This post contains spoilers for The Boys and the first five seasons of Supernatural.
Sometimes you just watch a show because you like the showrunner. As a longtime fan of Eric Kripke, it was Kripke himself, more so than The Boys‘ source material or cast, that motivated me to watch The Boys. (Although, admittedly, I will watch pretty much anything for Karl Urban.) It’s my familiarity with Supernatural, of which Kripke was a creator and showrunner for the first five seasons, that influences my experience of watching of The Boys. My ultimate enjoyment of The Boys can be partly attributed to the fact that I spotted Kripke’s signatures throughout, as he wove in tropes and motifs that I recognized from Supernatural into his adaptation of a not so great comic. Supernatural is, as fans are acutely aware, about to air its final season (which, 15 years—those boys deserve it.) And in watching The Boys, it triggered not only nostalgia but affection for a series that has become so much more than even Kripke could have predicted. The following list functions not only as a run down of the parallels and echoes of Supernatural that can be found in The Boys, but a reminiscence.
In the pilot of The Boys, Hughie watches as A-Train kills his girlfriend in a truly horrific way. Robin’s death is then exploited by Billy Butcher to draw Hughie into what is initially a revenge-plot against the Vought Corporation. For fans familiar with Supernatural, it’s hard not to see Hughie as Sam Winchester. In the pilot, Sam’s girlfriend Jessica is murdered (by the same demon who killed his mother, for added emotional trauma), and her death is what motivates Sam to join up with his brother Dean on what is, initially, a simple revenge mission.
Guilty Ghostly Visions
But wait! There’s more! In addition to the dead girlfriend being the motivating factor for our protagonists, both Sam and Hughie see visions of their dead girlfriend throughout the series. Hughie sees visions of Robin when he’s with Annie—manifestations of his guilt that keep him focused on the goal of avenging Robin’s death. Similarly, Sam would periodically sees Jess’s ghost—especially in the context of when he thought about giving up the hunt—which would put him back on mission and keep him romantically uninvolved.
Luke and Han
In Kripke’s original pitch for Supernatural (which was published on the occasion of the 300th episode), the brothers Sam and Dean are patterned off of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. In Kripke’s words:
If Sam’s the good kid, Dean’s the troublemaker. If Sam’s Luke Skywalker, Dean’s Han Solo.
This dynamic been absent from his last two projects, which have featured women as the leads, but in The Boys, it’s back. Hughie is our point of view character through which we learn about the world, but he needs the foil of Butcher in order for us to really appreciate Hughie’s genuine goodness. It’s probably not at all surprising that the child of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan would have the perfect balance of non-threatening aura of the boy next door, but it really works here when he’s pitted against Urban, who gets to play darker than I’ve seen him in years. (Who remembers Almost Human?)
Cosmic Entities are Dicks
In season four of Supernatural the show jumped the shark and never came back down. When Dean is sent to hell for his deal with the devil, season four opens with Dean’s miraculous resurrection—literally. Dean is raised by an angel. But rather than being divine beings who altruistically do good, it’s revealed that the Angels have a sinister agenda—and they’re dicks. Replace “angels” with “supers” (or even just Homelander), and you see the same premise unfold in The Boys. Supers may do many “heroic” things, but it’s not without an agenda. Sometimes the people who are following that agenda aren’t aware of it (see: Castiel in Supernatural and Annie in The Boys), and, as genuine believers, they become the most unlikely but lovable rebels.
The True Believer Turned Rebel For Love
In The Boys, its Starlight who believes in superheroes and the noble ideas they stand for. When she realizes the fake, constructed, agenda-driven nature of being part of The Seven, she decides to rebel and be the real hero that she thought her heroes were. In Supernatural, when Castiel realizes that Heaven had an agenda that would not only end up in the destruction of humanity but of Dean, he rebels against Heaven, and truly becomes a guardian angel. And they both do it for love.
True Love and Real Conversations Happen on Park Benches
This is another parallel between Dean and Castiel’s relationship and Hughie and Annie’s. The first time that Hughie and Annie meet, they’re sitting on a park bench. It’s real enough and deep enough that the conversation quickly turns into a profound bond that leads to Annie’s revelations about the source of her powers, what really happened to her father, and is the impetus for her to face off against A-Train in a showdown in the finale to protect Hughie. It all starts from that park bench conversation.
In Supernatural, while Dean and Castiel have interacted several times, the scene in which Castiel first speaks honestly about his feelings about being an angel, and his doubts about God and his mission, takes place on a park bench. The conversation is the start of the profound bond between Dean and Castiel that will lead to his revelations about Heaven’s plans, and his eventual rebellion. And it all starts from that conversation on a park bench.
Corporations are the Real Evil
In Supernatural the audience comes to discover that not only are angels dicks, but they essentially have a corporate agenda, manipulating humanity in general (and Dean in particular) while marketing themselves as having humanity’s true interests at heart. Replace “Heaven” with “Vought” and you have the same corporate critique. It’s worth noting that Kripke’s short-lived NBC series Timeless had this anti-corporate theme as well.
People are Doing Evil Things to Babies
One of the main discoveries/twists in The Boys is that Vought is creating superbabies through the use of Compound V. In Supernatural the yellow-eyed demon fed demon blood to babies in the 1980s (including Sam Winchester) in order to create a supersoldier for his demon army. This is a very specific trope that since I have not having read the original comics I don’t know if it was in the original source material and it’s coincidental or not.
Fundamental Christianity is Bullshit
An early episode of Supernatural exposed the non-spiritual truth of an alleged faith healer (with a supernatural twist). The “Believe Expo” that Annie attends takes this critique of performative Christianity (and specifically fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity) one step further, exposing the hypocrisy of those who claim to be the most faithful (and religious leader Ezekiel’s hypocrisy most of all).
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Okay, there aren’t any trains, but episode four of The Boys and episode four of season one of Supernatural both take place on planes. And cars, well—Kripke’s spoken a lot about the significance of Dean’s 1967 Chevrolet Impala to the show, and Sam and Dean spend a significant amount of time in the car. It’s part of the DNA of the show that the car is where Sam and Dean have their truly honest conversations.
So it’s really no surprise that Hughie and Billy also spend a lot of time in Billy’s car, having significant conversations. And Billy’s car (an early 1980’s Cadillac, likely an Eldorado or Fleetwood), while not a classic, immaculately restored ’67 Impala, is symbolic of Billy’s emotional state/stage of life in the same way that the Impala signifies Dean’s self.
Make it Meta: TV Shows/Movies inside TV Shows
Kripke first explored this idea in Supernatural in two ways. First, there was an episode called “Ghostfacers” where a group of amateur paranormal investigators run into Sam and Dean, and the episode switches back and forth between the “footage” of the investigators and the episode itself. The analog in The Boys is the American Superheroes reality TV show, and naturally, the scenes that show the filming of the show. The parallel is especially felt in the scenes that show Homelander before and after the cameras cut, and when Queen Maeve walks away from the scene she’s filming to have a private conversation that ends up not being private.
Comic Cons & Fans
In the season five episode of Supernatural “The Real Ghostbusters,” Chuck (aka God), the writer of the in-universe Supernatural book series goes to a Supernatural fan convention, and Sam and Dean also end up making an appearance. While the Supernatural episode focused on the cosplay and panel speakers, in The Boys, we see former child-star-Vought-hero Mesmer at the “Heroes and Headliners” convention (along with Billy Zane), signing autographs and taking photos with fans. Hughie himself is also a fanboy, and his fan-ness is part of what makes Robin’s death so painful (i.e. never meet your heroes).
Writing Yourself Into the Narrative
In the season two episode of Supernatural “Hollywood Babylon,” Sam and Dean investigate a horror movie set where the writer uses occult magic to get revenge for the “ruining” of his script. That’s why I wasn’t at all surprised when a writer for Vought ends up appearing at the collateral damage support group, another victim of super “heroics.” The fact that he’s played by Malcolm Barrett (who played Rufus from Timeless) was just a bonus. We also see The Deep attempting to write his memoir and staring at a blank screen, not unlike Kripke’s last episode of Supernatural, “Swan Song,” that is bookended with scenes of Chuck sitting at a computer.
You think YOU had a crappy childhood
Across all of Kripke’s shows, not just Supernatural and The Boys, fucked up childhoods are universal. For Sam and Dean, it was being raised by a father with PTSD who turned his sons into hunters. In The Boys, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose childhood didn’t suck. Frenchie was abused. Kimiko was a child soldier. A-Train’s father was killed. Homelander was raised in a lab. Annie’s mother allowed Vought to turn her daughter into a superhero through Compound V—and then spent her entire life as a superhero stage mom. Hughie might seem relatively normal, but interactions between Hughie and his father (played by Simon Pegg with an American accent) hint at other issues.
This is more of a motif than an actual recurring plot point, but Kripke is from Ohio, and it wouldn’t be a Kripke show without references to his home state. When Billy is about to go on the run, he puts Ohio plates on his car—which is exactly what Sam and Dean do when they have to ditch their Kansas license plates and go on the run.
In addition to having The Deep banished to Sandusky, Ohio, there’s also a reference to him being sent to do some promo stuff at Cedar Point, “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”
The idea for this article started off as an in-joke between me and other fans of Supernatural. It wasn’t until writing this article and seeing how long this list actually is that I became very sentimental about both series. Supernatural may be ending, but there’s a sentimental part of me that looks forward to seeing how the Supernatural influence will continue to resonate through Kripke’s new series—which was greenlighted for a second season even before it premiered. Viewing The Boys intertextually makes me love it even more.