems like he does it for the people, but he only does it for himself. And while he seems like the best and purest of The Seven, he is actually the most ruthless and violent of all of them.

What makes Homelander such a great villain?

Perhaps it was a coincidence that Antony Starr, who portrays the All-American Homelander, is from New Zealand. Or perhaps it was a calculated decision intended for ironic effect. Either way, it is just one of many ways in which Homelander is inauthentic.

Like so much of America, or at least of how the rest of the world sees America, Homelander seems authentic. But is instead a carefully crafted creation of a laboratory setting. He is therefore completely inauthentic, a False God for a country that adores him but he does not care about. He’ll care about you but only for as long as it helps him. If you don’t fit his needs or help increase ratings or movie sales, he’ll drop you (sometimes very literally).

It is this duplicity and in-authenticity that is the biggest reason that Homelander is such an amazing villain. He seems like the greatest hero but only cares about himself. He, like his fellow heroes in The Seven, only want to save the day and beat the bad guys when the cameras are watching.

There are many times in The Boys in which we see this duality play out. One of these instances comes in the first episode when Homelander shoots down the Mayor of Baltimore’s plane, killing everyone inside (including the Mayor’s young son). The Mayor has just essentially blackmailed Madelyn Stillwell, the bureaucrat in charge of handling The Seven, into getting more money for a Baltimore-based superhero based on circumstantial evidence about the mysterious Compound V.

Not an honourable move you’d think. But it was a necessary one to get the protection he needed for his city.

Then, on the way home, the Mayor’s son notices a flying figure outside their aircraft. A heroic one. It’s a bird, he thinks. It’s a plane! No, it’s Superm Homelander! And he’s here to…murder everyone on board and cover up all evidence of wrongdoing and maintain the status quo.

Covering tracks

And how does Homelander celebrate this heinous act? By pursuing Madelyn sexually, even though she has a young child. A child that Homelander is not the father to or a being that he even cares about. But don’t worry, everyone! Homelander will ultimately remedy this situation by…murdering Madelyn and framing Billy Butcher for it. Why does he murder her? Because she covered up the fact that Homelander had a son with Butcher’s wife Rebecca.

Homelander, the true American patriot, decides to make up for lost time and be a father to his son by teaching him to fly, just like his dad! Except he does this by throwing his son off of the roof of his house. When his son can’t immediately fly, and in fact gets injured by this act, Homelander doesn’t show concern. He just gets…irritated. Father of the year, everyone!

But no act in in The Boys is more illustrative of Homelander’s character than that of the doomed airplane flight that Homelander and Queen Maeve attempt to rescue. In short: terrorists hijack a plane full of innocent people. And Homelander and Queen Maeve (who Homelander had a relationship with…and it’s always unclear how mutual the feelings were) arrive to defeat the terrorists and save the day. But unfortunately the terrorists have also infiltrated the cockpit and taken out the pilots. When Homelander tries to defeat the terrorists, he accidentally takes out the airplane engines and sends the plane into a tailspin.

As the plane begins to spiral into the abyss, panic sets in. The people on board panic and plead for the great Homelander to save them. Queen Maeve desperately wants to help and save the children if nothing else. But Homelander senses that the mission is a doomed one. He and Maeve cannot save those on board, and since they cannot save the innocents and increase their popularity with the general public, Homelander decides to cut his losses.

It is better to save oneself and still look like the hero than try to save the innocents and fail. At least that’s what Homelander believes. So he convinces Maeve to leave with him. The plane crashes. And everyone on board dies a tragic death that could have been avoided had Homelander done something. Anything.

But he doesn’t do anything. And why? Because Homelander evaluated the risk against the reward, and he believed that letting the people on board the plane die. And then blaming those responsible as terrorists that threatened the fabric of America would be better for his brand in the long run.

And this is why Homelander is such a despicable, yet exquisite, villain.

Hate for America

He is the representation of why people hate America across the globe. He tries to act like he is the hero but he only does things that are good for him. Things that best represent his brand. Will trying to save a plane full of innocent people cause more risk to his health and well being than letting them all die to make America seem like the great martyr but making him look like the tragic hero?

It doesn’t matter in the long run. There is no morality. And there is no good vs. evil. There’s only good ratings and money drawn from tragedy. Homelander, and America, only cares about helping those than improve his “Q” rating and increases his merchandise sales.

Homelander’s America: where the bottom line and t-shirt sales outweigh the costs of human lives. And that is why Homelander is the great modern villain: for him, capitalism outweighs altruism.


And that’s why Homelander from The Boys is the greatest villain in TV history. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Catch our review of The Boys season two HERE.

Read IMDB information about The Boys HERE.

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Comics & Literature

Shadow And Bone: Books vs. Series

Victoria Newell

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Shadow and Bone Season One image
Netflix

With the release of Netflix’s new fantasy series, Shadow and Bone, I utter words that I never thought would come out of my mouth “The screen adaptation was better than the book.”

While the Netflix adaptation did change some things in the book, they actually enhanced the story. All while adding a richness to the world. It kept with the integrity of the book, and met my extremely high expectations as a massive fan of the Grishaverse. But what did they change from the books? What changes were better, or fell flat? Here’s my spoiler-abundant review of Shadow and Bone.

Adaptation: Which books were included?

Shadow and Bone is based on a book trilogy by the same name written by Leigh Bardugo. She was also an executive producer and writer for the show. It tells the story of the mythical country Ravka which has been split in two by a mysterious swath of darkness populated by monsters called the Shadow Fold. It’s foretold that someone with the ability to summon light, the Sun Summoner, will one day destroy the Fold. When her best friend is in danger, Alina Starkov reveals the ability to summon light. This puts her on a collision course with some of the most powerful people in Ravka.

The show also included a prequel story to the Six of Crows duology, which is a series that takes place in the same world. But in a different country with different characters two years after the last Shadow and Bone book. Where Shadow and Bone is an epic story of good vs. evil, literal light vs. dark, Six of Crows is about a group of teenage gangsters committing felonies. It’s grittier, darker, and objectively better and has a large fan base. The show took three of the principal Six of Crows characters. It sent them after Alina Starkov for a cool million kruge.

The Sun Summoner

Let’s discuss our principal Sun Saint, played by Jessie Mei-Li. Alina feels as though she stepped right out of the book. Mei-Li did a fantastic job portraying her. The way that she feels lost and out of place in her world, her sense of humour, her charming dumb decisions. She’s earnest and kind, while subtly foreshadowing the greed for more power that comes into play in the later books.

One major difference from the show to the book is the anti-Shu (East Asian) racism at play in the show. In the mythical world of the Grishaverse, Alina’s country Ravka is at war with Fjerda in the north and Shu Han in the south. While Ravka is inspired by Russia, Fjerda by Germany/Scandinavia, Shu Han is inspired by East Asian cultures. Mei-Li is half Chinese, and therefore show Alina’s mother was Shu and her father was Ravkan. It makes sense that Ravkans would be hostile towards someone who looks like they come from a country they’ve been at war with for over a century. The change works well in the story’s favour. In the books, Alina always felt lonely and out of place. Adding this extra level of isolation drives home the feeling that she doesn’t know where she belongs.

Another major change comes in the way the story ended. At the end of the story, General Kirigan uses Alina’s power against her will to expand the Shadow Fold and use it as a weapon, killing hundreds of people. In the show, Alina is able to escape the Fold on their skiff with the help of several other characters. But in the book, Alina realizes her power in the same way she does in the show. But she uses it to jump off their skiff and run away with Mal, leaving everyone on the skiff to die. Living with the knowledge that she caused about a dozen deaths is definitely something Alina deals with in later books. The fact that she didn’t do that in the show might affect her character’s development moving forward.

But all in all, Jessie Mei-Li’s portrayal of Alina was perfect.

The Tracker

Alina’s best friend, Mal Oretsev, played by Archie Renaux, is disliked by a lot of book readers. Renaux’s portrayal of Mal, however, flipped a lot of people’s opinion on the talented tracker. In this fictional world, there are people known as Grisha who have the ability to manipulate things around them. In Ravka they are treated very well, and before Alina was discovered to be one, both of them had a certain level of disdain for Grisha. Mal and Alina are orphans who grew up together, in the show they call each other their “true north;” their home. He’s one of Alina’s prominent love interest’s and they have a close relationship.

In the book, Mal preferred Alina weak and without her power. He was more of a playboy, a little more selfish and arrogant, and less understanding. In the show, he spends a great deal of time being beat up and shot at in an attempt to get back to Alina. Seeing him track down the Stag for her, listening to letters he wrote to her that never got delivered really helped in understanding Mal’s character. And making him more likeable. In the show, he is principally concerned with protecting her and getting back to her, and Mei-Li and Renaux’s chemistry is off the charts. Renaux took a character that a lot of people have mixed feelings about, and made him into a fan favourite.

The Darkling

The Darkling, or General Kirigan, played by Ben Barnes, faced the most book to screen changes. The biggest being that in the book, he is referred to as only the Darkling. Whereas in the show he’s referred to as General Kirgian and “Darkling” is used as a slur. For reference, Kirgan is a powerful Grisha who has the ability to summon darkness and use it as a weapon.

It was a strange change, and I’m not sure why they did it, but it didn’t bother me too much. It took the mystery of his character away a little bit, but it’s something I can overlook. But there is one change to Kirigan’s name that truly bothers me. Kirigan’s back story and real name was revealed way too early. In the books that doesn’t happen until book three, Reign and Ruin. But we get his real name as an offhand comment in Episode Four and then his backstory in Episode Seven. General Kirigan is a fantastic villain but revealing his backstory this early waters down his character.

However, Ben Barnes understood the assignment. He portrayed Kirigan perfectly, really driving home how manipulative a villain he is. You want to like him, you want to trust him. The twist that he is the man who created the Shadow Fold and has no intention of destroying it stung even for book readers who knew it would happen. He’s likeable and hateable at the same time, and fans of the show are in the same boat as Alina. As in they have no idea whether to kiss him or kill him.

The Crows

By far the best addition to this show was including the Crows; our principal criminals from Six of Crows. The Six of Crows book follows Kaz Brekker, a rising star in the criminal underworld of Ketterdam, as he is hired to break a man out of a high security Fjerdan prison. He establishes a crew of Inej, Jesper, Matthias, Nina, and Wylan and they go have a heist.

The Crows have a lot of fans, so show-runners decided to twist the plot a little bit to include them. Six of Crows does do some groundwork in explaining where these characters are during the events of Shadow and Bone. From there it was finding ways for these two books to bump into each other. And they did it perfectly without making as many major plot changes as I thought they would.

Wylan is the only Crow missing from the line up in the show. But it should be noted that show-runners have said that he will be in Season Two.

Six of Crows outlines how star-crossed lovers Matthias and Nina meet each other, and the show follows that plot for the pair. Nina (Dannielle Galligan) is a powerful Heartrender, which is a Grisha who can control the body. Matthias (Calahan Skogman) is a Druskelle, a witch-hunter from Fjerda who had dedicated his life to hunting down and burning Grisha.

Shipwreck

After fate pulls Nina and Matthias together through a shipwreck, they have to rely on each other to survive. They fall in love in spite of their differences. But to save Matthias from her Grisha comrades, Nina gets Matthias arrested, claiming he’s a Kerch slaver. This destroys Matthias’ trust in her despite Nina still loving him and sets them on a course for Ketterdam. Both actors do a great job setting up their relationship in only a few short scenes. And showrunners set them up to join Kaz’s crew in the next season.

But the real stars are Kaz (Freddy Carter), Inej (Amita Suman), and Jesper (Kit Young). The three of them get just as much screen time as Alina, Kirigan, and Mal. Their story begins when they get a hit on a job to go to Ravka, cross the Fold, and bring back the woman who claims to be the Sun Summoner.

Six of Crows

Reading Six of Crows definitely makes the Crow plot more enjoyable, as it is teeming in Easter Eggs. But everything with the Crows in this show is prequel and therefore new. Kaz is still building a reputation in Ketterdam, Inej still belongs to the Menagerie, and Jesper is pretty much the same.

One complaint I’ve seen fans have is that Kaz is not violent enough. In the books, we’re talking about a man who ripped a guy’s eyes out. And convinced a man that he buried his toddler alive. He’s also smarter in the books, always has a plan, and is maybe the most intelligent character in the Grishaverse. Yet, in the show, he doesn’t win many fights and pushes himself into a corner. But I still think that Freddy Carter was the perfect Kaz.

Book order

Fans of the book should note that this story is two years before Six of Crows. He’s not the Kaz we know and love yet. He definitely lays crumbs down for him to become that, and there are scenes in the show where Kaz shows just how ruthless he can be. There were also complaints that he was too outward with his emotion. But everything that makes Kaz sympathetic in the book comes from that we can read his internal monologue.

If Carter and script writers portrayed Kaz like how he is in the book to a fault, we would have no reason to sympathize with him. In my opinion, Carter, who is openly a massive fan of Kaz Brekker, did a fantastic job with the character. Portraying a younger, less experienced Kaz.

They also did a fabulous job of setting up Kaz’s heart-wrenching back story without spoiling it too early (take notes Kirigan). They put emphasis on his cane, his gloves, his relationship with Barrel King Pekka Rollins, and his inability to touch people. Kaz is a disabled character, having to walk with cane, and suffers from extreme PTSD and touch aversion. Carter did an amazing job of portraying those things and how they make Kaz stronger. Kaz embraces every part of himself to the point that they truly do make him a force to be reckoned with, and the show did an excellent job with that.

Relationships

Another thing to note is his relationship to Inej. Inej was kidnapped from her home when she was fourteen and illegally sold to a brothel in Ketterdam. But Inej has some skills in terms of espionage as she was trained as an acrobat as a child.

So Kaz buys her indenture, setting up a payment plan to pay for the massive sum, and Inej works for Kaz. Inej can’t leave Ketterdam without her previous owner’s permission, so Kaz puts up his gambling hall as collateral and a promise to pay off her indenture in full when they return. Inej has also expressed that she has never killed anyone and doesn’t want to, but when Kaz is in mortal danger, Inej makes her fist kill. These two characters are never going to admit that they love each other, but they repeatedly show that they do through their actions, and in the end, Kaz begrudgingly admits that he needs her. Inej is also the most religious character in the show, and going after the Sun Saint definitely provides some conflict in her heart.

She’s an assassin who is full of compassion and is incredibly pious and complex. Suman did an amazing job bringing this complicated character to life, and Carter and Suman have wonderful tension in their scenes.

Kit Young

And here to steal the show is Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. He does a great job as comic relief, releasing tension in high-stress scenes and being the comedic break-out of the show. But even through that, he alludes to Jesper’s crippling gambling addiction, his desire to be validated by Kaz, and his tender friendship with Inej.

All three of these actors embody the Crows perfectly. They simply stepped off the pages, and seeing them cross paths with Shadow and Bone characters feels natural and exciting. They definitely stole the show and my heart.

Overall

All in all, there is way too much to discuss in this series vs. the book, so I’ll boil it down to this, Shadow and Bone was perfect. The casting was phenomenal, the plot changes were natural and bettered the story, the inclusion of the Crows was genius, and everything about it was incredible. It set up the Crows to be united as the six of them and set them up for future heists, and it propped up the Shadow and Bone arc for book two. The show has not been announced for another season yet, but Bardugo has stated that she wants five, and I’ll be praying to the Saints for as much as I can get.


What did you think of Shadow and Bone the series vs. the book? Let us know in the comments below.


Whilst on Netflix check out the best of British movies HERE.

Read IMDb information on Shadow and Bone HERE.

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