Starlight’s Moral Dilemma In Amazon Prime’s The Boys

The Boys TV series, Amazon Prime

When we imagine superheroes, virtuous characters usually come to mind. We imagine heroes like Spider-man or Captain America. They often represent the best of humanity and their good intentions overshadow any character flaws. Ultimately, their moral compass guides them towards redemption. However, this is far from real life. The Boys (2019) is a superhero television series based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

A view from the floor of The Boys looking down including, Billy Butcher, Frenchie, Marvin/ Mother's Milk, Kimiko, and Hughie Campbell.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

The series was developed by Eric Kripke for Amazon. It follows a team of vigilantes who aim to take down an elite group of superheroes who abuse their powers for their own agenda. As a fair warning, this review contains spoilers.

One Of The Boys Meets One Of The Seven

In the universe of The Boys (2019), the majority of the public lives normally. Their world is the same as ours, but with an exception. There is a small population of people who possess unique powers. This supernatural development allows them to be superheroes. As expected, people began to treat them like celebrities. The series starts by following Hughie Campbell. Hughie is a mild-mannered young man living a mediocre life as an electric appliance salesman.

Billy Butcher, leader of The Boys, looks at Hughie Campbell who has a concerned look on his face.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

One day Robin, Hughie’s loving girlfriend, visits him after another boring day at work. They leave together, but Hughie’s life changes when Robin is accidentally killed by one of the Seven. The Seven is a prestigious group of superheroes who abuse their power and influence for fame and glory. This horrific incident led Hughie into working with the Boys for revenge. Led by Billy Butcher, the Boys are a group of vigilantes seeking justice against the morally corrupt Seven.

Hughie Campbell, newest member of The Boys, and Annie January sitting on a park bench talking.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

Meanwhile, in Des Moines, Iowa, Annie January is auditioning to become one of the Seven. She is the girl-next-door type who aspires to save the world. A short while after her audition, Annie receives a phone call informing her that she is now one of the Seven.

Upon hearing the news, she rejoices, but only briefly. Since her arrival at Seven’s Headquarters at Vought International, she struggled to uphold the expectations of her superhero debut as Starlight, the newest member of the Seven. Making matters traumatically worse, one of the Seven blackmailed and sexually assaulted her.

The Fight For What’s Right

Coincidentally, Hughie and Annie meet each other at the park. They vent about their personal problems while leaving out major details. Their chance encounter brings comfort to each other without either of them knowing the full details of the other’s dilemma. With Hughie’s help, Annie is reminded of the kind of person she is. More importantly, she remembers why she wants to be one of the Seven. Hughie recalls Robin’s death, and why working with the Boys matters to him. After their meeting, they go their separate ways. Each moves towards their goals and to resolve their troubles. Little did they know that they would meet again, but as adversaries.

Annie January, also known as Starlight, stands upon a stage with a night sky backdrop, looking out into the distance.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

One of the ways the series appeals to its viewers is by putting the characters in morally difficult scenarios. This leads the audience to wonder what they would do in the same situations. The dire consequences of the character’s choices further engage the viewer. Unexpectedly, Hughie becomes a lawbreaker in his quest to avenge Robin. He makes choices he never imagined he would need to make, but his actions are based on what he believes is right.

Two teenage boy fans take a selfie of themselves with the number one superhero, Homelander.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

While Annie’s struggles are drastically different from Hughie’s, she is also constantly faced with moral choices. With the series’ exploration of superheroes as celebrities, one of Annie’s most difficult choices is determining how to handle the aftermath of her assault while maintaining her clean image.

The Nitty Gritty Of Living In The City

Another luring aspect of the series is how the characters’ lives and the world are represented. The series quickly sets its tone through the stark contrast between Hughie’s storyline versus Annie’s in the beginning. Hughie’s call to adventure originates with an untimely death. This fuels his hatred and desire to seek revenge. Contrary to the negative attachment of revenge in most stories, the audience feels sympathy for Hughie. This stems from the show being mostly from Hughie’s perspective. Annie’s story begins with hope.

Hughie Campbell stands behind Starlight both with.
The Boys (2019) by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

Almost immediately, she comes to the grim realization that life as one of the Seven isn’t what she imagined. She discovers that the group is corrupt and that some of the members are not what they seem. Despite her findings, she is determined to be the heroine she set out to be. As the plotline continues, this newfound information is jarring. The common perception of superheroes is that they represent goodness. Yet the show challenges viewers to imagine superheroes as glorified celebrities dealing with unseen internal struggles.

Hanging With The Boys

The Boys (2019) strays from the norm of how superheroes are perceived. Hughie’s and Annie’s experiences reveal that most superheroes are immoral. This also begs the audience to question morality. With Hughie and Annie constantly facing moral choices, this provides depth to their character development. They must learn to change the way they previously looked at the world to overcome and survive. All of these elements contribute to an overall compelling narrative. The violently graphic scenes and the controversy of sexual assault may deter viewers from watching the show. Fans of the comics would know what to expect, but anyone interested in watching might be surprised. In spite of this, the acting from the cast is enough to entice viewers to keep watching.

The Boys season two is set to premiere on Amazon Prime sometime in 2020. Currently, there is no exact release date. All episodes of season one are available on Amazon Prime.

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