Three seasons in and the shock value of The Boys hasn’t lessened. You’d think Showrunner Eric Kripke would have exhausted the ways to surprise viewers in creatively demented ways.
By the halfway point it’s clear the writers and directors have lost none of their passion for conceiving new means for characters to get impaled, dismembered, blown apart or laser beamed in half. And that’s before the incredibly graphic fight scene with dildos, the octopus threesome and herogasm.
Maybe it’s starting to reach the point of diminishing returns, but this season is an easy binge as the show veers from outrageous to somewhat predictable.
Yes, The Boys still goes to the super extreme when it comes to violence. There’s rarely 20 minutes before some head is popped, guts are spraying everywhere and blood spews that would make Quentin Tarantino queasy.
But it’s not the gore that makes Season 3 work. It’s how the series provides a sharp and sadly true insight on what our world would look like if populated by superheroes. Not heroes in the sense of actually saving people, but those more concerned about their Q rating and endorsements. Then there’s the Vought Corporation, which only cares about its bottom line, holding the supes’ strings.
The Boys find themselves in a better position than ever. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is working for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), the founding director of the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. Collateral damage for supe incidents has seen a dramatic drop in large part thanks to Hughie’s pals working on the right side of the law.
Butcher (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) are working to bring in supes acting outside the law. Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) is sitting out to strengthen his relationship with his daughter as well as his ex-wife and her new husband. Things are still looking up with Hughie and his supe girlfriend, Starlight (Erin Moriarty).
Homelander (Antony Starr) is reeling from the public reveal that his supe girlfriend, Stormfront (Aya Cash), was a literal Nazi. Stomrfront’s arc was one of the few times in the series that a terrible character actually got a justified fate. When Homelander decides he’s tired of playing the nice hero, he becomes even more unhinged than usual. That’s bad news for the other members of his supe team, The 7.
For A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) that means being bullied about his inability to run at superspeed anymore. And Deep (Chance Crawford) continually gets ridiculed for his love — that other way too — of aquatic life. When Homelander goes to another level of calculated insanity, Starlight and The Boys seek out various ways to stop him.
The Boys stumble onto a hint that legendary supe Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles, Supernatural), might still be alive. Soldier Boy might be powerful enough to kill Homelander, but he won’t help Butcher and crew unless they help him kill his old team Payback. Reviving Soldier Boy might have unleashed the one supe capable of doing more widespread death and destruction than Homelander.
Ackles is terrific as the relic dumped into the modern era. Soldier Boy would be more interesting of a character if he wasn’t just driving in the same lanes Homelander paved with his death ray heat vision.
Good thing Butcher has leveled the playing field with pills that grant the user superpowers for 24 hours. It feels like a shortcut for the series in a sense but becomes a worthwhile subplot as it fractures the team.
Season 3 clearly borrows a few themes from Marvel Studios and DC films. Soldier Boy is a perverted take on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Seven’s presentation has always been influenced by Zack Snyder’s DC films.
Like most shows that last through three seasons, The Boys has developed crutches the writers lean on too heavily. The biggest is definitely Homelander, who is both the show’s front-facing hero and biggest villain.
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Homelander is a psychotic narcissist who gets off on bullying others with a sly smile conveying a sinister threat. It was established early on he’s not a great guy. The writers triple down to reinforce he’s cruel and spiteful, but as Season 3 plays out, Homelander’s temper tantrums aren’t as surprising. His violent outbursts are expected, and he’s become…boring.
Worse, the writers constantly remove any viable opportunity to hand Homelander some necessary losses/setbacks. Vought CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian) is the only character who keeps Homelander in line making his absence in the back half of the season even more pronounced.
As always, the season has a copious amount of nudity, specifically bare male ass, but full-frontal shots aren’t uncommon either. They’ve lost their shock factor resulting in the need for an orgy scene to offer some means of next level escalation.
Fortunately, the writing carries the season through with no trouble. The Boys features a massive cast, but they all get reasonable screen time and subplots. Most of the subplots get paid off smoothly and those that aren’t full wrapped lay the groundwork for Season 4.
There’s a clever subplot with Bluehawk, a supe who patrols extensively around black neighborhoods, leading to an “All Lives Matter” incident. The Boys is always at its best when satirizing actual events.
Kripke could care less about being tactful and hits his targets with the subtlety of a super-sized Looney Tunes Acme mallet. Be on the lookout for a Stormfront Apache shaman and the tiki torch brigade.
The insanity of pop culture is another easy target that Kripke delights in spoofing. There’s a Brave Maeve LGBT+ attraction at a supe-theme park, Lifetime movie gags, Scientology hits and the relentless PR spin to make jerks look good.
The Boys might be showing some cracks in its smart satire foundation, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in this crazy, bloody ride.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Amazon
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