The Amazon series may have noble aims, but it's bludgeoning viewers with shock, says Jason Kehe. "Boy oh Boys," he says. "It’s easily the best and worst of the bunch. If there’s a way to push superheroes any further than this—full-on rapey murderers whose villainy is covered up by the pharmaceutical giant that not-so-secretly made them—the culture would have to combust. It’s not even postmodern, at this point. Deadpool was postmodern. Guardians and Thor were postmodern. The Boys is some pure metamodernist BS, so committed to sharpening its edge on the whetstone of canon it forgets to cut anything with its trenchant blade. The show wants you to talk about it, but what more is there to say? There’s a racist supe with a Nazi past who radicalizes sad male fans through memes; there’s a lesbian supe with a drug problem and a redemption arc; there’s a sexually predatious supe who’s involved in a scene with a boat and a whale that—computer-generated though the whale may be—should nonetheless have violated sundry animal rights laws. These social-justice shocks the show seems forced to administer, in an effort to make you feel more alive than you are, sinking into your couch, losing your head. When the evil-Superman Homelander, played with such disgusting magnificence by Anthony Starr that the patriotic suit and cape should be permanently retired, masturbates on the roof of a skyscraper, he is The Boys itself, naked and shameless. This is the crisis so-called 'prestige TV' finds itself in (if it was ever prestige to begin with). There’s not just an expectation of quality but of seeing something new, like a whale-murdering boat, or lightning Nazis. So shows proceed as episodically as ever, but they have to keep getting bigger, badder, uglier, realer, even if there’s no reason for it. One head explodes early in the season, so 10 must explode later on. In this, television mirrors real life. Or real life as it’s been, After Corona: a series of escalations. When you sit down to a new TV show at the end of your day, you’re not distracting yourself or escaping. You’re reinforcing the escalating, episodic tension of your everyday existence. The jolts of recognition might feel nice, but they’re not at all healthy. They’re destructive, and they’re the reason you feel deader after a binge."
The Boys has a firm grasp on how actual cults of personality are formed: "That The Boys season finale, 'What I Know,' premiered the day after the FBI uncovered a terrorist plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is further proof that, existence of superpowered humans wearing dorky costumes aside, the series has a firm grasp on how actual cults of personality are formed," says Miles Surrey. "Reality these days can be just as strange, and depraved, as fiction. (If the second season wasn’t put together in 2019, Stormfront may well have given a shoutout to the same white supremacist group that the president told to “stand by” just two weeks ago; The Boys is rarely subtle.) Viewers expecting a crass, irreverent take on superhero culture—the tone of Deadpool in the form of a TV series—certainly won’t be disappointed by The Boys, but Season 2 sure goes down with an un-Deadpool-like bitterness."
The Boys uses brutality and evil to create a great satire of the Trump era: "Eric Kripke’s Amazon original series, based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic, traffics in disturbing and macabre imagery mined directly from the present," says H. Drew Blackburn. "The premise — a brutal, corrupt, racist, self-serving, evil Superhero Industrial Complex — deploys hyperbole and exaggeration to critically appraise our Donald Trump-stained culture and political landscape. Sure, The Boys is also a television program with an abundance of gunplay, exploding heads and superpowered beings who fight each other. But the aforementioned montage is so sober and reflective, you get a strong sense that it informs all of the excess that surrounds it."
The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke says "we're living in the world's dumbest dystopia": "We think a lot about current events, but obviously we can't predict the future," says Kripke. "This is the same sh*t now that was happening when we wrote it in 2018. People forget that two years ago we were still dealing with cops pulling over African-American men, an incredibly amount of xenophobia and "there’s good people on both sides" of white nationalism. Maybe the Proud Boys weren’t a household word, but Charlottesville was. We write a lot about what frankly frustrates us. We’re living in the world’s dumbest dystopia — and we happen to have lucked into a show that is the perfect metaphor for this exact moment. Not by design. I think we discovered it. And because we have that, we sort of feel both an obligation and sort of a gleeful mischievousness to chase that down as far as we can and really talk about the things in the world that are really bothering us."