The Boys, season 1

I held off on watching “The Boys” because something about the aesthetic rubbed me the wrong way.

The blown-out, Banksy-lite logo–complete with dripping-paint graffiti–made me think it would be a jokey, mid-budget show that fancied itself a comment on the Marvelization of Hollywood.

I decided to give “The Boys” a shot when I started seeing positive reviews for the upcoming second season.

Turns out, “The Boys” is so much different than I thought it would be. It’s gory, foul-mouthed, cynical, and hard-R. Yet, those attributes aren’t negatives. They work. The show has far better production value than I anticipated and some of the characters have real depth.

The best part of “The Boys” is the relationship between Hughie (Jack Quaid) and Starlight (Erin Moriarty). Quaid and Moriarty both have an interesting mix of stillness and empathy. They act in small movements and controlled looks. It’s easy to like them. It’s easy to root for them. Without this relationship, and the excellent performances by the pair, this show would be a noisy mess. But they keep it tethered and give it unexpected resonance. I did not think I’d be moved by “The Boys,” yet the grief Hughie feels is palpable and the betrayal/confusion Starlight conveys is heartrending.

That said, the show has problems. I don’t understand what they’re trying to do with The Deep (Chace Crawford), for example. He sexually assaults Starlight, but his comeuppance is to get benched in Sandusky, Ohio? And he’s an eco-warrior who might be romantically linked with dolphins?

And what’s up with Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott)? I hope season two gives her more to do, because there’s a potential redemption arc for her that could be interesting. But in season one, Maeve is in the background playing second fiddle to Homelander and alternating between friend and foe to Starlight.

Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Homelander (Antony Starr) are positioned as the show leads, but that’s because their over-the-top characters grab all the attention. Butcher, in particular, is a bombastic collection of nothing. He’s a stock character from an early Guy Ritchie film–preening, quipping, and raging toward no end. Urban does furrowed-brow mean guy well, but there’s got to be more to this character. Same with Homelander. Making him a pure sociopath is too easy.

Usability matters: I have a slight bias against Amazon shows. I’ve watched plenty of Amazon’s series, and most are no better or worse than the stuff you get on other platforms. My unease is caused by the Amazon Prime Video interface. I find the Prime menus busy and unpolished. Even though the content is decent, it feels like the used DVD bin of streaming services.