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The Boys Season 1 – Review

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Amazon Prime

We all love superheroes, right? The Boys season one is, now streaming on Amazon Prime, this is our review. It presents an inverted – and really perverted – take on the traditional superhero story.

I mean, think about it. They fight and defeat bad guys! Defend innocent people! They give the common man something to believe in! They have superpowers and can do things that no one else can, and give people something to look up to and aspire to in life.

Now imagine all that, but just the total opposite.

What if superheroes were actually self-involved narcissists who cared more about their brand and public opinion than on the true content of their character? What if marketing numbers mattered more to superheroes than actually fighting crime? And what if superheroes weren’t bastions of greatness but instead corporate shills?

And most importantly: what if superheroes were, like, assholes?

If they were, who would keep them in check?

SPOILERS: Welcome to the first season review of The Boys. And before we go any further, this part should be obvious but massive spoilers lay ahead!

The Boys Season 1: What’s it all about?

In short, The Boys is based on the DC comic series of the same name. It doesn’t take a straightforward superhero story like so many others. The show takes a darker and more satirical look at what being a superhero would look like. If being a superhero was less “saving the world” and more “big business.” And boy does the satire cut deep.

The show starts off with a (very literal) bang, as mild-mannered Hughie Campbell’s girlfriend Robin is killed by a superhero named A-Train. A-Train is a member of the superhero group called The Seven, which is essentially the elite group of the greatest superheroes in America. As one might surmise, getting back at this elite group of superheroes would be nearly impossible. Not only are they literal superheroes with superpowers, but they are also protected by a group of lawyers, handlers, businessmen, and – especially – the shadowy Vought corporation.

But that doesn’t stop Hughie from trying, especially when he meets the enigmatic and nasty Billy Butcher. Butcher has an ax to grind against The Seven, much like Hughie does, but we don’t find out why early on. Instead, Butcher shows Hughie the seamy underworld of superheroes. He shows them the club where superheroes go to do drugs and party, and shows Hughie footage of A-Train laughing about Robin’s murder. Butcher convinces Hughie to plant a bug in Seven Tower to spy on the superhero team. This plan goes awry when one of the superheroes – Translucent – finds the bug and assaults both Hughie and Butcher before they subdue him. The two then team up with Butcher’s old friends Frenchie and Mother’s Milk (MM) to form The Boys, who keep Translucent captive until they ultimately kill him with a C4 explosive.

As all this is happening, we also follow the story of the newest superhero in The Seven named Starlight, aka Annie January. Starlight is a wide-eyed girl from the Midwest who gets inducted into The Seven after the retirement of Lamplighter. However, her optimism is quickly dashed when she is sexually assaulted by The Deep. Since she is new and can’t speak out yet, she is forced to be silent on this assault for a long time.

The Deep’s actions are far from unique for The Seven. Every member of the group is either overtly reprehensible (The Deep), conflicted and depressed (Queen Maeve), a self-important narcissist (A-Train), or some combination. The only one who seems above everything early on is the group leader: Homelander. Homelander is a representation of all that is good and pure about American values and wholesomeness…until he turns at the end of episode one by blowing up the mayor of Baltimore’s plane, killing him, his son, and everyone else on board.

As season one progresses, two main stories begin to drive the plot. The first is the budding relationship of Starlight and Hughie. The two of them begin as simply friends, then progress to reluctant lovers. After that, Starlight turns on the group and helps Hughie and The Boys attempt to take The Seven down from within. The second major is story is that of Compound V. Compound V is a mysterious substance that we learn is the fuel behind superheroes’ “origin stories.” Instead of being born superheroes as could be seen as “God’s will,” superheroes are corporate creations in federally funded labs. Compound V is yet another example in The Boys that there is nothing pure or natural about superheroes. It’s only about the bottom line and corporate greed.

There is, of course, more to the story of The Boys season one than what I’ve laid out here in this review. But rather than summarize every little point, I want to talk about why exactly this show is so good…

The Boys Season 1: What’s good about it?

In previous pieces that I’ve written for this site. I’ve taken a look at several movies that were really good – or even great – but could have been better. One of them was The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In that review, I made a point that trying to shoehorn “name actors” that really didn’t fit (see: Wood, Elijah) for the sake of drawing mainstream attention ended up hurting the overall movie. The story sold itself. People would have come to see the LOTR trilogy regardless of who was in it.

The Boys, under the direction of Amazon Prime, took my advice (well obviously they didn’t take my advice) and ran with it. They took a strong story with a cult following and cast the best people to fit the roles. And do they ever fit the roles?

Probably the biggest “star” of the cast is Karl Urban, who is well-known in sci-fi and fantasy circles but not exactly a household name. He was a featured player in the aforementioned Lord of the Rings movies and had a starring role in movies like Doom. Most of the other actors have been in movies and TV show but none are instantly recognizable. In fact, the most famous cast member is Elizabeth Shue (who stars as The Seven’s manipulative handler). Shue was a big star in the 1980s and early-1990s but has faded in recent years. A larger, more contemporary star shows up in Season 2, but I will get to that later.

But really, the best thing about The Boys is the way they masterfully create the characters. There are no stock heroes or villains in this series. Every character has layers that make him or her both sympathetic and terrible. A-Train may be an unfeeling narcissist who murdered Hughie’s girlfriend, that is true. Yet, he is driven by the need to be the fastest man alive. It is all he has, and he knows that without this designation he will be useless to the Vought corporation and will be tossed aside. The Deep, while a rapist and all around sleazeball, is clearly affected by the fact that he is the butt of all The Seven’s jokes and plays the macho man to make up for it.

And then there’s Homelander. Homelander is one of the most gleefully twisted characters in recent TV, and will be the subject of an article all his own. But that is for a later time.

The Boys Season 1: What could have been improved?

Umm…there could have been more of it?

But in all seriousness, this series is nearly perfect. Perhaps the show could be a little less gratuitous in its over-the-top violence. Perhaps Hughie could be less of a wishy-washy nerd who goes back and forth on what he wants to do. For a show that borders on being Shakespearean, Hughie does a great job of being a Hamlet-esque lead. He keeps going back and forth on what he wants to do. More often than not, it almost costs The Boys dearly in the end.

Other than that? I don’t have much to complain about here. Maybe a few pacing issues could be addressed. Some of the early scenes with Kimiko, a mercenary who teams up with The Boys and becomes something of a love interest to Frenchie, could be shortened. But nothing about this season ever made me want to stop watching.

The Boys Season 1: a summary and look ahead?

As noted above, the only real nitpicks are Hughie’s occasional indecisiveness and occasional pacing issues. But other than that, the season is nearly flawless.

Stay tuned for my next review, where I take a look at Season 2 of The Boys, where the stakes most definitely get raised.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of The Boys Season One. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read about superhero movies to get excited about in 2021 HERE.

Read IMDB information about The Boys HERE.

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Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review

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Netflix

Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!

Alliance

Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.

This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.

Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.

Shades of grey

This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.

With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.

This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.

New champions

Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.

Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.

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