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The Boys Season One Episode 4: “The Female of the Species” Begins to Find A Voice

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The fourth hour of The Boys is all about how you spin it: from Homelander’s convenient framing of a tragedy, to Starlight’s identity crisis, much of “The Female of the Species” is about perception, and the power of humans and supes alike to mold the truth to fit their liking. In a surprisingly human hour (still full of explosions and juvenile sex jokes, no less), “The Female of the Species” finds poignancy in a few unexpected places – and more importantly, builds to a powerful sequence that gives voice to some of the young drama’s central conflicts and ideas.

“The Female of the Species” begins to find some quiet resonance in some of its characters, hints of something beyond the self-serving nihilism expressed by so many of The Boys‘ central players.

There is a lot going on in “The Female of the Species,” much of it narrative deck building for the second half of the season. Some of this material is rather effective: Popclaw and A-Train’s relationship and Frenchie’s connection to a young, traumatized woman (The Female, in her dialogue-less introduction) are both poignant scenes, nuggets of ideas and character shifts deftly included in an event-heavy script. Continuing the trend of fantastic world building on display all season, “The Female of the Species” begins to find some quiet resonance in some of its characters, hints of something beyond the self-serving nihilism expressed by so many of The Boys‘ central players.

The Boys The Female of the Species

As a whole, it’s still a mixed bag – look no further than the thunderously hollow opening sequence, a check list of antihero tropes shoved into a single scene. It literally opens on Butcher having a sex flashback, the archetypal “tough guy thinking about his softer moments” before jump cutting to the present, where we see Butcher is alone and miserable. But wait, there’s more: we’ve also got Loner Bad Eating Habits and Old Security Footage of Wife, rounding out Butcher’s laughably predictable back story in almost impressive fashion.

The reveal of Butcher’s vague past is a disappointment: there felt something more playful, more layered to the character, nuance that’s all but erased from whatever superhero-related tragedy befelled him and his wife. All it really does is present a female to be immediately fridged, in service of a character arc we’ve seen thousands of times: bitter bearded man pushes everyone away by being an asshole, then lives out his lonely life propositioning deputy directors of the CIA in between illegal activities.

It’s a series of milquetoast descriptors that sells Karl Urban’s performance in the role short: there’s life behind the eyes of Butcher, a life that isn’t completely consumed by regret and failure. The Boys could engage with this, building out a different antihero for its decidely anti-superhero tale; instead, it is one of many examples where The Boys fails to buck tradition or offer commentary on the genre – it just lazily embraces the status quo of the genre, rather than offer some meaningful deconstruction, as it is often trying to do with other characters.

The Boys The Female of the Species

The Deep’s presence in “The Female of the Species” suffers from the same eye-rolling silliness, but feels so much more sinister. Now, The Deep isn’t a defensible or likable character (again, sexually assaulted Starlight during her first hour at work), but his continued degradation at everyone else’s hands seems… unbelievable, given that he’s a superhero, presumably someone with some noble sea lineage (if we’re to believe the parallels between him and Aquaman are absolute)? Instead, in “The Female of the Species,” he’s reduced to a bestiality punchline (for the second episode in a row).

The Deep is really just a collection of The Boys‘ worst habits, a ball of casual misogyny and open homophobia with nothing really mooring its character to anything. He’s a punch line, not a human, but a punch line The Boys doesn’t know what to do with. There’s clearly an attempt to build his arc towards some transformative moment, but it’s unclear what the character’s motivations really are at any given moment, sliding between confident and limp as each scene demands.

That kind of inconsistency doesn’t feel mysterious, or meaningful: it just feels hollow, especially when placed next to a character like Homelander, whom The Boys has an absolute ball with in “The Female of the Species.”

Any scene Homelander is in, the camera is deathly obsessed with him, mirroring society’s simliar obsession with the all-mighty superhero – but the camera gives us insight the public isn’t privy to, building out this terrific dichotomy of public figure and private sociopath, two warring sides that come to a head when Homelander decides it’s not worth trying to save 120+ people about to die on a falling plane.

The Boys The Female of the Species

The plane sequence is arguably the most effective distillation of The Boys‘ central thesis so far: it’s an arresting scene, one that is just harrowing in how casually Homelander dismisses the lives of so many men, women, and children who cheered him and Queen Maeve on as they disposed of the (stereotypically Middle Eastern) terrorists who hijacked their flight. As their adornation slowly descends into terror, director Fred Toye keeps his camera fixated on the heroes.

This serves two important goals: first, it gives Queen Maeve some much-needed distinction from Homelander, establishing that she hasn’t been consumed by her own power, still empathetic to the plight of humanity. When Homelander reveals he’s done trying to save them, she still pleads, trying to think of any plan to save them (all of which he casually dismisses, in a truly dark bit of comedy), giving her character a bit more distinction from Homelander besides “woman who doesn’t want to fuck him anymore.”

It also completes the circle on Homelander’s character, unveiling just what a self-preserving sociopath he is. We’ve seen hints of it before, threatening his teammates and casually dismissing the human costs of his actions; but seeing him wholeheartedly reject the very premise of being a hero – to do the seemingly impossible – is still a shocking turn, one that only grows darker when he politicizes the moment, using the engineered tragedy as a way to ensure the passing of the military bill him, Madelyn, and Vought want so badly.

Much of the rest of “The Female of the Species” (that isn’t the strange, underdeveloped The Deep plot) is dedicated to the mysterious debut of The Female, a young woman who Hughie’s crew accidentally stumbles on, in their quest to entrap A-Train in his Compound V sales. Now, it’s arguable whether The Boys needs another mysterious character added to the fray at this point, but the introduction of The Female is nonetheless shocking and intriguing, as the Boys try to understand the sudden presence of a dirty, violently powerful woman and how it ties to A Train’s murder of Hughie’s girlfriend.

The Boys The Female of the Species

It’s arguable whether the Female is more detraction than enhancement for the episode: she’s kind of an amorphous presence, existing seemingly for the sake of some visceral disemboweling shots and Frenchie’s connection to her as a survivor of abuse (we also get Mother’s Milk being the butt of a joke for respecting his girlfriend, because, well, it’s The Boys). But she’s certainly a presence of intrigue, an avenue for The Boys to explore superhero-dom from a different angle, absent of the privilege and sycophantic behavior seen in the shining employees of Vought International.

Except for Starlight, of course: in what’s quickly becoming the most tragic sequence of any given episode, seeing Starlight contend with the realities of her dream, all while flirting with Hughie (who has ulterior motives he can’t seem to quit), is the episode highlight. In it, we get a careful deployment of Starlight’s identity, a super hero who believes in God, a very interesting idea to explore in the context of a super hero series. We already get hints of what heroes mean to religion (we get another ad for Ezekiel’s Samiritan’s Embrace organization), but what does religion mean to a hero?

For once, it feels like The Boys is taking one of its characters seriously: as her and Hughie trade flirty barbs over fried food, Starlight’s arc begins to take shape in a number of powerful ways, a promising sign for a character utilized for shock value in the first three hours of the series. Seeing Starlight engage with her identity beyond the sexual implications of her fame and her co workers pays huge dividends in the (extremely lens-flared) bowling alley where the scene takes place: it gives voice to the depressing realization Starlight doesn’t know how to stop people from taking advantage of her, a compelling conflict for her to face in these final four episodes.

It’s hard to say The Boys is a fully formed idea as we reach the halfway point: while it has wonderful grips on characters like Homelander and Starlight, it equally struggles with Butcher’s crew and Madelyn. At times, it’s still unclear whether The Boys ultimately wants to embrace the superficial excess of the stories it is satirizing and deconstructing, or become a thoughtful critique of heroism – in “The Female of the Species,” at least, that dichotomy leads to some powerful sequences, though it hardly seems like a tonal balance it will be able to maintain for four more hours.

Other thoughts/observations:

  • when Hughie finds out Translucent had a kid, it really hits him what he did when he killed that naked, self-righteous asshole at the end of “The Name of the Game.” Truth has consequences, indeed.
  • A Train telling Popclaw he “always has her back” feels like something a lot of toxic dudes have said to their partners in order to try and save their own asses. It is clearly going to end poorly for this woman.
  • “Lift the plane? How? There’s nothing to stand on – it’s fucking air.” Antony Starr is a fucking master at deadpan sarcasm.
  • Are we supposed to care about this Cherie character (the arms dealer who wants to fuck Frenchie)?
  • There’s a scene with The Deep and his therapist that is the most laughably dumb shit ever. It’s just there to justify the Oceanland plot that follows – which ends abruptly with a horny dolphin getting run over by a tractor trailer, begging the question of its inclusion in the first place.
  • there’s a brief moment where Hughie sees a vision of his dead girlfriend looking disappointed, as random as anything you’ll see on TV in 2019.
  • At least we get a shot of Butcher eating a Hot Pocket with silverware as he watches the vaguely ominous security footage of his wife on a park bench from 2012.

Butcher flashback
Butcher meets with CIA dep
The Female breaks out
The Deep therapy
PR about Translucent
NORAD warning
Frenchie & Cherie
Popclaw
bowling!

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Dirk Disco

    August 5, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Your review is painfully “woke” and insipid.

    • Brian

      August 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      And can’t even get Starlight’s name right….

  2. Steve

    December 3, 2019 at 6:11 am

    I was sure this was written by a chick until I got the end and saw the author’s pic. You’re way too much of a feminist to be a fan of this show. You should try covering the cooking channel or maybe Disney.

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

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Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Royal Rumble 1995

“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

World Wrestling Federation Championship

The 1995 Royal Rumble was the eighth installment of the annual pay-per-view. It took place on January 22, in the USF Sun Dome located in Tampa, Florida and is remembered most for two things: Pamela Anderson’s one and only appearance in the WWE ring and Shawn Michaels becoming the first wrestler to win the Royal Rumble after entering first. But aside from that the iconic, game-changing ending in which Shawn Michaels dangled on the ropes, barely hanging on, before pulling himself over and eliminating the British Bulldog— there was another great match that is often overlooked.

It was the first WWE Championship defense of Diesel and it came against the face of the company, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.

The storyline behind the WWF World Heavyweight Championship match began in 1994, when Bob Backlund with the help of Owen Hart, beat Bret Hart for the championship at Survivor Series. Three days later, Bob Backlund was scheduled to defend the title against Bret Hart at Madison Square Garden only on the eleventh-hour, Hart was replaced by Diesel. Despite spending most of the evening protesting the last-minute change in the card, Backlund was forced to square off against Big Daddy Cool who defeated Backlund in a nine-second match to win the World Title.

With Bret Hart looking to recapture the title, a match with Diesel was then scheduled at the Royal Rumble. It was a rare instance of two babyfaces assigned to compete against each other with the audience having to choose sides.

Unfortunately, the match ended in controversial fashion, but not without its share of drama and plenty of highlights.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Diesel’s match with Bret Hart was a pivotal moment in his career. Not only was it the first time he had to defend the WWE Title on a PPV, but for someone who was often criticized as being over-rated, this match proved that with the right competition, Diesel could put on a great match while also telling a great story.  

It was a face vs. face, but Hart played the de facto heel for much of the match, going so far as slamming a chair on Diesel’s back and taking advantage of his injured knee by applying the figure-four leglock twice. The match itself lasted a good 28 minutes with plenty of finishers including Diesel’s Jackknife powerbomb and of course, Bret Hart’s signature Sharpshooter. It was physical; it was exciting, and it was an example of great storytelling thanks to the ongoing interference.

First, Shawn Michaels came out and attacked Diesel. After being thrown out of the ring, fans anticipated the referee would disqualify Bret Hart and end the match — only instead, the ref ordered it to continue. After a back and forth brawl, Hart hit the Sharpshooter on Diesel’s injured leg but before Big Daddy Cool could tap out, Owen Hart ran in and attacked Bret from behind. And just like before, the referee cleared Owen out of the ring and ordered that the match continue, causing the fans in the arena to explode in cheers.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

While the match isn’t as notable as the Survivor Series fight between Diesel and Bret Hart, it’s still a genuine classic and one of the best matches of Kevin Nash’s career. With the help of Bret Hart, Kevin Nash had risen again and delivered a performance for the ages.

The match, however, would end in disappointing fashion. After the referee was knocked unconscious, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie, Owen Hart and Bob Backlund all came out to attack Bret Hart and Diesel. Realizing he had lost full control of the match and could no longer officiate due to the constant interference; the referee officially ended the match and rang the bell. In the end, it was ruled a draw and Diesel retained his championship.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Despite the interference, the match itself lasted a good half hour and featured two stellar performances by Bret Hart and yes, Kevin Nash. It was just another example of how with the right opponent, Kevin Nash could really work the ring and whatever mistakes and turmoil led Kevin Nash to the WCW, whatever demons that plagued him – you can’t forget that at one point in time, the man was at the top of the WWE.

All in all, the Championship match was well choreographed; perfectly scripted and packed with non-stop action from beginning to end.

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Arrow Season 8 Episode 9 Review: “Green Arrow and the Canaries”

Arrow looks to the future in an intriguing, clumsy penultimate episode/backdoor pilot.

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Green Arrow and the Canaries

It’s not often the penultimate episode of a long-running series is constructed as a backdoor pilot to a spin-off. But even rarer is a show heading into its final two hours with its titular character already enjoying a hard fought, well earned dirt nap after casually saving the universe – a fate both hero and viewers alike were aware of well over a year ago. It is under those strange, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths circumstances that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” exists, a backdoor pilot trying to leap frog off a near-decade of world and character building, to continue building the next generation of Arrowverse heroes alongside shows like Supergirl and Batwoman.

It is tough to strike a balance to find between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling.

As Arrow – and inevitably, The Flash – ride off into the sunset, The CW’s grasped the opportunity to diversify its starting lineup, on full display during the five-part Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. No longer is the Arrowverse just led by Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, and Rip Hunter: with characters like Jefferson Pierce, Sara Lance, and now Mia Queen-Smoak, the Arrowverse is heading into the next decade with a refreshed starting lineup, a creative re-invigoration that reverberates through “Green Arrow and the Canaries” in some really interesting, if limited, ways.

Like most of the CW’s attempts to introduce new characters and worlds, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” is an awkward mash of ideas and tones, establishing a new Star City in 2040 post-Crisis, with all the inconceivably ridiculous machinations it takes to get there. Frankly, it does not do a great job of catching anyone up who is new to the Arrowverse, or is checking in with the final few episodes of Arrow to see what’s next: anytime it tries to explain how Mia lost her memories of 2020 (and how Dinah Drake ended up in 2040 Star City), “Green Arrow and the Canaries” strains credulity with its own premise.

Though, there is something to say for the episode’s very Legends of Tomorrow-esque approach to not really giving a fuck: we get cool shots of Dinah singing in a bar she owns (under her apartment, which looks like it is in the original clock tower Sara used as a hideout? Please don’t quote me on this if I am wrong), and it never lingers too long on trying to justify its existence. After all, how do you logically explain how the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance, a Dinah who hasn’t aged in 20 years, and Oliver Queen’s adult daughter end up working on the same case (trying to find a kidnapped granddaughter of the Bertonelli family)? Smartly, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” only makes a few flimsy attempts before saying fuck it, and running with its narrative.

It makes for a fairly engaging experiment; with Mia Queen at the center, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” basically hits the reset button on Arrow‘s story of legacy, with Oliver as the deceased patriarch of the family, and Mia facing a world without either of her parents around (they do not mention Felicity at all, which is… very weird). How does someone follow in the footsteps of the man who saved the entire universe? “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t directly attack this issue, but the pressure of reputation, and the echoes of the trauma of losing him, provide this potential spin-off with an interesting emotional framework.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

It also features Black Siren, as the Kate Cassidy redemption tour continues; after years being stuck in a laughably thin character (and equally limited performance), the integration of Earth-2’s badass, morally ambiguous Laurel Lance was a boon for Arrow‘s late season resurgence – a renaissance that welcomely continues into this new series, channeling Laurel-2’s goth bitchiness into a powerful, driven portrayal of a rich supporting character.

“Green Arrow and the Canaries” is not without its limitations, though: despite the inherent pleasure of seeing these three characters team up together (and the simple fact it is vastly superior to the languid, mediocre Batwoman), the actual dramatic arc of the episode is cookie cutter material, formulaic in the way any experienced Arrow or The Flash viewer will recognize. There’s plenty of intriguing notes there (like the maybe-return of Deathstroke 3.0, as Mia’s now-estranged fiancee), but unlike Legends of Tomorrow or Black Lightning, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t really introduce any wrinkles to a well-worn storytelling style, which could quickly lead any spin-off down a disappointing road of dwindling returns.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

The Arrowverse as a whole is in a strange place; as The Flash winds down (or at least, appears to be), Legends of Tomorrow continues to fucking rule, and shows like Supergirl and Black Lightning cement their place in The CW’s lineup, the massive universe Berlanti and company have built (and with Crisis, completely integrated) is both in a great place, and at a critical crossroads.

If “Green Arrow and the Canaries” becomes Green Arrow and the Canaries, it must be careful not to follow in the footsteps of the disappointing Batwoman (which suffers from the unwieldy combination of poor plotting and dismal performances). Following the series that started it all is a challenging affair, and one that comes with the high stakes of tainting what came before it (after all, it wasn’t long ago that Mia Queen-Smoak was one of Arrow‘s weakest points, through most of season seven’s flashbacks).

But there’s a lot of potential here; if Green Arrow and the Canaries harnesses the energy of its central trio, it could be so much more than a carbon copy of its hallowed predecessor – which, at its worst moments, briefly turning Dinah into Felicity and Mia into proto-season one Oliver, it comes dangerously close to being. It is tough to strike a balance between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling, and a question that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” ultimately only provides a partial answer to.

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches Casket Match

Royal Rumble 1998

WWF World Heavyweight Championship

The 1998 Royal Rumble was the eleventh entry in the annual pay-per-view event. It took place on January 18, 1998, at the San Jose Arena and is remembered best for two things: Stone Cold Steve Austin winning his second Royal Rumble by eliminating The Rock– and the thrilling Casket Match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Unfortunately, it is also remembered as the match that temporarily ended the career of Shawn Michaels.

It was ‘The Last Outlaw’ Undertaker versus Mr. WrestleMania a.k.a. The Main Event a.k.a. The Heartbreak Kid a.k.a. The Showstopper. After costing him the Championship in a match against Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart at Summerslam 1997, The Undertaker was out for revenge.

Shawn Michaels was the champion heading into the match, and he was also the favourite thanks to ample support from his fellow Degeneration X members Triple H and Chyna standing ringside.

Undertaker and Michaels had previously met in an outstanding match at Ground Zero: In Your House before going on to star in the first Hell in a Cell where Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn, only to lose in the end no thanks to Kane interfering. This time around, however, Kane and Undertaker were now on good terms— or so we thought.

Needless to say, expectations were high for this one!

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

Despite his age, Shawn Michaels was in the prime of his career, and every one of his matches with The Undertaker during this era became legendary. Unlike many other rivalries in WWE history, every time these two men went toe-to-toe in the center of the squared circle; fans knew they were in for something special.

The match itself isn’t necessarily their best work but it’s arguably the best Casket Match ever and it culminated with a truly unforgettable ending that had many fans glued to their seats.

The Undertaker controlled most of the match despite the constant interference from Triple H and Chyna, which in retrospect makes sense since early in the match, Shawn Michaels herniated two disks in his back and completely crushed another after receiving a back body drop on the side of the casket. Being the champ that he was, Michaels continued to wrestle, and Undertaker eventually began to lose his dominance as things moved outside of the ring with Michaels delivering a piledriver on top of the steel steps. Following a high-flying elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music, Shawn Michaels seemed to have the match finally in his control but as all good heels do, he blew the opportunity to seal the deal and instead chose to taunt his opponent, giving Taker enough time to recuperate.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The rest of the match saw the two men go back and forth, rolling in and out of the casket and delivering their respected finishers. Eventually, the two men made it back to the ring where Undertaker gave Shawn Michaels a chokeslam before dragging him to the edge of the ring and hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver into the casket. The match looked to be over but before Undertaker could close it, the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas ran in and collectively pummeled Undertaker until the lights went out in the arena. Kane’s music played and the Big Red Machine made his way to the ring to save the day.

Only he didn’t…

Kane instead turned on Undertaker, and choke slammed his own flesh and blood into the casket thus allowing Triple H and Chyna to shut the lid, and end the match.

Royal Rumble 1998 Casket Match HBK Undertaker

As mentioned above, the match itself isn’t the best match we would see from HBK and The Phenom but in my eyes, they are two of the ten greatest superstars in WWE history and even their worst match is still far better than 90% of the other matches the WWE offers. But what really made the night memorable was the ending!

With the Undertaker trapped inside, Paul Bearer came to the ringside carrying giant padlocks and with the help of Kane, they locked the Undertaker inside the casket and proceeded to roll it to the top of the entrance ramp where Kane took an axe and began to dispatch the coffin before dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. And the entire time, Undertaker was supposedly inside.

If you were a young fan watching at the time, the ending of this match might have given you nightmares. It was like something straight out of a horror movie and it was an ending everyone was talking about for months.

As we watched various emergency officials extinguish the fire, Commissioner Slaughter and others desperately tried to break open the casket to free Undertaker. And when the casket was finally wedged opened, Undertaker was nowhere to be seen.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The match itself is historically significant for many reasons. It was the match that forced Michaels to take an extended hiatus due to a legitimate back injury and it also marked the last time Undertaker wrestled Shawn Michaels before their historic WrestleMania XIV match. Meanwhile, Kane’s interference set up an ongoing rivalry between the brothers of destruction. In the end, the 1998 Royal Rumble Championship Match delivered a great story complete with stellar performances from everyone involved.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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