Bingewatching may have saved some collective sanity during the pandemic, when streaming services reigned supreme without question. These days, though, several services including Netflix have realized that they kind-of signed up for churn by tossing entire seasons of shows out for the taking. The practice, while allowing for instant gratification, makes it easy for people to push pause on any given subscription and wait for the next season of Stranger Things or The Witcher or whatever. Obv, this could be contributing to some of Netflix’s current subscriber woes. Meanwhile, other services (and shows) decided to pull back on giving it all away at once. Those early efforts to coax audiences into cooperating, however, haven’t always gone smoothly.
Yep, I’m talking about Amazon’s The Boys, which triumphantly skewers superheroes and entertains an enthused following. However, a certain contingent of that following began to review bomb the show’s second season out of sheer fury that they couldn’t receive eight episodes at once. It was an incredibly silly response, and Amazon stuck to their plan for the rest of the season, when Homelander stood atop a skyscraper for a narcissism-fueled, raunchy solo performance, one that I don’t think would have landed (figuratively, not literally on the ground) in the same way at the end of a bingewatch.
And anticipation is key! Not only that, but The Boys provides a very, how do you say, sensory-overloading experience. It’s gnarly in the best way but a lot to absorb. Look at my very sophisticated stream of reactions during a Season 3 midseason episode:
– The Deep… oh my god
– And Homelander, no, what a f*cking sadist
– Eeeek, don’t do that to The Deep
– I can’t keep watching this
– Holy sh*t
– You should stop watching this
– Breathe, lady, breathe
– Why did I eat dinner before this episode?
– Ew, Homelander
– EW EW EW, no no no noooo
– [Stares into space for a few minutes]
– God, I love this show
During times like these, we are all Hughie sitting inside of The Whale.
Why would one want to experience that kind of a rollercoaster, repeatedly, in one or two sittings? I mean, the endorphins are fantastic in the end, but it’s something that would best be appreciated (and/or endured) while savoring these Supes on a weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m in awe of the creative and smart ways that the show manages to both thrill and gross out its audience without wearing out its welcome, and I appreciate the opportunity to watch the entire season, but the way that the cliffhangers and developments happen, this would actually be a more rewarding experience to space things out. Also, my brain feels a little bit tweaked to squish it all in there at once, even if I’m impressed as hell that this show keeps doing its thing like no other.
To evaluate on a more proper level here: Humor is hard. Satire is even harder. The Boys not only manages to be outrageous and funny and satiric, but it does so on a deceptively deep level. We get to crawl around in Homelander’s head, and he’s clearly in a not-alright state (after watching his own son burn Stormfront to a crisp before Queen Maeve wished him a very lonely life). And we see what it’s really like for Vought International to be challenged for its very existence, more than during any other arc. Homelander, who’s their top asset, must be dealt with. He’s a danger to absolutely everyone, and he’s reached a point where no level of PR wizardry can contain his crazy.
The action simmers for a few episodes before we even meet Captain America parody Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), a living time capsule who shows up and tears everyone’s little world apart. He’s a real hoot to behold and equal parts banal and fascinating. And we get to watch all of the other Supes, and The Boys, revolve around the pair and take sides and take turns screwing around with Compound V while the show manages to consistently outdo that 2nd season Whale scene. Yes, the Whale scene, the same one that the show marvelously used to submit for a damn Emmy. No one can forget it, and it’s the litmus test that everything in this franchise will be measured against, forever.
This is not a matter of gore. It’s easy to toss in more blood (and other bodily fluids) and brag about it. It’s also easy to make characters get naked and do provocative, shocking things. Yet it’s important (yes, I’m serious) to remember that this show’s disguising a lot of profundity in these outrageous moments. The Deep doesn’t simply show off his tan lines, and Homelander’s not only jerking off, and Soldier Boy’s not saying unfathomable things for the sake of shocking an audience. The layers of this rotten onion unfurl themselves, and even after all the shock wears off, one can appreciate this show for being, on a higher level, cultural critique even outside of the superhero realm.
What I’m saying is this: Showrunner Eric Kripke and the writers do an enviable job outdoing The Whale multiple times while delivering substance. And I completely understand why Chace Crawford worried that he’d never work again after what The Deep does (and what’s done to him) this season. And goodness, the Ladies crush it, even more than last season, with the action scenes and how they maneuver throughout these spaces meant for white dudes. Dominique McElligott hasn’t truly ever gotten her due for portraying Queen Maeve, outside of her portrayal of the character’s sexuality, but she gets a juicier arc this season that really brings the character home.
And speaking of the Ladies of The Boys, let’s take it back to how, last season, the weekly format also allowed for the show’s actors to (as Karen Fukuhara told us) to “selfishly” engage following episodes. The show became more of a weekly conversation piece, and as Erin Moriarty pointed out, the frustration factor actually illustrated why this is such an addictive show. Pacing ain’t a bad thing, and with The Boys, we’re receiving a blueprint of how patience is a twisted virtue worth celebrating.
Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ are back (that’s obligatory phrasing) on June 3.