Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | June 2nd, 2022
The Boys, Season 3 (Eric Kripke, 2022) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Fascism is on the rise in the United States, sinister forces gathering to undo centuries of democracy, flawed though this American experiment has been. Initially hesitant to proclaim their ideology and intent outright, would-be Nazis grow bolder as they meet with less resistance than anticipated. The pendulum of political systems has always swung, gradually or with shockingly sudden shifts, from right to left, but this time the potential for gruesome violence is amplified by super strength. That’s right, the Aryan Übermensch dreamed of by Hitler has become a reality. He’s angrier than ever and not about to back down.
Such is the setup for the third season of Amazon’s The Boys, Eric Kripke’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s eponymous comic-book series (published 2006-2012). The entire cast—well, those still alive—returns for another round of regular humans vs. superheroes (very few of whom are actually heroic). This time, however, some of the ostensible normies take steps to level the playing field. Plot spoiler, you say? Just look at those glowing eyes on the poster, above.
When last we left our characters, Homelander (Antony Starr) had just suffered defeat, of a sort (for someone basically invincible). His lover—an actual Nazi named Stormfront (Aya Cash)—had been blown apart by his own son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), who sadly killed his mother in the process. Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Starlight (Erin Moriarty), and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) had teamed up to attack Stormfront beforehand, and the solidarity of these three strong women, coupled with Stromfront’s whipping, led Homelander to fly off somewhere to lick his (purely mental and emotional) wounds. Butcher (Karl Urban) and the titular “boys” had somehow come out on top (thanks to the “girls”).
Not so fast. As Hughie (Jack Quaid) left the squad to go work for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumat) at her new Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs (FBSA), we simultaneously learned that she was, in fact, the head-popper who had been mysteriously killing people throughout the season. So the quasi-triumph of the ending was tempered by our fear of what might happen next.
And here we are. It’s been a year, and Hughie is now deeply ensconced at the FBSA, close friends with Congresswoman Neuman (Vic, or Vicky, for short), and through her he gives instructions to Butcher, Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Kimiko to bring in rogue superheroes whose misbehavior threatens the good image of the nation and Vought, the company that developed Compound V (the chemical behind all the enhanced powers). Marvin (Laz Alonso), aka MM, has given up the fight, determined to spend quality time with his daughter. As the first episode begins, the team, on Hughie’s orders, goes after “The Termite” (Brett Geddes), whose ability to make himself tiny quickly goes spectacularly awry. It’s a bloody mess. Welcome back. Nice to see the show is as gory as ever.
Soon, the plot thickens in a very different direction. The series has always been terrific at reflecting trends in the real world, its emphasis on the role of social media, branding, and celebrity in the modern world spot on from start to finish. Here, the creators build on that work to show the lengthy history of such marketing of the Vought product. Current CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) is up to his usual tricks, for sure, but it’s especially fun to meet a man known as “The Legend” (Paul Reiser), responsible for media campaigns going back decades. Amidst the carnage, these sidebars are good for a great laugh.
And carnage there is, past and present. We learn about an earlier team of Vought mercenaries—predecessor to “The Seven”—known as “Payback.” Their most powerful member was “Soldier Boy” (Jensen Ackles), who somehow was killed in the 1980s. Perhaps, thinks Butcher, what killed him might be strong enough to kill Homelander. And since Hughie has just learned who Vicky Neumann really is (and her relationship to Vought), he’s on board for a return to violent shenanigans. They could use some extra help, however, which Maeve provides courtesy of stolen vials of something new from the Vought labs. Remember those glowing eyes? Hint hint, nudge nudge.
As always, the writing is mostly solid and the performances all uniformly excellent. Everyone is given interesting backstories and three-dimensional character development. In addition, the parallels to the state of the nation today, with the growing breakdown of our political system and increasing fascination with right-wing populism, makes the show’s content as scary as it is entertaining. Homelander’s trajectory from titan on the run to unbridled, unapologetic psychopath mirrors the worst moments of our current age. Though heavy-handed at times, The Boys has substance below the surface mayhem (delightful as that may be).
Plus, there are wonderful surprises in store (including a musical dance sequence!), even if fans of the comics may be disappointed in the significant departures from the source material. I say go for it; make it its own thing. Not all plot points may hang together, but what works works marvelously. At just eight episodes each, the seasons could be longer and I wouldn’t mind. And what a way to end this one. I’ll be back for more of the same as soon as it comes out, which can’t be soon enough.