I reviewed the first episode of Diabolical earlier this week, with a teaser about what the new animated series is all about and how it kicks off. Today all eight episodes are available to watch on Prime Video, so here are some thoughts on the other seven episodes of this innovative show. They’re ‘fun sized’ episodes so you can watch as many as you’re up for – and it’s a welcome fix of The Boys universe for fans waiting impatiently for Season 3 to finally release in June.
Episode 2 Introduces Supes with some Weird Powers
Weird is actually an understatement. Again switching the perspective from “the boys” who are fighting against Vought to the supes themselves, this episode is all about some of the children whose parents sold their chance at a normal life for money in exchange for doping them with Compound V and making them into lab rats. When the parents find out that their kids didn’t get any of the really cool powers and won’t be joining The Seven any time soon, they returned them to Vought instead of dealing with the challenges. That in itself is incredibly disturbing – I can’t even deal with the thought of ‘returning’ a pet adopted from the SPCA let alone a child!
Vought houses the kids at an orphanage of sorts for kids with “shit powers.”
The emotional punch of this episode is in the sense of betrayal that the kids feel when they learn that their parents adopted them for a chance to get rich and then abandoned them, complaining that they wanted their lives back. The fun of the episode is that the writers got to go totally off the rails and create the most outrageous super powers they could think of. I can imagine them sitting in the writers’ room just giggling as they try to outdo each other.
Sometimes the humor makes me eyeroll even as I snicker. There’s Picante Balls, who can melt anything with his testicles and walks around with more bowlegs than Jensen Ackles.
There’s Boobie Face, with giant swinging boobs in place of eyes. Some of the failed supes are funny only until you think about it, like the supe that turns into various animals but his cognitive ability transforms too, or Ghost, who can’t touch anything or be touched by anything and stares forlornly at the food she can’t eat.
The abandoned supes, now adolescents mostly, decide to take revenge on their parents, all set to Hootie and the Blowfish’s ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’. Have to admit, I loved the poetic justice of some of the (bloody gory disgusting) ways the supe kids went after their parents. (I mean, you can imagine what Picante Balls does, right?)
Favorite part of this episode? It’s a meta episode! Narrated by one of the failed supes, whose power is that he always tells people what’s going on.
Supe: That’s right, I’m the Narrator.
Title card 3 minutes in: Shrug, we can do whatever we want.
As a long time Supernatural fan, I love the little bits of fourth wall breaking that executive producer Eric Kripke made an integral part of that show too. That is literally a big part of the point of The Boys and Diabolical – doing whatever the hell they want!
Episode 3 ‘I’m Your Pusher’ – Written by Garth Ennis!
Episode 3 of opens with another bit of meta. A comic book is grabbed from the racks – ‘The Boys’ written by Garth Ennis! This episode is also written by Ennis, ripped from the pages of the original comic and featuring Billy Butcher and Hughie – voiced by Simon Pegg! Simon was how the character of Hughie was originally conceived, but wasn’t right to play him in the live series by the time it aired – but he gets to here. There’s also some original cover art by Darick Robertson. This episode is more directly tied to the canon of the original series, and also to the truly original comics.
Butcher confronts the pusher for information about a supe he supplies known as the Great Wide Wonder. Not only do we get to hear about his heroin enemas, we get to see some of that too. Yay? Butcher intimidates the pusher into adding a substance Frenchie has mixed up to the next treatment. He does, so when Homelander and Queen Maeve host a rally to recognize the Great Wide Wonder, he arrives looking totally tweaked out after his special treatment. His super power is that he flies fast, like around the world, but this time he goes so fast he starts running into buildings and destroying things on his way.
Homelander (who clearly doesn’t like him and with purposeful irony): How high he has flown…
Antony Starr voices Homelander here too and made me laugh out loud at that delivery.
Great Wide Wonder is supposed to fly through a flaming ring in the middle of the river in front of the gathered crowd, but instead he flies right into the hapless supe holding the ring, emerging with entrails around his neck as he lands in the water in a pool of blood.
Homelander: Oh Jesus Fucking Christ
Queen Maeve wearily spins the narrative, echoing what we’ve seen in the original series, and Homelander goes along, swearing to avenge the Great Wide Way. Butcher is triumphant, but Hughie looks around at the destruction and bystanders throwing up and isn’t so sure.
It’s an interesting addition to the canon of The Boys universe, with some nice treats for the comics fans too.
Episode 4 – Social Media On Steroids
Episode 4 is titled “Boyd in 3D” and it’s tragic – and one of my favorites. The original series has commented a great deal on the impact of social media on all of us and the way that we’re manipulated through it. While that focus has usually been on its use by an evil corporation like Vought, this episode is at its core more about its everyday impact on all of us.
Boyd, who lives in Apartment 3D (haha), is a relatable everyman, scrolling Instagram and walking dogs for a living, almost getting run over by a truck in the process. He’s got a crush on his attractive neighbor Cherry, who has an asshole boyfriend and an inferiority complex because she hates her freckles. (Every Jensen Ackles fan who’s now watching The Boys just scratched their head at that).
When Boyd gets a piece of her mail, he very much wants to give it to her, but is sure she won’t give him the time of day.
They both are addicted to the handy dandy Vought Visage app that lets them look like a supe (Translucent is a blank screen haha). In an uncomfortably realistic portrayal of how it feels in 2022 to click on one ad for a new kind of frying pan and then be stalked by frying pan companies online for weeks, Boyd clicks on the Homelander one and then gets a message from Vought.
‘Like what you see? Testers needed.’
Driven by social media-fueled self loathing and his desire to look good so he can have the courage to knock on Cherry’s door, Boyd ends up strapped into a chair in a lab and given some serum from people in white coats. They promise that it will “sculpt your face into whatever you imagine so the outer you will finally match the inner you”. You can trust us, they assure him, and he does.
The newly sculpted Boyd and Cherry live a charmed life for a while, going on dates and chronicling it all on social media set to Dua Lipa, Boyd frantically rubbing the magic cream on his face and his biceps and his dick when it starts to wear off. Cherry eventually finds it and tries it too, turning into an animated cat person – which she declares she always wanted to be. They become instant celebrities, follower counts into the hundreds of millions, living in a big house with a pool – where they float on rafts and drift away from each other quite literally, each captivated by their phones.
Predictably, also in an uncomfortably realistic analogy of what happens in real life on social media, the internet eventually turns on the new celebs, accusing him of bestiality and being a furry and shaming him with “stop fucking your pet, dude”. She gets arrested, their followers go down, they get banned from social media and Ashley fires them from their contracts with Vought. They fight, brutally, hurt each other, break up – and then eventually get back together, as their real selves. Boyd tells Cherry not to hide her freckles; Cherry tells him what he always wanted to hear, “I see you, Boyd Dune.”
There’s a twist ending that I won’t give away, but it’s a shocker – and sobering. What I was most struck by in this episode was Boyd and Cherry’s journey. As a psychologist who studies fandom and celebrity, watching these everyday people get sucked into the lure of creating a persona, vulnerable because of longstanding feelings of insecurity, was painful. Anyone can become quickly ‘famous’ on the internet largely due to luck, but sustaining that celebrity status is both damaging and next to impossible. The progression upwards is intoxicating; the slide downward is excruciating. And in all corners of fandom, the ‘purity police’ is always waiting to accuse people on a pedestal of doing something deemed not okay (or even their fellow fans). This episode got all that right, and it was uncomfortable to watch – but that’s one of the things I love about this universe!
Awkwafina Contributes a Truly Bizarre Episode
Episode 5 was written by Awkwafina, who also voices the main character. Titled “BFFs”, the teaser ominously announces ‘Inject Compound V and gets superpowers. Drink Compound V and uh… this happens.”
That is as good a description as any, in an episode that follows a teenager named Skye who desperately wants to be accepted by the popular girls. Lonely after moving to a new town and without friends, she lets them convince her to get in a drug dealer’s car to score them some weed. He turns out to be dealing more than just weed, and she eventually leaves with a vial of V. Rejected by the mean girls anyway, Skye drinks the vial she stole, convinced that they’re right and it’s not really V anyway.
Except it apparently is. It’s hard to describe what happens next without seeing it, because this episode is pure fantasy, and like the best dreams, absolutely ridiculous. When she goes to poop, Skye expels a mass of things she’s ingested over the years that didn’t come out, which is kinda hilarious. A marble, a piece of corn, something she ate at a bat mitzvah that made her fart, all clumped together in a poop-like mass that is nevertheless almost cute. Almost.
Skye puts false eyelashes and a bow on it and combs the 3 straggly hairs stuck in it and it says she’s beautiful and is surprisingly sassy and names itself Areola. The Deep (who was the intended recipient of that vial) tracks them down looking for his stolen V and offers Skye $1000 and a refurbished iPad and to get back to her happy life, but Skye eventually realizes that her life actually wasn’t so happy before. She rips up his check and flushes Areola down the toilet to save her, which…. Look, I said it was ridiculous!
Confronting The Deep in the sewers, Areola reminds Skye that she’s always been powerful, and her new super power manifests – she can control shit. No shit. Does Skye and her shit prevail? You’ll have to watch to find out.
I am so tempted to put my psychoanalytic hat on for this one, because it is rich in symbolism and human struggles to solidify our sense of self and come to accept the parts of us that are ‘dirty’ or hidden…but I won’t go there. It’s right in line with pushing the boundaries and that giggling-in-the-writers-room dynamic that Diabolical revels in because who needs to outgrow jokes about poop anyway? Kudos, Awkwafina, for having the guts to go there!
Nicole Byer, Chace Crawford, Seth Rogen and Grey Griffin (a Supernatural alum from the Scoobynatural episode) also star.
Aisha Tyler Writes a ‘Diabolical’ Take on Divorce, Supe Style
The sixth episode tackles another relevant subject – divorce. The teaser for ‘Nubian vs Nubian’ says ‘divorce is complicated. Divorce with a kid, even more so. Superheroes getting divorced with a kid who’s determined for that NOT to happen? There will be blood…’
Well of course there will be, this is The Boys. This episode is half just a very relatable story about a little girl who doesn’t want her parents to get divorced, and half a cautionary tale about wanting power and valuing it more than relationships. Power corrupts, after all.
Nubia Queen of Thunder and the Nubian Prince meet while teaming up to take down GroundHawk, another supe who used to be a hero and a friend, but went darkside and robbed a bank. Interestingly, from the start I was more sympathetic to Groundhawk than I expected to be, as he complains that he never got anything from putting his life on the line and being a supe. The Nubians bond over defeating him though, brutally and bloodily per usual.
Skip to present day, the parents fighting and about to get a divorce. Their daughter Maya comes up with a plan to remind her parents of how they got together – and looks up Groundhawk to help. Again I kinda feel for this guy, who offers her a drink and assures her he’s not a pedo – that he doesn’t even have fingers and is more focused on staring into the void and trying not to gravely injure himself with his hammer hands when he pees. He tells Maya that the fight was set up and scripted by Vought, as we know so much of the supes’ experiences are, but she still wants to reenact it and he finally reluctantly agrees, partly because she threatens to tell everyone he’s a pedo and partly because “I can’t jack off so I may as well smash some heads”. Shades of sexual frustration and violence!
He pretends to grab her, the Nubians come to the rescue, and it seems to work as they team up – and beat the crap out of Groundhawk in the process. (He’s still sympathetic to me, even yelling out ‘oh shit kid, you okay?’ when he drops her by accident). Maya tries to get her parents to stop, finally saying that she made him do it, but they’re totally sucked into the shared violence and power, blood covering Maya as she watches. She tries to drown that out as much as she tries to drown out their equally loud lovemaking after – and finally is on board with the divorce after all as they go right back to fighting.
Will the Nubians finally call it quits? And will Maya get the motherfuckin’ pony she was promised if they do? Tune in to find out.
This episode was one of the more hard hitting and depressing, but it had a lot to say about the way power and violence are an integral part of what happens to all the supes.
You Might Need Tissues for Andy Samberg’s Episode
Episode 7 is ‘John and Sun Hee’. It is the least stereotypical episode for The Boys universe and probably the one that stuck with me the most. It’s a universal story in spite of its preposterous events, and one that was hard hitting in the midst of a pandemic that has resulted in so much loss and grief for so many people, myself included. Written by Andy Sambreg, surprisingly, the story is of an elderly woman who is dying, her husband grieving as he looks around at the photos of their happy life together. Unable to stand losing her, John puts on his janitor uniform and enters Vought Tower, shooting the guard with a taser and stealing some Compound V. He injects his wife, but the Vought guards find them and try to suffocate her with a pillow, saying she had pancreatic cancer, so make it look natural. She struggles and then throws the guy off as blood splatters all over, the guy clutching his ears.
Sun-Hee: Did I do that?
John doesn’t care, is only concerned with rescuing his wife, renting an isolated cabin in the woods where he hopes to hide out. She keeps asking what he did to her; he keeps saying what matters is that she’s better. As a long time Supernatural fan, it’s a familiar theme – how far would you go to save the life of someone you love more than anything else? Where’s the line between right and wrong here?
Unfortunately, the blue stuff that’s inside Sun-Hee won’t stay contained, first killing all the Vought men pursuing them by ripping through their bodies Raiders of the Lost Ark style, and then just bursting out and forming into a living glob in the forest, consuming every living thing around it as it grows and grows and grows.
Talk about a slippery slope when it comes to ethical decisions! In fact, this episode reminded me of Kohlberg’s famous ethical dilemmas that he used to come up with his theory of moral development that I teach every semester in my graduate Human Development class. Faced with the decision of trying to save his wife, Hans struggles with how far it’s okay to go to do that – just as John does here.
John cannot bear the thought of losing her, especially when he just got her back, but Sun-Hee is clear on what’s the right thing to do. I did not expect to cry over an episode of Diabolical, but here we are. The Boys universe is as much about grief and loss as it is about anything, and so this episode (written by Andy Samberg no less) fits in even if on the surface it seems outside the usual fare. It’s got the requisite blood and gore and destruction, sure, and the questions about the moral greyness of so much of our world – but it also has some very universal things to say about how we humans love and deal with inevitable loss.
‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’ Wraps Its First Season with Homelander’s Arrival
The final episode is ‘One Plus One Equals Two’, which carries the tag line, ‘Even a great American hero like Homelander had to start somewhere.’ To finish out the series’ first season, this episode takes us right up to the original show’s canon, as Stan Edgar introduces the newest addition to the Vought crime fighting family. I was personally thrilled to have Stillwell back again, because I loved her character and miss her being part of the show.
Homelander starts out looking scared and uncertain, facing a giant crowd for the first time, near to panic – but then he latches onto the script that he needs and begins telling a story, perhaps even trying to believe it a little bit. A childhood baseball team, playing catch with his Dad, dreaming of hitting a home run – juxtaposed with flashbacks of being terrorized and experimented on in his real childhood, thrown into the ring to fight literal monsters. The graphic glimpse of what’s always underneath informs the character so much.
He makes the mistake of saying he’ll team up with ‘my friend’ Black Noir, allowing him to share the stage and then take over, much to Stillwell’s annoyance. She is brutal in correcting Homelander’s mistaken impression that Noir is a friend, saying that he’s there to watch him and be sure he follows the script, and that he doesn’t want Homelander in his No. 1 spot.
Stillwell is brilliantly and disturbingly manipulative here, half mother figure and half crush, using physical closeness and touch to keep him under her power. He tries to cover his erection as she walks away, telling him to drop the “the” and just be Homelander. Her words ring in his ears as Homelander decides not to wait for Black Noir on their next ‘mission’ to save some hostages taken by an environmental liberation front. He claims he’s not there to hurt anyone, saying violence is no way to effect change and if they come peacefully he’ll make sure their cause is considered, and I think he even means it. Predictably, things go south pretty quickly – because no one makes good decisions with violent flashbacks ringing in your head in the midst of a life and death situation. We also see the chilling beginnings of Homelander’s powers of rationalization as he refuses to take any blame, standing in a bloody pile of corpses and murmuring “no no no no, fuck, they made me do that, I didn’t want to.”
It’s a pretty tragic start, and the ending that I won’t spoil both sets up the original series and brings goosebumps it’s so chilling.
Chris Lennertz did the music for this episode and it’s amazing, and Giancarlo Esposito, Elisabeth Shue and Antony Starr reprised their roles, along with Grey Griffin, who is always awesome.
Every episode of this unique series is different – and brings not only the expected snickers and ewwws, but some surprisingly serious and universal emotions too. I love that The Boys universe always keeps me guessing! You can watch Diabolical on Prime Video, starting on March 4. The Boys Presents: Diabolical is executive produced by Simon Racioppa, Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Neal H. Moritz, Pavun Shetty, Ori Marmur, Ken F. Levin, Jason Netter, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Michaela Starr, Loreli Alanís, Chris Prynoski, Shannon Prynoski, and Ben Kalina. The Boys Presents: Diabolical is produced by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television Studios, with Titmouse, Kripke Enterprises, Original Film, and Point Grey Pictures.
Hopefully there will be more! In the meantime, The Boys Season 3 premieres on June 3!
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