It felt a little like San Diego Comic Con at SXSW on Saturday morning, when The Boys panel took the stage. It wasn’t as large as Hall H, but Ballroom D is plenty big and it was crowded with fans eagerly anticipating seeing the trailer for Season 3 and hearing from Eric Kripke and the cast. And they did not disappoint – they showed the trailer on the big screens and there were audible gasps from the audience (link at end of article fyi)
For days, the fandom has been guessing that Imagine Dragons has joined The Boys family thanks to some twitter bantering, and the trailer confirmed that – perfect song for an amazing sequence of glimpses of what’s to come. From the unlikely musical sequence to Homelander’s disturbing fascination with milking a cow to the requisite blood and gore and humor mixed in, the trailer leaves little doubt that the new season is going to up the ante even over the last. Butcher’s laser eyes and Soldier Boy’s smirk are indelible images that make June 3 damn hard to wait for. And that last glimpse of an unkempt Soldier Boy breaking his bonds, just that look on his face….omg, bring it!
For Supernatural fans like me, having Eric Kripke and Jensen Ackles working together again is a dream come true. There was even a little Supernatural Easter egg in the trailer, with a ‘We’ve got work to do’ from-the-trunk closing shot that I loved. I am a die hard Supernatural fan forever, but I fell in love with The Boys from the pilot episode and just keep being more and more fascinated and entertained by it.
The panel was moderated by Christian Slater, fittingly enough ‘the narrator’ in the animated series The Boys Presents: Diabolical. Eric Kripke was joined by Karl Urban, Laz Alonso, Karen Fukuhara, Chace Crawford, Jessie T. Usher and Jensen Ackles.
Ackles, the “new kid” on the show who joins in Season 3 as Soldier Boy, said he was nervous about joining a show that he already was a fan of, and that he “geeked out” over his talented castmates.
Jensen: it was a thrilling ride to be on and I can’t wait for you guys to see it!
He definitely got maybe even more than he bargained for, which makes June 3 even harder to wait for. Going from a show on the CW to one on a streaming service like Prime Video changes what you’re allowed to do substantially (and removes the weirdness of two seasoned hunters like Sam and Dean having the most PG13 language ever)
Jensen: I thought we’re gonna level up here, gloves are coming off, it’s gonna be all the things I couldn’t do with standards and practices. And then I read the script and I’m like, I can’t do that!
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.
‘The Boys’ kicks off its newest incarnation on March 4 with “The Boys Presents: Diabolical,” an 8 episode animated anthology series that takes place within the same universe as the original series, which in turn was based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Plenty of other well-known names are also contributors, including Awkwafina, Garth Ennis, Eliot Glazer and Ilana Glazer, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Simon Racioppa, Justin Roiland and Ben Bayouth, Andy Samberg, and Aisha Tyler.
While we all wait for Season 3 of ‘The Boys’ in June – and the introduction of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy – the animated series fills in some blanks and provides some even more over the top entertainment. Diabolical was described as a series that “plunges elbow-deep into the unseen crevices of superhero violence audiences have devoured—and emerges with a fistful of insanity.” That part turned out to be true, but surprisingly so did another teaser in the press release: “Diabolical has something for everyone—everyone who enjoys blood-drenched but also shockingly emotional television. It’s cartoons with the safeties off!”
Of course, that’s an advantage of animation versus live action – the show really can portray anything it can get away with. And it does. I’m not nearly as much of a fan of the blood-drenched aspect as many of The Boys fans, but I’ve been fascinated by the psychological and sociological messages of the original show. To my pleasant surprise, ‘Diabolical’ picks up those themes too (along with a lot of blood and guts). I’m a big fan of watching shows an episode at a time, maybe because I didn’t grow up binge watching, but Diabolical lends itself to that since each episode tackles a different theme and focuses on a different character, usually one we don’t yet know. So, as a means of whetting your appetite for all of Diabolical on Friday, here are some thoughts on Episode One, which pays homage to classic American cartoons.
The first episode is titled ‘Laser Baby’s Day Out,’ and introduces Simon, a Vought researcher assigned to one particular laser eyed baby. In keeping with what we know about how Vought treats its subjects, from Homelander’s tragic childhood to its lab full of often failed human experiments, the babies are there to make themselves useful by getting control of their lethal powers – or else. There’s an intimidating security guy there to see to it that Simon makes sure Laser Baby fulfills her supe potential.
Simon, on the other hand, is a very human everyman just doing his job, but as the time limit for Laser Baby to prove herself draws near, increasingly a father figure whose parental instincts are firing thanks to the baby’s growing attachment to him. From my perspective as a psychologist, that makes sense. We’re all wired to respond to certain ‘demand characteristics’ that infants possess – their oversized eyes and heads, the way they cling, the sound of their crying. Simon is not immune, as much as he tries to be (and neither are we, watching). He begins to fantasize about taking Laser Baby home and being a dad to her, never mind that she could slice him into ribbons with her eyes. In spite of how ridiculous that sounds, as a parent myself, it was impossible for me not to start rooting for Laser Baby and the bumbling but well-intentioned Simon.
One of the fascinating things about ‘The Boys’ in all its incarnations is how much it leads all its characters (and us as viewers too) down the slippery slope of where good intentions often lead. We clearly see evidence that the babies are dangerous from the start, but when Laser Baby can only laser accidentally when she sneezes and is put on the termination list, we’re somehow on her side anyway. Simon goes all out to save ‘his’ baby when she escapes, pursuing her in a hilarious chase across the city with first the intimidating guard and then the whole Vought security team after them.
In typical cartoon fashion, both the unlikely escapes and the graphic violence are over the top – there is SO much blood and gore that you can’t help but laugh as the baby cluelessly crawls through the resulting mess of blood and guts she’s created and gets away each time, leaving red knee and hand prints as she goes. The ridiculousness of the scene is part of both its humor and its chillingness because she looks like an adorable little crawling baby and there are giant men with huge guns confronting her. The chase scene is sprinkled with pop culture references from The Boys universe and in general, from King Kong to a poster in the local zoo of The Deep proclaiming that “Piranhas Need Love Too”. You can imagine what happened at that point in the episode. No, of course I wouldn’t cheer if a Vought sharpshooter almost caught up to the baby and a piranha ate his face.
I won’t give away the ending, but Simon and the baby end up on top of a skyscraper as he wraps the baby up in his coat and she calls him ‘Dada’. You need to watch the episode on Prime Video to find out whether they escape the Vought security team ready to swoop in.
I was hooked on Diabolical from this first episode. I love the way this universe is constantly pulling me in multiple directions, including directions that I absolutely know I should not be going in. I love the way it manipulates and stretches and questions a sense of right and wrong and that it’s dark as hell yet has moments of optimism and hope anyway in the resilience of its characters fighting against impossible odds.
This episode, like many in the original series, challenged my original perspective. It’s easy to see the threat of a human with lethal super powers and assess that as a 100% bad thing when you’re watching an adult onscreen – it’s a lot harder to root against that same human when you’re watching an adorable baby. Like Simon, we all feel like we’re bumbling through life sometimes, almost missing the elevator and then getting your coat caught when the doors close, being intimidated by the office bully, and just trying to do our jobs. We all want to make a difference somehow and most of us care – about someone. When that someone is threatened, how far would we go to save them? As a long time fan of executive producer Eric Kripke’s series ‘Supernatural’, that’s a familiar question – and I love that he’s still asking it.
You can watch ‘Diabolical’ starting March 4 on Prime Video. ‘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.
Stay tuned for more Diabolical – there are seven more totally out there episodes in Season 1! And don’t forget, Season 3 of ‘The Boys’ with the amazing returning cast and Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy joining in the fun premieres on June 3!
I can’t let March 1 go by without wishing a happy birthday to Jensen Ackles, who has made a significant impact on so many people’s lives, including mine.
I love so much about Supernatural, but I don’t think I would have been as captivated by Dean Winchester as I was 16 years ago if someone other than Jensen had played him. The way he cared about that character, making him nuanced and complicated, imperfect and heroic, and achingly real, made all the difference. Add to that, the way he and Jared Padalecki became brothers on set and off brought the Winchesters to life and created a relationship and a story so unique and powerful that I will literally never get over it.
It’s been a rough few years, and a really rough last month – I recently lost my OG partner in crime Kathy, who fell into Supernatural with me way back in 2006, so I’ve been thinking a lot about those early days that we wrote about in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’. We were both ‘Dean girls’ which means that Kathy and I spent a lot of time appreciating one Jensen Ackles. We spent whole weekends binge watching Jensen’s earlier shows and movies, rewinding (yes, it was that long ago) favorite scenes from Dark Angel and Dawson’s Creek and Blonde and even Devour (yes, you know the one), sipping cold drinks and occasionally swearing or slapping each other on the knee because DAYUM.
We loved all of his performances, but he drew us in with his brilliant portrayal of Dean Winchester, and that ended up changing both of our lives. Half of our story in ‘Fangasm’ was the two of us propelled by some permutation of “how can we meet Jensen Ackles” into roadtrips and flights and online communities and all kinds of unlikely adventures. How do you thank someone for inspiring something like that??
Over the past 16 years, my appreciation for Jensen has evolved –not that I’m not still a Dean girl, because that is FOREVER, but I also have a lot more genuine appreciation for how hard Jensen works and how much he cares about what he does. Because I care so much about Dean too, I am incredibly grateful for that. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the set and watch him work, and to talk with him about the show and the character many times over the years (and to play an ongoing game of guess-what-was-an-adlib which even he will admit I got frighteningly good at). Dean fascinates me as a psychologist, and I have loved discussing what makes him tick with Jensen – who invariably gets him better than I or anyone else ever could.
I’ve seen how much he puts into a performance, and witnessed firsthand how emotional he is when he’s just gone through something traumatic as Dean. It’s striking, and for me as a non-actor, frightening in how much it clearly takes out of an actor who embodies a character like that. I’ve seen how much he cares, and how much he puts into trying to make a scene ‘right’ – for Dean. I’ll appreciate that always.
I’ll be over here mourning Supernatural forever, which will surprise exactly no one reading this, but as I write this in 2022 I’m also so excited for all the amazing new things Jensen’s doing – if anyone thought all the Supernatural actors wouldn’t be a success after the show ended, they were certainly wrong! I can’t wait to see him bring a new character to life on The Boys, reunited with Eric Kripke on a show I’ve been watching since the start and loving (and enjoying dissecting of course).
As we all wait with great anticipation for Season 3 of The Boys (and for Supernatural fans especially, Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy) the universe of the series expands even more in March with an 8 episode animated anthology series The Boys Presents: Diabolical. The episodes, which are animated shorts of 12 to 14 minutes, will all premiere on March 4 on Prime Video for easy bingeing.
Diabolical episodes will each have their own animation style, and are all set in the same universe as the original series, though showrunner Eric Kripke tweeted that “a couple are canon, the rest are just insane.” It’s hard to fathom that they are MORE insane than the original, which has set the bar pretty high, but if anyone should know, it’s Mr. Kripke!
He added, “And you guys, trust me, they turned out so so good.”
I do trust him, which has led me down the road to ‘ruin’ for over fifteen years, that’s the problem! Which means, of course, I’m looking forward to these mini episodes of bonus material for the series. If we thought The Boys pushed the envelope with its live action, imagine what it can do with the limitless opportunity offered by animation! The teaser lives up to its name, starting out looking and sounding like a harmless Animaniacs episode and abruptly devolving into… well, I’ll let you watch it yourselves! (link at the end of the article).
The Boys universe will expand even more next year with Varsity, a new show that is set at a college for young adult superheroes that’s run by (who else?) Vought International. The show is described as R rated (which should surprise no one) and irreverent (again, no surprise) – it should be interesting to see who’s successful in moving up in the ranks toward being part of The Seven.
As for Diabolical, in addition to Kripke, Awkwafina, Garth Ennis, Eliot Glazer and Ilana Glazer, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Simon Racioppa, Justin Roiland and Ben Bayouth, Andy Samberg, and Aisha Tyler are all involved with Diabolical. The Boys is based on The New York Times best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson and was developed by executive producer and showrunner Eric Kripke.
The original series returns in June with a focus on original supe troop Payback, featuring the discovery of Soldier Boy.
Jensen Ackles recently described him as an old man with all those sensibilities and definitely not a good guy – but obviously the old man looks like Jensen Ackles, so how confusing is that gonna be? I can’t wait!