‘Herogasm’ is great fun with a great story
This discussion and review contains spoilers for The boys season 3, episode 6, “Herogasm”.
As interesting as it is to discuss The boys In terms of the study of masculinity, fatherhood, and American identity, it’s easy to overlook one very simple aspect of the show: it’s fun.
There are legitimate criticisms to be made about the pace and structure of The boys. Each of the three seasons to date has been structured as something akin to an unpacked comic book arc – a story with a core set and a new guest cast, built around strong thematic elements, which inevitably comes back to something. close to the status quo when all is said and done. The show has an established pattern and format and doesn’t stray too far from it.
This is evident even watching the third season. The second season ended with the promise that Butcher (Karl Urban) would work with the government and apparently reconnect with his wife’s son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), and Hughie (Jack Quaid) was working with Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit). However, in a few episodes of the third season premiere, The boys had returned to its tried-and-true format of Butcher and Hughie as vigilantes.
Characters like Deep (Chace Crawford) and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) could be exiled from The Seven, but the show will return to the familiar setup. Supporting characters may die, but the show’s reputation for brutality doesn’t really extend to its main cast. With that in mind, it makes sense that one of the lingering criticisms of this third season is that the show “needs a new punchline,” with some critics wondering “how will the show continue to exist without spinning its wheels. “.
This is all perfectly fair. However, despite all that critics are quick to accuse The boys from “pushing the boundaries of taste” in favor of “relentless and vulgar maximalism,” the series remains better at superhero storytelling than many of its genre contemporaries. If we take away the swear words and the gore, The boys understands the basic mechanics and beats of a superhero story better than any superhero show airing on Disney+.
The boys is not a cult or subversive hit. The series takes pride of place in Amazon’s streaming lineup. Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said the first season quickly became “one of our most-watched Amazon Original series.” The premiere of the second season would have resisted the crown jewels Netflix and Disney + stranger things and The Mandalorian. Amazon has begun production on a live-action college spin-off to accompany the animation Diabolical.
The show has character arcs of its own, understanding what each lead wants and the obstacles that stand in their way. He also has a strong sense of theme, basically understanding what the show is about. on and building outward from there. While the show’s three season arcs can sometimes feel a little polished in their conclusion, even that neatness shows an understanding of the basic narrative structure. Whatever one may think of the story it tells, The boys tell it well.
More precisely, The boys seems to be actively enjoying being a superhero TV show. It takes great delight in the opportunities the genre provides for creative storytelling and visual play. Whereas The boys certainly doesn’t compete with the surreal, nonsensical imagery of something like Legionit’s far more giddy in its use of superpowers and concepts than most modern mainstream superhero movies and TV shows.
So many modern superhero stories turn into cliches of superheroes blasting computer-generated energy beams of different colors, which feels like a wasted opportunity considering the creative potential of superhero powers. Indeed, it’s no small irony that “Herogasm” features such a confrontation between the temporarily overpowered Butcher and Homelander (Antony Starr) in the midst of all that is going on.
The third-season premiere featured a suitably demented battle against the size-shifting hero Termite (Brett Geddes), who is seamlessly modeled after Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Indeed, Termite is accidentally introduced while growing while on the inside another person, with predictable results. Showrunner Eric Kripke admitted the writing team was inspired by a meme about how Ant-Man could defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin) in End of Gameitself rooted in a Grant Morrison and Howard Porter JLA publish. Kripke joked that the creative team wanted to “give audiences what they wanted with Ant-Man, but couldn’t get Marvel.”
“Herogasm” is structured around such moments, with the entire episode built around a superhero orgy in which participants find perverted uses for their powers. Kripke bragged about being challenged to adapt “Herogasm”, the subject of his own spin-off comic, from “day one– and that doing so was a “reward” for two successful seasons.
This is certainly set up for some very juvenile humor, as Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) is coated in both lube and cum in quick succession. However, even outside of the orgy, there’s room for particularly creative and brutal superpower applications, with A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) using her superspeed to drag Blue Hawk (Nick Wechsler) so fast that he’s actually turned to bloody pulp against the tarmac surface of the road beneath him.
The R-rated nature of these particular sets makes it hard to imagine a comparable set on something like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Where Hawk Eye. However, even smaller storytelling choices in The boys feel far more adventurous than anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Glorious Five Year Plan” featured A-Train in a parody of the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial. “Herogasm” opens with a riff from Gal Gadot’s absurd “Imagine” video.
The boys presents layers upon layers of mediated reality. The season opened with Charlize Theron appearing in an in-universe scene from the film. Dawn of the Seven. Flashbacks in “Glorious Five Year Plan” featured Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) performing Blondie’s “Rapture” on Solid gold. “Herogasm” features a TV rerun of Soldier Boy’s appearance in a Reagan-era propaganda film praising “our brother mujahideen”, reminiscent of films from the era like Living daylights Where Rambo III.
In contrast, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything leans towards the house style. Director Chloé Zhao bragged that Eternals reportedly contains a “beautiful happy dance sequence” straight from Bollywood, but the sequence is shot in such a way that no one would mistake it for an actual Indian musical number. In contrast, “Last Time to Look on This World of Lies” gave Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) a much more convincing and stylistically charming riff to a Busby Berkeley musical number in the hospital.
None of this is particularly new, but it is effective. It also underscores how much of the modern superhero genre has stagnated. In “Herogasm”, Homelander finds himself conversing with the only person he can trust: his own reflection. He recalls memorable scenes with Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) from Sam Raimi’s Spider Man two decades ago. This underscores exactly what was missing in similar scenes featuring Dafoe in Spider-Man: No Coming Home.
While it’s easy to get distracted by the crude vulgarity of “Herogasm” and the way The boys pushes its own limits, the truth is that the strength of the series is more fundamental than all that. More than many of its more traditional branded competitors, The boys not only understands the conventions of this type of pulp storytelling, but he revels in their raw potential.