Amazon’s new superhero satire, The Boys, has taken the superhero show to a new level – and its most interesting character is The Deep, a phenomenally complex Aquaman spoof. The Boys – an adaptation of the Garth Ennis comic of the same name – twists the superhero formula to show how heroes would become corporate celebrities, and focuses on a group of humans who hate them for what they have suffered at their hands. Add to this multiple conspiracies – one by Vought (the corporation that controls the supes) to create heroes, and another by Homelander to create supervillains – it’s no wonder that The Boys has become one of Amazon’s most-watched series.
The Boys is packed with complex and compelling characters, from the diabolical Homelander to revenge-driven Butcher, the innocent new recruit Starlight to the unlikely vigilante Hughie. The depth of the characters is what takes this show from gory superhero-reversal-fun and turns it into a truly brilliant show that skewers the ideas of fame, revenge, and right vs. wrong. However, one character stands out among the rest, and surprisingly, it’s not one of the biggest names. Instead, it’s the Deep, a member of the Seven who has ocean powers (and can talk to fish).
At the start of The Boys, it seems clear that the Deep is just an awful person; he’s vain, he lies about his position in the Seven, and of course, he sexually assaults Starlight (it wasn’t his first time, either). Furthermore, his powers aren’t too impressive, he’s the joke who can talk to fish, and there seems to be nothing to redeem him. However, what makes the Deep interesting isn’t a redemption arc – it’s watching his issues come to light, and seeing him start to break down. It slowly becomes clear that he struggles, hugely, with his place in the Seven as a “diversity hire”, and that out of the existing members, he has the biggest issues with being controlled by the corporation. He’s driven by a desire to help sea creatures and the environment, but is limited, and as his assault comes to light, he’s bumped to a tiny, landlocked state, essentially booted from the Seven; he’s later assaulted himself, too. He’s also the only supe who has an actual physical difference – his gills – that he sees as a deformity.
Although all of the supes are slowly revealed as more complex than they first appear (as are the Boys themselves) the Deep is one that doesn’t have a neat arc – he isn’t a pure villain or driven entirely by revenge like Homelander and Butcher, he doesn’t overcome adversity like Starlight or discover himself like Hughie; he doesn’t even have the junkie-story that A-Train does. Instead, his story refuses to fit into any narrative box, and he manages to have both some of the most disturbing scenes in the series and some of the funniest. His attempted dolphin-rescue goes from comedy to tragedy in a heartbeat, and the way that this character shifts gears is a joy to watch. Seeing the Deep become lost – go from aggressor to victim and struggle with his body image – and see his conflicting desires to be both a famous hero and someone who actually helps the planet is stuff that great characters are made of.
Of course, this is massively helped by the talents of Chace Crawford, an actor who gives a stunning performance as this struggling superhero. His final scene – where the Deep stands naked in front of a mirror, desperately shaving his head – is one that sums up his character beautifully; he doesn’t get the triumphant battle that Starlight does, or even a shocking collapse like A-Train. Instead, he remains lost, struggling with self-loathing, and the audience has no idea where he will go next. Thankfully, as The Boys has already been renewed for a second season, there will be plenty of time to explore the Deep further, and see where else this fascinating superhero can go.
Next: What To Expect From The Boys Season 2