Caution: Spoilers ahead for The Boys season 1.
The Boys offers an improved version of the Starlight sexual assault story from the comic books, adapting the infamous moment and its consequences for an era influenced by the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. In both the comic book and Amazon live-action versions of The Boys, Starlight is a bright-eyed young superhero with innocent dreams and a heartfelt desire to use her powers for good. After outgrowing her small-town roots, Starlight is accepted to join The Seven - the top superhero team operating within the U.S.
Upon achieving her goal of hitting the big leagues, however, Starlight's outlook is sent crashing down to Earth, as she realizes that the majority of her super-powered colleagues are self-centered, corrupt vigilantes only seeking to further their own reputations and use their renown to gain sex, money and influence. The Boys' comic series demonstrated this difference in ideals in no uncertain terms when, during her first meeting as a member of The Seven, Homelander, Black Noir and A-Train demand she perform sexual favors for them in order not to be fired immediately from her dream job.
The scene is uncomfortable and jarring, but completely fulfills its purpose in painting an image of a grossly unjust superhero world. As such, The Seven's assault on Starlight was retained in Amazon's adaptation of The Boys, albeit with some considerable changes. Firstly, it's The Deep alone that commits the offense, although the other members of The Seven are fully aware of what goes on and do nothing to prevent it. The biggest change, however, is in the consequences of The Deep's actions.
In The Boys' comic story, the three culprits get away with assaulting Starlight because that's the nature of their business, but they eventually get their comeuppance in an indirect way through The Boys' campaign against The Seven as a whole. A-Train in particular is punished for his part in the assault thanks to the boot of Wee Hughie.
Since The Boys was first published, however, the culture surrounding sexual assault has changed considerably, and The Seven's actions were perhaps more in tune with reality than it appeared when the comic was first released in 2006. In recent years, the horrifying frequency of assaults on women by influential members of the entertainment industry has come to light, with Harvey Weinstein's case lighting the fuse on an explosion of accusations and admissions.
Quite rightly, an increasing amount of scrutiny is being placed on the treatment of women by influential figures and, for this reason, Starlight's story had to change. The Boys is no stranger to controversy, but showing The Deep's assault in episode 1 and waiting until season 3 or 4 for justice to be served simply won't fly in the current climate. Instead, The Boys finds a unique and culturally-aware alternative that's still in keeping with the show's black humor.
Some time after The Deep's assault takes place, Starlight publicly outs his crime during a televised speech and receives a wave of support from fans. With their reputation at stake, The Seven and Vought American force The Deep to make a cringe-worthy, obviously scripted apology, parodying the admissions of several real-life celebrities. Following this satirical theme, Vought decide to cash-in on Starlight as a feminist icon without consulting her first.
The Deep is effectively demoted from The Seven and moved to a town with virtually no crime as punishment but, in true The Boys style, his suffering isn't complete without something a little more nausea-inducing. During his exile, The Deep brings a woman to his apartment for a hook-up and the two are about to get down to business. It soon transpires, however, that his partner has some kind of aquatic fetish and, despite The Deep's protests, she forcefully puts her fingers in his gills.
This very literal eye-for-an-eye punishment is hard to watch, but sends a clear message to the audience that The Deep is getting a taste of his own medicine. The deviation from the comics also preempts any accusations of depicting Starlight as the stereotypical meek female character of yesteryear, but does so in The Boys' own weird and wonderful way.
The Boys season 1 is currently streaming in Amazon Prime Video. Season 2 is without a release date.