“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, Ilana Glazer, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Simon Racioppa, Justin Roiland and Ben Bayouth, Andy Samberg, and Aisha Tyler.
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 super 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 handprints 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 episodes in Season 1!