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Butcher: See, people love that cozy feeling Supes give them. Some golden cunt to swoop out of the sky and save the day so you don't got to do it yourself. But if you knew half the shit they get up to? Ooh... (Clicks tongue) fuckin' diabolical. But then... that's where I come in.
Hughie: Come in to... to do what?
Butcher: Spank the bastards when they get out of line.
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The Boys is a 2019 television series airing on Prime Video and showrunned by Eric Kripke of Supernatural fame, based on the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic book of the same name.

The series takes place in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame, and revolves around a group of titular vigilantes known as "the boys", who set to take down corrupt superheroes with their blue-collar grit and willingness to fight dirty.

Cast includes Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Elisabeth Shue as Madelyn Stillwell, Erin Moriarty as Starlight, Antony Starr as Homelander, Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve, Jessie Usher as A-Train, Chace Crawford as The Deep, Nathan Mitchell as Black Noir, Laz Alonso as Mother's Milk, Jack Quaid as "Wee" Hughie Campbell, Karen Fukuhara as Kimiko/"The Female", Tomer Kapon as Frenchie, Jennifer Esposito as CIA Agent Susan Raynor, and Simon Pegg as Hughie's father.

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The Boys contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • A-Train accidentally kills Robin by racing by at high speed, reducing her to a bloody pulp. Though this wasn't intentional, it was reckless and he shows zero remorse. It might actually qualify as murder legally as he's under the influence of V at the time (or at least manslaughter), but he lies about what happened and most just take his word for it.
    • Popclaw accidentally pops her landlord’s head as he performs oral sex on her, also while under the influence of V. Unlike A-Train, she at least has the decency to be horrified by what she’s done.
  • Actor Allusion:
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  • Adam Westing: Billy Zane appears as himself in a low-budget exploitation movie and again at a convention signing autographs. Tara Reid also appears as herself, waiting at an empty booth for someone to request an autograph while holding her lap dog.
  • Adaptational Badass: In comparison to the rest of The Boys, The Female seems to be a bit more powerful than in the comics, including a Healing Factor on top of her Super Strength.
  • Adaptational Heroism: While the Supes are still as hedonistic and depraved as the comic, unlike the comic, the Supes don't just sit around collecting royalties and being little more than publicity figures with powers. They actually do help to stop crimes, even if the crimes are carefully selected by Vought for the maximum PR. Whereas in the comic, they were legally barred from actually doing any vigilante work.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Somehow, Vought is presented as being more evil than they were in the comics. In the comics, even though they were a highly corrupt corporation, their attempts to push the wider adoption of Supes was limited to political power plays and appealing to public opinion. In the series, however, it is revealed that Vought uses their Supes to outright blackmail and even assassinate politicians who don't play ball with them. They're also revealed to be smuggling Compound V to terrorist groups in a bid to convince the US armed forces to adopt Supes through false flag operations. While that was later revealed to be all Homelander's plan, Stillwell is ecstatic when she hears about it, almost saying she wishes it had been her plan. The Supes' assorted damages are also portrayed as the result of Vought's corporate exploitation of them.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The Supes are generally more personable than in the comic, where they're all deeply unpleasant. Many of them have redeeming character traits and are portrayed as victims of Vought's corporate exploitation as much as the civilians written off as "collateral damage."
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Queen Maeve is at the very least bisexual, stated to have dated Homelander and has a previous relationship with an ordinary woman that did not end well. It's open to interpretation if she was ever really romantically interested in Homelander, or if she went along with it to help "her brand" (on her own or from "suggestion" by Vought PR).
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Deep in the comics is a minor character bordering on Advertised Extra and is only guilty of being a member of the Seven and going along with Homelander's plan. In the show he is a serial sexual harasser. Notably, he's the only one involved in Starlight's "final test," while in the comic he's one of the two males in the Seven who didn't take part.
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Boys don't have Compound V injections to put them at an almost-level playing field with at least the low-tier Supes. And based on statements about the effects of Compound V on adults, it's likely they never will.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The show gives much larger roles to The Seven beyond Homelander and Starlight. The other team members had little character development in the comic (particularly the Deep and A-Train).
  • Adapted Out:
    • Downplayed as Teenage Kix are referenced a few times, but no active members appear, and The Boys don't target them as their "warning shot" to the Supes.
    • Jack From Jupiter is replaced on The Seven by Translucent. Oh Father is replaced by Ezekiel.
    • Played With. The mostly-failed attempt to stop 9/11. The actual attacks are not referenced, but the scene itself is imported, in a very different context (and with only Homelander and Maeve responding, instead of the entirety of The Seven).
    • The Legend, comic book guru and holder of all the dirt on all the Supes, does not appear.
    • Terror, Butcher's bulldog who will fuck anything on command, does not appear. Subverted as he appear in a flashback to before Butcher's wife went missing, though the name and fuck-it command do not appear.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Frenchie calls The Female "mon coeur" or my heart in lieu off a name before he learns it. He continues to do so even after he has.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Frenchie crawls through a spacious air vent to reach A-Train's changing room where he searches for and eventually finds a Compound V sample.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Butcher. His entire motivation in the series (and comic) is that Homelander raped and got his wife killed. Not only is she still alive, but judging by the look on her face when Homelander arrives at her front step to meet their son, the implication that she cheated rather than he raped her might have a ring of truth to it. Only season 2 will clear that up.
    • Starlight is extorted for oral sex by The Deep on pretty much her first day. He claims he's the number 2 in the organization, and that if she doesn't do what he says, she'll get kicked out. Starlight finds out on her own after the encounter that he's pretty much a nobody in the group. Saying no to his demands and explaining what he did would have stirred up minimal trouble for her at best.
  • Alternate History: In the show's universe, superheroes have been around at least since the '60s. You wouldn't be able to tell from the way society is more or less the same compared to our world. This gets called into question as of episode 6: The Boys discover from their encounter with the Super baby the previous episode that Vought has been creating Super since 1971 using their charities as cover. This is the same episode where Stillwell outright admits that the entire "superhero mythology" of the Boys-verse was manufactured for public consumption.
  • Anger Montage: Hughie demolishes his room after seeing an action figure of A-Train on the shelf.
  • Anonymous Ringer: Averted, the terrorists that Homelander kills are explicitly stated to be from a real-world group: the Islamic State.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Hughie screams apologies to his targets while providing covering fire to Mother's Milk and Frenchie.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • While Stillwell is trying to get Starlight to play ball with Vought's corporate image, bringing up the fact that lots of people work very hard to create Starlight the Superhero, Starlight responds that she never asked for any of it. Stillwell asks "Then why don't you burn the sparkly outfit and become a cop?" Starlight has no answer.
    • When Billy calls Hughie out for dating Annie, the latter asks how being loyal to a dead woman who doesn't know and doesn't care works out for him. Suddenly, the whole room is filled with Stunned Silence.
  • Art Imitates Life: Starlight exposing The Deep's sexual assault of her is easily drawn from the #MeToo movement.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Homelander leaves the airliner door open long enough to totally depressurize the cabin and cause most occupants without super abilities to lose consciousness. Despite this, everyone seems unaffected.
  • As Himself: In-Universe. There is a Vought Cinematic Universe where superheroes play themselves in movies and television shows.
    • Jimmy Fallon has Translucent on his show.
    • Seth Rogen has a cameo where he is the director of the Black Noir movie.
    • Billy Zane who was in a movie with Popclaw, and shows up at a comic con meet and greet later.
    • Tara Reid shows up at a fan meet and greet, she has a poster behind her of a superhero movie she was in, in universe.
  • Attempted Rape: Two young thugs prepared to rape a woman before Starlight wanders onto the scene and beats them up.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: Vought's entire corporate success. Superheroes are not born with powers and chosen by God. They were injected with Compound V.
    • Homelander films a documentary to try and garner sympathy towards militarizing superheroes. He tells stories about his mother and father, playing little league, and birthday cakes. None of it ever happened.
    • Starlight calls Maeve out on this, stating how she read Maeve's biography so much she wore it out and had to buy a second copy, idolized Maeve and wanted to be just like her. She specifically cites an incident where Maeve broke every bone in her arm stopping a school bus from going off a bridge, then visited all the kids in physical therapy to help inspire their recovery. Now, she's pretty sure it was all made up by the marketing department and none of it really happened. Subverted in the last episode of season 1, Maeve shows Starlight that her radius never healed completely straight, and she really did break every bone in her arm stopping that bus.
  • Bed Trick: A US Senator thinks he's having some kinky sex with a cute, young, female bartender. Instead he's with a Vought shapeshifter whose default form is an overweight, middle-aged male.
  • Beeping Computers: Popclaw's computer makes beeping sounds when Hughie operates it.
  • Beware the Superman: This is basically the main theme of the series. Without many constraints on their behavior due to having superpowers, corporate backing and good publicity, superheroes just do pretty much whatever they want. The Boys want to stop it.
  • Be Yourself: In the last episode of season 1, Maeve encourages Annie by telling her to be original.
    "Be the annoying goody two-shoes asshole that you are."
  • Big Applesauce: Much of the action takes place in New York City, where Vought is headquartered.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Starlight in the eighth episode, saving the Boys after they ran out of ammo.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Annie and Hughie at the end of episode 6. Leads to Coitus Ensues at the start of the next episode.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The end of the first season. Hughie's vendetta against A-Train is dealt with personally. Starlight stands up for herself and chooses to act heroic in spite of whoever she's working for. The truth about the Supes, their victims, and Compound V are out in the open and the Boys know everything. But the truth isn't all good, especially for Butcher. His wife is still alive, and she's been raising the son she had with Homelander. And with Supes now cropping up in hostile terrorist organizations, no one cares about Compound V or Vought's shady dealings, since only their Supes can respond to this new threat.
  • Black Comedy: The show plays the Black and Grey Morality Crapsack World of the original comics more into this arena, with many things.
    • Translucent exploding into Ludicrous Gibs thanks to C-4 shoved up his ass) so violent and shocking you can't help but laugh.
    • The Deep's Friendly, Playful Dolphin being run over by a truck and the lobster he wanted to save being cut open up by the staff at the supermarket.
  • Blackmail:
    • Stillwell was being blackmailed by the mayor of Baltimore, so Homelander kills him. Then she in turn blackmails a Senator by having Doppelganger have sex with him first in female form before they become male after he's been blindfolded, something voters in his home state wouldn't tolerate.
    • Hughie blackmails Ezekiel to get info on V shipments.
    • The Boys blackmail Popclaw over her accidental murder of her landlord. They cleaned it up for her, but promise to undo that if she doesn't come through with the information they need.
    • Starlight "soft" blackmails Stillwell, and by extension Vought. Stillwell is trying to get Starlight to toe the company line, and Starlight flat-out refuses. When Stillwell states that if she isn't going to cooperate, they'll have to re-examine her position in The Seven, Starlight replies that firing her after she alleged sexual assault on live TV would tank Vought's stock prices. Starlight herself doesn't have to actually do or threaten anything here, Stillwell quite understands how well this would go in a post-#MeToo world.
  • Book-Ends: Starlight's Season 1 arc starts and ends with her throwing up in the bathroom and getting a pep talk from Maeve.
  • Break Them by Talking: After his capture, Translucent tries this technique on Hughie but ultimately fails.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • A Running Gag is that A-Train doesn't remember running Robin over or his apology to Hughie, which allows Hughie to completely slip beneath his notice for quite some time. Homelander also doesn't remember the face of the man whose wife he raped and impregnated.
    • Exploited by Hughie when he pretends to have had sex with Ezekiel in a club.
  • The Cameo: Butcher's dog Terror appears in a flashback.
  • Canon Foreigner: There are many characters added to the show who were not present in the comics, including Translucent (who replaces Jack from Jupiter in The Seven), Ezekiel (who replaces Oh Father), Mesmer, Doppelganger, Cherie (Frenchie's girlfriend), and Starlight's mother (who was only briefly mentioned in the comics).
  • Captured on Purpose: Hughie lets himself be captured by the baddies so he can help break Frenchie and Mother's Milk out from the inside.
  • Casting Couch: The Deep threatens to have Starlight kicked out of The Seven unless she performs oral sex on him. He has a pretty compelling narrative: she admitted to having a crush on him, then got annoyed at his unsubtle advance, channeled her power, and cracked all the TV screens in the meeting room, so he can claim she "went berserk and attacked him." Unfortunately for him, he's underestimated how society marched on in the wake #MeToo, and the instant Starlight hints that someone "shoved his dick in my face," everyone at Vought pretty much knows who she's talking about and can't cut ties fast enough.
  • Cast of Expies: Most of the main superhero characters' abilities and costumes are very similar to those of famous established comic book superheroes.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Homelander and Queen Maeve have a completely unrelated (and far more important to the plot) conversation while literally strolling through automatic weapons fire on their way to stop the shooter.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Butcher has a tendency to use "diabolical" to mean anything from "exceptionally sinister" to "unspeakably awesome."
    • Whenever Homelander shows up to a crime scene he always stops before going in and tells the first responders, "You guys are the real heroes."
    • Ashley, the first PR rep in charge of handling Starlight, responds to Starlight's statements of what she wants or thinks she wants to do or be with "And that is why we love you," before basically telling her the exact opposite because that's what Vought thinks is most marketable.
  • Caught on Tape: When A-Train revisits the sex tapes of him and Popclaw, he stumbles upon the footage showing the Boys and especially Frenchie's face.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The Seven make a number of jokes about Deep wanting to have sex with dolphins, which he vehemently denies. Based on his later conversations with the dolphin he tries to rescue, it appears The Seven were correct.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first episode, when Hughie meets Butcher, Butcher is holding a Nanny Cam bear and waxing philosophical about how useless they really are. Popclaw has the same model in her bedroom, which she uses to record herself and A-Train having sex. It also captures her accidental murder of her landlord, as well as The Boys popping in immediately afterward to blackmail her, leading to Frenchie getting burned, as his face was the clearest one on the recording.
  • Child by Rape: It turns out that Rebecca Butcher became pregnant by Homelander due to him raping her. At first he was told their baby died, but then it's revealed this was lies and they have a son whom she's raising. In the end of the first season, it's left ambiguous if he actually did rape her, or it was consensual.
  • Country Matters: "Cunt" is basically Butcher's go-to insult, though it can also be a compliment depending on context (not that the latter comes up much).
  • Create Your Own Villain: Literally, as Homelander engineers a plan to distribute Compound V to the terrorists around the world and soup them up with the drug, creating supervillains for Vought to send the Seven after and justify Supes enlisting in the United States military.
    • This actually kicks off the series when A-Train runs through Robin and sets Hughie on the path of revenge.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • A tweet by Eric Kripke shows up in episode 6.
    • Seth Rogen appears as himself in the same episode.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Invoked twice at the (appropriately enough) "Believe Expo." Ezekiel does it Up to Eleven thanks to his stretchy arms, and Homelander appears this way hovering over the crowd. All part of selling the "Capes for Christ" angle to the conservative base.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Homelander scares the living hell out of Stillwell simply by holding her baby. When he gets her to admit that she's scared of him, he thanks her, kisses her, and then zaps her right in the face.
  • Cure Your Gays: Ezekiel's main selling point is that he truly believes that through the power of prayer, a person can become straight. At Believe Expo, Starlight even sees a poster of Homelander that says "Feeling Confused? Fly Straight", and the festival just serves as way to market this to the world at large by sponsoring superheroes. He personally knows the opposite, and lives as a closeted gay man.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Billy explaining to Mesmer what he is going to do with him if he talks to anyone.
    "You tell anyone what you saw or heard here today, and I'll cut your hands off and shove 'em so far up your ass, your fingers'll give us a little wave out your throat."
  • Dating Catwoman: Billy thinks this is happening between Hughie and Starlight. Hughie tries to explain that Starlight was never part of the enemy fraction to begin with but Billy wouldn't hear it.
  • Dead Man's Switch: To protect his life during his showdown with Homelander, Billy carries a detonator in his hand which would blow up Stillwell's house if activated. Homelander doesn't care and moves on to kill Stillwell himself, thus removing any last threat Billy could pose on him.
  • Death by Adaptation: Stillwell is murdered by Homelander in the first season finale, whereas her comic counterpart survived the whole series.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: Notably averted with Stillwell. She has a new baby who she dotes on, but it has clearly not made her the least bit less of a ruthless and amoral Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Hughie and Mother's Milk gain access to Popclaw's apartment by posing as technicians ordered to install a new router.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • There's no mention of Stillwell's baby's father. Since she got pregnant through IVF, he might just have been an anonymous sperm donor.
    • Starlight's dad left when she was pretty young. At first she believes this was because he lost their money. Then later she suspects it's because he couldn't take how she'd been given superpowers.
    • Mesmer is one to his daughter, who barely knows him. He doesn't have custody of her, but does want more contact. Still, he realizes that isn't really what she wants, and backs away.
    • Homelander is revealed to have been one involuntarily, as he has a secret son.
  • Disposable Pilot: The Flight 37 rescue attempt.
  • Disposable Woman: Both Hughie and Billy Butcher are motivated by the deaths of a female character. It turns out that Billy's wife wasn't actually dead.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Surprisingly subverted as part of The Deep's Trauma Conga Line. After getting bounced from The Seven to Sandusky, Ohio, he invites a groupie to his apartment for some playtime. She first laughs at his gills, then pins him to the couch, putting her fingers in them despite him telling her repeatedly it hurts, then rapes him while sticking her fingers in those painful spots. The scene is shot and scored such that it's obviously not deserved comeuppance for his sexual assault of Starlight, and while it plays a role in what's either going to be Character Development or a complete breakdown going forward, what happened to him is still shown as wrong.
  • Dream Intro: Episode 4 opens with what turns out to be a flashback to Billy in bed with his former girlfriend. The scene is contrasted via Mood Lighting against the bleak present where he wakes up alone.
  • Easter Egg: Make sure to periodically check Amazon Prime's X-Ray feature, as beyond the usual cast bios and general trivia, there's quite a few extra jokes thrown in.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Via adaptation. "Wee Hughie" was an Affectionate Nickname used both in and out of The Boys, with Frenchie changing it to "petit Hughie" (literally, "little Hughie"). Here, Frenchie just starts calling Hughie that, probably referencing his Naïve Newcomer status, and Hughie doesn't particularly appreciate it.
    Frenchie: Don't be scared, petit Hughie.
    Hughie: Will you stop calling me that? I'm, like, six feet tall.[[note]]His actor is actually 6'1".
  • Empathy Doll Shot: We get one in the wake of the Flight 37 incident (despite the likelihood of it remaining that intact).
  • Equippable Ally: Billy uses a baby with Eye Beams to mow down mooks at the hospital.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Starlight, to symbolize how she gave up on her morals and Hughie, dons the stripperific outfit Vought made for her and goes to the corporate party. She switches back for the finale.
  • Eye Scream: Homelander kills Stillwell by firing his Eye Beams directly into her eyes at close range.
  • Fetish:
    • Homelander is turned on by breastmilk, watching as Stillwell pumps via his X-Ray vision.
    • A-Train enjoys having his toes sucked on.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: How did the Homelander learn that the mayor of Baltimore was blackmailing Madelyn? If you pause the video of that scene, you'll see him flying past the window.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Translucent can only turn his own body invisible, not his clothes. Anytime he is involved in heroics (or other violence) he has to be naked.
  • Gender Flip: Madelyn note  Stillwell and Grace note  Mallory. Season 2 will see Stormfront played by a woman.
  • Genre Deconstruction:
    • Of superheroes, or at least their near-celebrity status within the general public and pop culture. In general, they are real jerkasses who are more like selfish celebrities than superheroes with more concern toward money or their images than anything else. Frequently they will get away with even reckless homicide given the hero worship they receive-others are even secretly murderers. Others are just hypocritical or creeps. Regardless, they mostly get away with all of it due to their powers, superheroes' prestige and good publicity. They have an entire corporation that manages them, with corporate sponsorship, licensed products and publicists smoothing over their images. Given what they can get away, some people really hate them, up to the point of a homicidal campaign.
    • Also, a Deconstruction of gruff anti-heroes, as the show demonstrates just how badly being a lone wolf suffer-no-fools type would screw you over. Not only do the Boys end up fugitives from the Government and the Seven, but each of their lives have been damaged in a particular way. Frenchie is alienated from his business partners and suffered huge losses in profits and material. Mother's Milk destroys the reconciliation with his wife he strove so hard for and now may never see his daughter again. Even Hughie, though more confident, had to put his dad is protective custody, has no job, no home and will likely face an even more pissed of A-Train in the future. Special mention goes to Butcher whose constant manipulations and single-minded quest to kill The Homelander alienates all his remaining friends and allies, gets him marked as a wanted criminal and results several deaths. Furthermore, his final confrontation with Homelander leads to All for Nothing (see above). Only The Female/Kimiko has any improvement in quality of life, but only so far as being a fugitive is better than being a slave test subject.
  • Get Out!: Queen Maeve's former girlfriend is insistent that she leave her apartment. Maeve complies after a moment of Kissing Under the Influence.
  • The Ghost:
    • Several characters from the comics are name-checked but have yet to make an appearance. They include the majority of Teenage Kix, Payback (Tek-Knight is mentioned), and the G-Men.
    • Lamplighter is mentioned numerous times over the first season. Most notably, he's the superhero who Starlight is replacing on the Seven. While we see a few depictions of him, he never actually shows up in person, and it's never made clear why he left. At one point the Boys mention that he killed Mallory's grandchildren just like in the comics. What happened to him after that we have yet to learn. If it's anything like the comics, it might be best we don't find out...
  • Good People Have Good Sex: When Hughie and Annie have sex, they both seem to climax at the same time.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: A Christian Rock performer at the Believe Expo has classic white, feathery, angel-esque wings.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: All we see is blood splattered on the glass door when Kimiko comes to kill the owner of the beauty parlor.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The carving of The Seven is inscribed with the Latin "Fiat justitia ruat caelum" or "Let justice be done though the heavens fall".
  • Groin Attack: Seth, a writer for Vought, suffered an inadvertent one due to his relationship with Ice Princess, a superhero who has, well, ice powers. While he was having sex with her, she got carried away and turned herself to sub-zero ice, resulting in his penis freezing then snapping off.
  • Hand Wave: When the Boys are flummoxed on ways to kill Translucent, whose skin is invulnerable, they bring up the ideas of suffocating him. Then they recall that it's been tried before and "didn't work," so they discard the idea. No further details are provided for how or why Translucent could survive that.
  • Hero Insurance: Zig-zagged. Heroes have a similar form of semi-immunity as police officers while fighting crime, but they have to be credited with being "on the clock" responding to a crime and can still be sued for wrong-doing when there is enough evidence of poor judgement. A-Train outright splatters Robin and gets away with it by claiming to be responding to a robbery and Robin was "carelessly" in the street (Hughie repeatedly says Robin was one foot off the curb, not in the middle of the street). Vought tries to buy off Hughie to prevent his complaint from damaging their brand, but Hughie's father notes that it will be almost impossible for them to actually prove anything. Butcher later points out that police records do not show anything that A-Train would have been responding to at the time of the incident. On the other hand, Starlight is very vulnerable to a lawsuit when she beats up some would-be rapists on film without the context of why she's fighting them (until the victim comes forward to corroborate).
  • Hit Stop: This effect is used when Billy punches Mesmer in the face during their confrontation on the airport toilet.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: All it takes to turn Translucent from a Smug Super to a stammering mess ready to tell everything he knows? A small lump of plastic explosive shoved up his bum.
  • Internal Reveal: When Hughie tells Annie about her being made a supe by the use of Compound V. She doesn't take the news well.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Discussed when Hughie suggests to Butcher that they get information from Translucent. Butcher dismisses the idea, noting it took six months of waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Muhammed for him to talk (and only once, after 183 sessions), and they don't have that time.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Befitting his status as a parody of "hip" ministers, Ezekiel presents Jesus in this way, peppering his sermons with slang and referencing Jesus referring to people as "bro."
  • Just Plane Wrong: Aircraft and their capabilities are frequently misrepresented.
    • The Deep misidentifies the previously-seen Hawker private jet as a Gulfstream.
    • The airliner in the first season is supposedly flying from Paris to Chicago with 123 people on board. All seats appear to be full. However, the aircraft shown flying is a Boeing 737 MAX 8, which lacks the range to fly from Paris to Chicago non-stop, and normally carries about 175 passengers in an all-economy configuration.
    • The airliner's oxygen masks should have dropped the moment Homelander opened the door and depressurized the cabin, yet they inexplicably drop later, as the aircraft descends into denser and more breathable air.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After forcing himself on Starlight, the Deep gets some karmic justice when a woman forces herself on him, invasively penetrating his sensitive gills and prompting reactions from him that are much the same as a woman being sexually assaulted.
  • Leno Device: In the pilot, Translucent appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Happens a few times in the soundtrack.
    • In "Cherry," a strong heroic theme plays as The Deep heads into The Seven's meeting room, only to peter out as he sees an annoyed Homelander waiting for him.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the show features graphic violence and sexual depravity, it doesn't go anywhere near as extreme as the source material. This is exemplified by Starlight's Casting Couch experience. In the comics, she is coerced to perform oral sex on Homelander, Black Noir, and A-Train, while Queen Maeve's response in the aftermath is callously dismissive. Starlight has to keep quiet about the experience lest she be booted from the team. In the show, only The Deep coerces her, and Maeve actually gives her some bluntly honest advice. After Starlight makes veiled but public comments about her experience, Vought bows to public pressure and has The Deep Reassigned to Antarctica.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: As part of Vought's ad campaign, A-Train visits a hospital to see a child with cancer. The teenager is not impressed because his Last Request was to see his idol Translucent.
  • Ludicrous Gibs:
    • A-Train running into Robin turns into this in glorious slo-mo. All that's left is her hands.
    • How do you kill an invisible man with unbreakable skin? Knock him out with electrical shocks and shove some C-4 up his ass. What's left of Translucent is this trope.
    • The results of Homelander's heat vision, more often than not. Truth in Television, as a laser-like beam that flash-heated human tissue (which is mostly water) would cause violent steam explosions.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: The pastor at the Believe Expo clearly doesn't want to have Starlight admit she's had premarital sex. She lies and says she's a virgin, but later on comes clean in a heartfelt speech about this, among other things.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: A-Train shoots Popclaw up with heroin to make it look like an accidental overdose.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: In the very first episode, courtesy of Translucent.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: A group of them hijack a US airline, causing Homelander and Queen Maeve's intervention. It ends with tragedy. Homelander wipes out a different group in Syria later on.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A-Train liquifying Robin leads to Homelander's plot to seed Compound V all over the world, creating an endless number of supervillains for Vought's heroes to fight, and forcing the government to accept superheros in the military since no one else is equipped to deal with them.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Nice Guy contribute to moving the conflict between Vought and The Boys into this territory:
    • Homelander, Stillwell, and Vought in general are pretty much pure evil, making sure the Supes have good publicity no matter what, using them to rake in loads of cash, trying to get Supes into national defense to rake in more cash (and maybe contribute to defending America in the process), injecting infants with Compound V to make more Supes, and for Homelander, spreading Compound V around the world to create supervillains.
    • Then you have A-Train, Popclaw, Translucent, and The Deep, who are at best negligently criminal (A-Train and Popclaw's Accidental Murder moments, The Deep's Black Comedy Animal Cruelty), at worst just plain criminal (Translucent and The Deep being repeat sex offenders, A-Train and Popclaw being complicit in Vought and Homelander spreading Compound V), just on a much smaller scale than above.
    • Then there's The Boys, out to do a good thing (bring down Vought and expose their dirty dealings), but have no problem using espionage, blackmail, and murder to do it. Hughie is the most upstanding of them, and even he admits that a part of him enjoyed murdering Translucent.
    • Finally you have Queen Maeve and Starlight, trying their best to be good despite their faults (though Maeve, self-admitedly, has had more time to accumulate faults than Starlight).
    • Lampshaded when A-Train points out to Hughie that while his splattering of Robin was an accident, everything Hughie and The Boys have done is on purpose, so really, who has the moral high ground here? Though this does lose weight considering the fact that A-Train murdered his blackmailed girlfriend to cover up the fact that he was empowering terrorists all over the world with Compound V.
  • Mythology Gag
    • Billy's demands to Raynor describes their setup in the comics, right down to their office in the Flatiron building.
    • Hugh Sr is played by Simon Pegg, who was the inspiration for comic Hughie. He even uses the phrase "Jings" like comic Hughie often did.
    • Episode titles derive names from story arc titles from the comic.
    • Two US Senators named [McCrea] and Robertson are mentioned, named after Darrick Robertson and John [McCrea], the artists who worked on the comic.
    • A Jitter Bean coffee shop is briefly seen, which is a frequent setting in the comic.
    • The poster above is reminiscent of one of the comic covers, namely, the one that is in the comic tropes page!
  • Named by the Adaptation: A few characters Only Known by Their Nickname are given at least personal names.
    • Mother's Milk: Marvin.
    • The Female: Kimiko.
    • The Deep: Kevin.
    • Popclaw: Charlotte.
    • Robin: Robin Ward.
    • Mr. Edgar: Stan Edgar.
    • Janine's mother: Monique.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Billy Butcher's name is pretty descriptive.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers implied that "The Boys" was an official group dedicated to keeping Supes in line, as they are in the comics. In the show, they are not official at all and are acting of their own initiative without any police or government clearance, although Billy does tell Hugh that he works for the FBI when they first meet (later implied to be former CIA, and was quickly burning bridges doing this independent work).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Homelander dooms Flight 37 by frying the controls with a careless use of heat vision. Had he not, even with the pilot dead there would have been multiple options to save it (MythBusters proved that not only could an untrained pilot land a plane safely with guidance from the control tower, but that modern planes are actually capable of landing on autopilot).
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Billy beats Mesmer to death in an airport bathroom by repeatedly smashing his head against a sink.
    • A superpowered version is pulled off by A-Train, who slams Kimiko's head against a wall with the speed of a jackhammer.
    • Although Kimiko initially holds her own pretty well against Black Noir, it's not very long before he manages to put her down. If not for her Healing Factor, she would've died.
  • Noodle Incident: Butcher, MM, and Frenchie worked together on an anti-supes task force for Mallory sometime in the past. Their association ended when Frenchie disregarded orders and Lamplighter murdered Mallory's grandchildren.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: On their second private encounter, Starlight makes it perfectly clear to The Deep that she is no longer afraid of his threats and is willing to use her Eye Beam powers on him if he ever tried to touch her again.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: When Billy and Hughie enter an exclusive club for superpowered people, Hughie witnesses several sexual acts and immediately gets distracted by a couple shamelessly having sex mid-air. Billy promptly tells him to "Pick your jaw up off the floor."
  • Not So Different: During their confrontation, A-Train tells Hughie that they are much the same except for Hughie getting Popclaw killed on purpose while he ran into Robin by accident.
  • Oedipus Complex: Homelander has a serious case. He's got a real thing for Madelyn, who is clearly a mother figure for him long before it's implied that she might be his actual mother.
  • Off with His Head!: A security guard's head is blasted off by the Eye Beams of a superpowered baby held by Billy Butcher. Notably, there's no clean cauterization of the wound as usually expected with beam wounds, and instead there's thick gore from both the neck stump and the separated head.
  • Oh, Crap!: Both Stillwell and The Deep have this reaction as they watch Starlight publicly announce on national television that she is a victim of sexual assault. The former because she's about to face a PR nightmare in the midst of trying to lobby a bill through Congress and the latter because he was the assailant in question.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Karl Urban's Cockney accent occasionally strays into his native Kiwi.
    • Simon Pegg's rendition of an American accent is fairly even, but he really gnaws on his R's in a way that betrays how hard he's trying to affect it.
  • Parting Words Regret: Hughie feels terrible about having to live with the fact that his last words to Robin were "Don't you ever besmirch Billy Joel."
  • Paying Evil Unto Evil:
    • Hughie's motivation throughout the story, to pay A-Train back for killing the girl he loved whatever the cost.
    • Butcher's motivation too. He hates Homelander with a fiery passion.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: Queen Maeve does this in an Establishing Character Moment in the opening scene of the pilot where she gets in the way of a runaway truck that is about to run over a teenager who slipped on the sidewalk.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: In "The Self-Preservation Society", Mesmer tries bargaining for his life when Butcher comes to kill him by promising to help find his missing wife. Butcher quietly helps him up and places both hands on his head. Suddenly, Mesmer sees something so horrible, he immediately starts begging for his life, before Butcher crushes his skull against a sink.
  • Post-Rape Taunt: Homelander tells Butcher about the night he raped Becca, saying she was little more than an easy groupie who enjoyed the sex so much she came three times.
  • Power Incontinence:
    • The downside of having sex with a superhero? Many have a tendency for losing control of their powers near or during climax. Depending on the power, this can have bad consequences for their sexual partner.
    • A-Train also starts losing control of his super-speed powers thanks to abusing Compound V. He runs through Robin while hopped-up on the stuff, then nearly blows his cover in the race with Shockwave by not quite being able to stand still.
    • When Starlight gets angry, electronics around her tend to start short-circuiting. She also accidentally cracked several TV screens when The Deep was sexually harassing her. Her eyes also light up when she orgasms.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • Homelander spies on Stillwell with his X-Ray vision while she's using breast pumps.
    • It crops up quite frequently, with Transluscent using his powers to spy on others and Doppelganger using their powers to seduce others. Lampshaded by Popclaw, who notes that many people have a "Supe Fetish."
    • Someone actually asks if Starlight ever used her glowy hands for "fun."
  • Profiling: Days after Kimiko breaks his leg, A-Train goes clothes shopping while using crutches and sees a White security guard eyeing him. He tries to ignore him, but the guard starts tailing him through the store, and when A-Train confronts him, the guard says he's just "keeping an eye on things." After some fans recognize A-train, the guard backs off, but A-Train angrily says that the only reason he backed off is because he just realized he was harassing a famous Superhero, and nothing else.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: For his plot to bring down Vought and the supes, Billy gets "the Boys" back together.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After the Deep gets in hot water for sexually assaulting Starlighter, he gets reassigned to Sandusky, Ohio, a small town with no need for a super hero, where he can be quietly forgotten about.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: In the pilot, Billy reenacts The Matrix's red pill/blue pill proposition to Hughie although he isn't quite sure which of the two pills is the one leading down the rabbit hole.
    Billy: This is like that scene in The Matrix. Now, you could take the fucking red pill, right? Spend the rest of your life jacking off, crying into your chai tea green latte, what the fuck. Or...you could take the blue pill. Or is it the
    Hughie: Which pill do you want me to take?
    Billy: Just quit being a cunt. That's what I'm saying.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Mesmer attempts to trade information about The Boys to Homelander for a spot in Vought after they seek his help with Himiko. Not only does he get nothing from Homelander but a stolen phone as a result, he's killed by Butcher not long after.
  • Rule of Cool: Awesomeness aside, Translucent's death is actually illogical. As pointed out by the creators, Translucent's indestructible skin should have contained the explosion.
  • Save the Villain: Ultimately, when Hughie and A-Train finally come face to face for their final confrontation, A-Train has a heart attack and collapses. Rather than let him die, Hughie, remembering what Mallory told him, starts giving A-Train CPR and insists on calling an ambulance until Starlight tells Hughie to run and let her do it herself.
  • Saying Too Much: Homelander learns his child is still alive when Stillwell commiserates with him over his loss, while giving a version of the baby's death which is different from the one Dr. Vogelbaum told him.
  • Screaming Birth: Becca in Dr. Vogelbaum's unreliable flashback. Justified as the superpowered fetus is trying to burst out of her belly, allegedly leading to a Death by Childbirth.
  • See the Invisible: When Billy fights Translucent at Hughie's hardware store, he spits Blood from the Mouth into Translucent's face in order to get an idea of his opponent's position.
  • Shooting Superman: The Syrian terrorists don't seem to get the hint Homelander is impervious to their bullets, which could be justified by Supers normally not operating outside the US and most foreigners only knowing them from the Vought Cinematic Universe movies and TV appearances that could be faked.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mother's Milk tells Hughie his cover is a "mild-mannered reporter", which is, of course, how Superman was described in his secret identity as Clark Kent.
    • Homelander's big revelation that he conceived a child and was absent for most of his life is a nod to a contentious moment in Superman Returns.
    • Another Superman Returns shout-out comes in the Flight 37 scene, albeit with a much darker conclusion. Unlike Superman, Homelander leaves the plane to crash and the passengers to die after botching the rescue operation. Queen Maeve even brings up the possibility of him using his powers to lift the plane to safety, just as Superman did in that film, only for Homelander to point out that he'd just go straight through the plane's hull and destroy it.
    • A-Train exercises by pulling a train, much like Mr. Incredible.
  • Showdown at High Noon: The climactic showdown between Starlight and A-Train is framed like a duel between cowboys.
  • Show Within a Show: There are multiple films and at least one TV show in the series universe starring or about superheroes. Most are superhero movies akin to real ones you'd see. Another though was a police procedural with a young superhero named Mesmer who used his mind reading power to help solve crimes. They are all supposed to be part of the 'Vought Cinematic Universe'.
  • Sickening "Crunch!":
    • The sound made when Kimiko breaks A-Train's leg with a metal pipe.
    • Also when Homelander squashes the head of one of the Middle Eastern Terrorists with his foot.
  • Silent Credits: Episode 4 is the only episode to close with no soundtrack other than ambient sounds from the bay where debris and luggage from the crashed plane washed up.
  • The Sons and the Spears: Billy gives his quarreling teammates a prep talk about how the Spice Girls were nothing on their own but great as a team.
  • Stealth Pun: Also in episode 4 - just as the Female gets away from The Boys by jumping off a subway platform, who should come super-speeding up the tracks towards her, but A-Train.
  • Stripperiffic: Starlight's home made costume is more of a warrior queen design with a long skirt, shoulder pads and a cape. When she joins The Seven their marketing team redesign her costume to be a backless leotard with a deep cleavage cut. She is not happy with it, and later encourages a young fan cosplaying her original design to not shell out money for the new one.
  • Sudden Principled Stand: When Homelander picks on Starlight for dating Hughie, Queen Maeve gets up and tells Homelander to leave her alone. Homelander is surprised saying he could not remember the last time Maeve gave a shit about anyone.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: While the current generation of supes is engineered via Compound V, the son Homelander has with Becca apparently developed superpowers of his own.
  • Super Serum: Compound V is pretty much a performance-enhancing drug for superheroes, with abusers being able to push their powers well beyond their usual limits, at the cost of not just risking Power Incontinence, but also enlarged hearts and shrunken testes much like real athletes get from sustained steroid abuse. It's also the big secret behind the Superhero phenomenon. They aren't chosen by God as some people and heroes believe, they were given V as babies to trigger their powers by their world's Evil, Inc..
  • Tamer and Chaster: Compared to the comics, which had large amounts of sex and nudity, while the show has little of both (though does include Male Frontal Nudity courtesy of Translucent).
  • Technology Marches On: Played with in-universe. Mesmer hands a DVD to his estranged daughter but she refuses to take it because she doesn't have a DVD player. He figures it was only a ruse as she wasn't interested in getting to know him any better.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Played With. Over the course of the show Butcher lies, cheats and steals his way to Homelander burning ever bridge he has in the process to get revenge on Homelander for raping and killing his wife. His revenge was a suicide mission killing the one person the Homelander loved, and himself, and leaving him wracked with grief and unable to do anything just as he did for him. However, the Homelander makes a great point that Butcher doesn't know for sure that the Homelander did anything to him. The show itself is ambiguous on if Butcher was right suggesting it was a consensual affair. Which if true that would render his whole mission pointless. Moreover, The Homelander simply kills Stillwell negating his plan, and even saves him from his suicide bomb and sets out to prove he was wrong and rub his face in it.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Annie and Hughie have a fall out in the penultimate episode due to miscommunication but reunite at the end of the first season after Annie saves the Boys via a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Trespassing to Talk: Billy likes to surprise people this way.
    • First he sneaks into the house of his former associate Susan Reynor and waits in the middle of the night for her to return only to scare the hell out of her when she does.
    • In the showdown of season 1, he does the same with Stillwell at heir home, having to incapacitate the nanny in the process.
  • Trunk Shot: Of Billy and Hughie looking at Translucent after heaving the latter into the trunk of their car.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: After everything Hughie has been fighting for, everything he'd done, he has A-Train on the ground having a heart attack. Even though he knows A-Train will be after him for the rest of his life, he chooses to save his and let him go anyway.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: While not quite an ensemble, the show is generally split between the politics going on with The Seven and the efforts from The Boys on finding any sort of method of holding supes accountable. On occasion the two stories intersect, but generally not enough for a direct confrontation between them.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Mr. Edgar offers Stillwell a promotion. With it comes a bonus figure which is never revealed, just written on a piece of paper silently handed to Stillwell.
  • Van in Black: Billy could tell that their hideout at the motel had been compromised when seeing a black van with "Flowers" on it parked in the courtyard.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Discussed in the pilot. Hughie proposes to become the Tech Guy in Billy's team. To help his cause, he mimics an Obligatory Earpiece Touch with his right hand while talking like a Mission Control operator. Billy is not impressed with the idea.
  • Wham Shot:
    • At the end of the first episode, the Mayor of Baltimore and his son's awe at Homelander flying next to their private jet quickly turns into horror as he activates his heat vision.
    • Rebecca Butcher walks out to join her and Homelander's son. As Homelander states that he's the boy's father, the boy's eyes glow red with heat vision.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Queen Maeve is appalled when Homelander won't even attempt to save some of the airline passengers. Since he can't save everyone, Homelander just leaves them to die, since saving any will result revealing how badly the rescue was botched. The passengers naturally also denounce them for this before they're killed in the crash.
    • Hughie is horrified at many of Butcher's actions, but the last straw is when Butcher won't help him rescue the Boys after his long to speech to Mallory about loyalty.

Alternative Title(s): The Boys

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