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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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Watchmen Season One Episode 8 Review: “A God Walks into Abar”

Dr. Manhattan steps into frame in a breathtaking episode.

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Watchmen A God Walks Into Abar

The elevator pitch for Watchmen‘s eighth episode is relatively simple: what if Dr. Manhattan is to Watchmen, what Desmond was to LOST? A person unstuck in time, whose ability to move back and forth across the key moments of their lives, opening their minds to a wealth of experiences, perspectives – and of course, deep regrets for the moments and things that cannot be changed. LOST‘s 77th episode, “The Constant,” uses time as a thematic anchor for a love story, the absolute apex of science-fiction romance – a man who is only able to hold onto his identity by remembering the woman he loves.

“A God Walks into Abar,” and the love story that plays out within it, is among the most heartfelt entries of Lindelof’s career, able to carefully turn a seemingly indecipherable character, into something beautifully textured, human, and meaningful.

“A God Walks into Abar,” co-written by Damon Lindelof (who wrote “The Constant” with Carlton Cuse) and Jeff Jansen (a writer who once wrote LOST recaps for Entertainment Weekly), is pretty much a direct successor to “The Constant”; but though it is explicitly familiar in its structure, characters, and thematic explorations, is still a wildly successful, abundantly rewarding entry all to itself. Where “The Constant” served as an important fulcrum for the emotional journey of a mysterious character, “A God Walks into Abar” uses Dr. Manhattan’s gravity to pull in every loose thread of the series, while also telling a touching, tragic love story: it is a rather impressive feat, firmly establishing Watchmen‘s first (and only?) season in the pantheon of modern adaptations (and a gentle reminder of why Watchmen is so much fucking better than The Boys, I might add).

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

Perhaps the most impressive thing “A God Walks into Abar” accomplishes is understanding Dr. Manhattan as a character, and how to effectively convey the paradox of his continued existence, in ways even the comic struggled to contend with. He is a man constantly living and reliving his past, present, and future, all at the same time, consistently able to needle the thread of his existence, in a way that allowed it to make sense. Or so he thought: the comic ends with him agreeing to the greatest conspiracy in human history, disconnecting from humanity and looking to the stars to satisfy the existential bounds of his mind (the meme of his disinterest in humanity is now iconic, after all).

Watchmen re-frames that idea ever so slightly, in a fascinating way: Dr. Manhattan did forget about his humanity… that is, until he fell in love with Angela, moments before he was sucked into a Kavalry-manned teleporter, which occurs exactly 10 years after he meets her. ” A God Walks Into Abar” opens with Dr. Manhattan putting on a mask (during the holiday celebrating his rampage to end the Vietnam War) and meeting Angela at a bar (Angela Abar… A-bar… Lindelof strikes again). It then proceeds to bounce around time, to capture life as Dr. Manhattan experiences it; an ever-evolving set of vignettes, an expanding world of knowledge, one he is not able to create and shape himself.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

The moment ” A God Walks into Abar” builds to is referenced in the first few minutes; after his strange introduction piques Angela’s curiosity, Dr. Manhattan notes that he is in love with her. We see that moment occur 50+ minutes later, as Angela turns into a one-woman assault squad, hell-bent on taking out every last Kavalry member outside their home. Infuriating as it may be to understand, he can see the beginning and the end of their short, beautiful life together at the same time, because he’s living it all at the same: Watchmen captures that idea poignantly in its unorthodox approach, smartly tethering each strange sequence together with a singular image, or color, to bring us from one moment to the next.

As we move through time, “A God Walks into Abar” casually begins to fill in the big holes of narrative created in last week’s slightly frustrating entry; we finally learn how Ozymandias ended up on Europa, and the history of the people and places we’ve seen on that world for eight episodes. We also learn how Will became involved in the process, which is, ironically, the moment it all falls apart for them: the moment Angela asks Dr. Manhattan to inquire about Judd’s identity (while Dr. Manhattan talks to him in 2009), she inevitably kicks the first domino down the path of Judd’s death, and the Kavalry’s impending attempt to turn themselves into racist deities.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

How “A God Walks into Abar” frames this is its true genius: Dr. Manhattan’s existence is the conundrum of the chicken and the egg. There was a moment in time where Jon existed, and Dr. Manhattan didn’t; but there also isn’t, since Dr. Manhattan’s creation allowed him to experience all of time in a cumulative fashion, rather than linear. Finally, the many, many images of eggs and yolks finally come together: as nature’s great paradox, a man literally capable of creating entire worlds and paths of evolution, finding his way back to the only immeasurable quantity in the universe, love.

“A God Walks into Abar” makes an important distinction between love and worship: love is able to be critical, to understand and accept flaws, to show empathy. Worship, or what Dr. Manhattan experiences when creating his own world (and people) on Europa, is disillusioning: there’s no older religious trope than the unsatisfied god who turned to humanity to find purpose, and that’s “A God Walks into Abar” to an absolute T. And it works: the love story that plays out is among the most heartfelt entries of Lindelof’s career, able to carefully turn a seemingly indecipherable character, into something beautifully textured, human, and meaningful.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

If there’s any noticeable flaw to “A God Walks into Abar,” it is strangely the episode’s construction as a romantic entry; it kind of sidesteps integrating Dr. Manhattan’s chosen identity to live as a black man in modern America. There are hints of it at various parts – the scenes of his childhood, in particular – but “A God Walks into Abar” strangely doesn’t contend, at least in this episode, with Angela’s decision to show Dr. Manhattan the original Cal’s body. Why did she just show him three white bodies first? What drew Dr. Manhattan to OG Cal’s appearance? For a series so deftly integrating explorations of race and identity into the Watchmen mythos, the lack of reflection in this episode feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

But that is a small complaint in what will be remembered as a signature episode of the series; and for good reason, because it is a phenomenal, breathtaking hour of television. “A God Walks into Abar” is also another bold reinterpretation of Watchmen itself, replacing the cold sensibilities of the comic’s anarchistic roots with a warm beating heart; as cheesy as that sounds, it is everything to making the high wire act of Watchmen the series work on a fundamental level. After all, love is the one universal element ensuring humanity’s continued existence; as Dr. Manhattan finally understands, even if the pursuit is an impossible one for us as a species, it at least makes the inevitable collapse of our world something worth fighting against.

Other thoughts/observations:

“By definition, doesn’t every relationship end in tragedy?” Fuck. Me. Up. Watchmen.

The Philips/Crookshanks origin story ends up being a rather touching detail: they are modeled after two lovers young Jon saw during his brief stay in England (the mansion the event happened in ends up being Ozymandias’ home).

Very interesting note that Ozymandias’ Plan A to defeat Dr. Manhattan was not to kill him, but to condemn him to being a mortal with amnesia.

Dr. Manhattan mentions his theory for being able to transfer his powers; would not be surprised to see that come up in next week’s episode.

Related to the previous note: Dr. Manhattan tells Angela he wanted her to see him outside by the pool. Does that mean we’ll see Will walk on water next week?

Lots of props given to Regina King throughout the series for her stunning performance – if Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is not nominated for a shitload of awards for his work in this episode, however, we riot.

A post-credits sequence finally reveals the use of Phillip’s infamous horseshoe – though it remains to be seen where this story is all heading, as Europa’s small world of clones desperately tries to keep another god from leaving them.

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‘Bojack Horseman’s Xmas Special Is the Height of Schmaltzy Satire

If you were lucky enough to grow up watching bad sitcoms with awful specials, then Bojack Horseman’s Christmas special is just for you.

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Bojack Horseman

Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today we look back at Bojack Horseman‘s “Sabrina’s Christmas Wish”.


When it comes to sitcoms, the grand tradition of the holiday special is a long time staple of the genre. The schmaltzy corniness of the 80s and 90s made these specials all the more egregious, and it is this tradition that Bojack Horseman echoes back to with its brilliant Christmas special.

Ostensibly just a full episode of Horsin’ Around (the show that made Bojack famous), Bojack Horseman‘s Christmas special only uses the present day as a framing device before diving into the stupid fun of a very special episode of Horsin’ Around.

The central plot of the episode focuses on Bojack’s youngest adopted child, Sabrina, wishing for her parents to come back to life after Bojack assures her that Santa can give her anything she wants for Christmas. Of course, in typical sitcom fashion, rather than simply explaining to Sabrina that Santa can’t bring people back from the dead, Bojack instead opts to try and trick her into being naughty so Santa will have an excuse not to grant her wish.

Bojack Horseman

The absolute apex of this silliness comes when Bojack tries to get Sabrina to give in and eat some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. “I’ve heard of lookie-lookie don’t eat the cookie but this is ridiculous!” The use of lines like these in sitcoms is a classic cut to simpler and stupider times, where shows could really get away with lines as ham-fistedly ridiculous as these and actually call them jokes.

Ultimately this is the greatest strength of the Bojack Horseman Christmas special: calling back to the tropes of 80s and 90s sitcoms before satirizing and roasting them into oblivion.

All of the classics are here. From the annoying neighbor character, who is legitimately named Goober, to the absurd onslaught of character catchphrases that permeate the episode. The best of the latter comes from Ethan, the nerdy middle child, who espouses the line “Yowza-yowza-bo-bowsa!” to a few sparse claps and a cough from the unamused studio audience. That every character needed a catchphrase in these types of sitcoms is a given but to have one so bad that even the studio audience can’t be bothered to care is a beautiful bit of satire.

Bojack Horseman

Speaking of the studio audience, Bojack Horseman doesn’t stop using them for fodder there. Thanks to one very stupid audience member, some of the best moments of the episode come from reactions to classic sitcom tropes. For instance, when Bojack flirts with his secretary, while most of the audience opts for the classic whoops and cheers of yore, the idiot just yells “Kiss her!”. He also points out catchphrases (“She said the line!”) and lets out a confused “What!?!?” at the message of the episode.

If you were lucky (or unlucky) enough to grow up watching bad sitcoms with even worse Christmas specials every single year, then Bojack Horseman‘s Christmas special is just for you. Hearkening back to the nostalgia of the time before ripping it to shreds with endless glee, Bojack Horseman’s Christmas special isn’t just one of the funniest episodes of the show, it’s also one of its best.

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A Doctor Who Christmas: Revisiting “Voyage of the Damned”

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Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today, we look back at the Doctor Who Christmas special, “Voyage of the Damned”.

What’s it About?

First broadcast in December 2007, “Voyage Of The Damned” runs 72 minutes long and is the third Christmas special since the show’s revival in 2005. The Doctor finds his TARDIS colliding with a luxury space cruiser (based on the RMS Titanic) during a Christmas party. The ship’s captain, Hardaker (Geoffrey Palmer), sabotages the cruise liner by purposely lowering the ship’s shield, resulting in severe damage after colliding with several asteroids. It’s up to the Doctor (David Tennant), with the help of a waitress named Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue), to fight off robot-like creatures in the form of golden angels and save the day.

voyage-of-the-damned-17

Review

A festival of ideas, bursting with wild imagination, ambitious set pieces, strange characters, curious visual effects, and one charming Doctor who had this critic glued to the screen midway through, when he turned around to deliver this rousing monologue:

I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?

This time around, the mammoth cruise ship struck fire (not, ice) and the passengers are a sordid bunch including robotic golden angels armed with killer boomerang-like-halos, and a dwarf named Bannakaffalatta – a cyborg Zocci who strangely resembles Darth Maul. We learn that due to an accident, Bannakaffalatta had undergone conversion into a cyborg, for which he felt shame because apparently where he comes from, cyborgs are discriminated against. “Voyage of the Damned” features a batch of religious imagery (including a messianic portrayal of the Doctor himself being carried away into space by two of the angels), and the blank and trite performance by the beautiful pop sensation Kylie Minogue, (whose role was specifically written for her).

Voyage of the Damned

For a Christmas special, we get a number of casualties along the way, including Bannakaffalatta’s self-sacrifice and Astrid’s fall into the fires of hell. One could accurately describe this episode as The Poseidon Adventure in space, a nightmarish schematic rhapsody of virtuous discomfort. “Voyage” doesn’t end on a happy note. Sabotage and corporate greed destroy our ragtag bunch of passengers, and those who are lucky enough to survive do come out with lasting scars. Not much Christmas cheer here, but the script is sprinkled with clever comedic moments from time to time, including a surprising gag involving the royal family.

Astrid’s final appearance comes in the form of “an echo with the ghost of consciousness”; her stardust-hologram-like image fades after a final kiss. Perhaps a tad bit corny, but the sequence is enough to bring a tear to the eyes of die-hard Whovians. “Voyage” is ridiculous, but also oddly fun in the sheer overkill of pulp and fantasy imagery. Technically it impresses, loaded with eye-catching-hi-tech chase scenes and more importantly, characters and a plot (even if incoherent) to support them.

doctorwhovoyageofthedammbed

Is this thrilling no holds barred sci-fi/disaster mash-up brilliant or idiotic? Perhaps a bit of both, but “Voyage of the Damned” satisfies because of its strong emotional core and unnerving dark themes couched in stunning visuals. This visually arresting, occasionally funny ride is neatly wrapped in a comfortable Yuletide package.

– Ricky D

How Christmassy is it?

Despite the high death toll and the titanic setting, “Voyage” strangely delivers a Christmas vibe, if in scenes few and far between. I would say 50/50.

You May Like It If…

Obviously, if you like Doctor Who, disaster films, and science fiction.

Voyage of the Damned
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