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More people should watch the best superhero show on TV

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When it comes to TV, I’ve been circling the Marvel cycle for almost a decade now. It’s a bit like that…

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 a “not bad” Obama face and move on with my day.

I’m passively hovering as the hype builds, but then… the trailer! Oh my god this show, whatever Loki or Wanda Vision – this show looks like it’s gonna be awesome.

Then the show comes out and it’s OK. Not great. Sometimes they are downright bad. I watch only one full episode, maybe two if I’m feeling sassy. Then I retire and hibernate until the next show where the cycle begins again.

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?

The thing is, it’s almost okay certainly be mistaken. Or at the very least, go mediocre. That’s what history tells me. Marvel at Disney+: Great trailers, TV shows a little less awesome. I’ve never been able to finish a single Marvel show, including premieres on Netflix like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage.

The cast of superheroes, lined up in a row.

The Seven are the most powerful superheroes in the world.

Amazon Studios

I brought my “it’s probably going to suck” energy into my first watch of The Boys on Amazon Prime. Unexpectedly, I was 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 understated. While most Marvel TV shows focus on heroes trading clever banter and saving the world from a lucky spinning wheel of existential threats, in The Boys the world needs saving from the superheroes themselves. same. Superman characters like Homelander are full-fledged, power-drunk sociopaths. Their godlike abilities have warped them to the point where brutal and relentless violence against normal human beings is taken for granted.

The change in perspective is a big part of the appeal. It’s fun to see the roles reversed. The ground-level impact of superhero powers is extremely visceral in The Boys as it is seen through the eyes of ordinary human beings touched by their ultraviolence. The Boys is a clever superhero satire that swings erratically between the comedic and the grotesque in ways that are often shocking, but almost always compelling. The quiet fascism of characters like Batman is voiced aloud, alongside the laid-back indifference “superheroes” have for the people they’re meant to protect.

Nothing is forbidden here. The show isn’t just about the superheroes themselves, but the Marvel corporate machine that produces them. In The Boys, the 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 aren’t just going hard on superhero shows, they’re also going hard on the culture that enables and idolizes them. No one is safe.

The boys, all looking at something out of sight.

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

Amazon Studios

But beyond the lofty concepts and clever meta-commentary, The Boys has power because it has memorable characters and drama that feels important. There are outliers, but tonally and aesthetically most Marvel products are indistinguishable from one another, with single characters serving very similar purposes. They’re either fish-out-of-water superhero origin stories or shrewd veterans, seen from all time, mindlessly joking from one action sequence to the next. The pattern is so well established that it can be a real chore to navigate.

Boys feel different in this regard. The characters have clear motivations and they feel different in ways that really matter. The drama feels deserved and genuine as the motivations come into natural conflict with each other. It all makes sense in a completely different way than any superhero show you’ve ever watched before.

So yeah, for my money, the best superhero show on planet earth doesn’t live in Disney Plus and certainly doesn’t exist in the Marvel Universe. The best superhero show on the planet is The Boys and you have to give it a shot.