Two years have passed since the series last graced our screens, meaning there’s been a massive rift in the superhero film sphere. The Boys occupies an area of the space that neither DC nor Marvel would touch with the world’s longest pole, a world filled to the brim with debauchery, ultra-violence, depraved sex, corporate pandering and government corruption. In other words, a realistic depiction of the United States. Thankfully, it’s back to show us our reality through a superhero lens, being both gloriously entertaining and disturbing, often at the same time.
Notes: This trailer contains strong language, gore and sexual content. This review contains no spoilers, outside of what was already revealed in trailers.
Season three picks up a year after the events of season two. In that time, much has changed. Starlight (Erin Moriarty) has progressed substantially in popularity and influence within Vought, Homelander (Antony Starr) is continuing to circle the drain both mentally and in his popularity, MM (Laz Alonso) has left the group to focus on his family and Hughie is now overlooking all of Butcher (Karl Urban) and the boys' exploits. After several (spoiler-esque) events, the boys must come back together to take on the supes outside the law.
Damn. The Boys are back and better than ever. I’ve been waiting a long time to write that.
From the character work to the social commentary, this series is firing on all cylinders to create its strongest season yet, at least through its first three episodes, the rest being released weekly from here on out. There’s not a single part of these episodes that could be seen as a weak link. It’s all fantastic. The writing is the best it's ever been, alongside the direction. The visual effects and gore are as disgustingly cool as ever. The political commentary and satire are on point. The entire cast, as always, are at the top of their respective games.
Antony Starr, predictably, rises above the rest as Homelander. How he continues to be downright terrifying three seasons into this positively insane series boggles my mind; he’s just that good.
If Amazon doesn’t heavily campaign for him to win an Emmy when awards season comes around, someone there needs to be charged with criminal negligence. He’s scary, nefarious, smarmy, intelligent and, possibly, one of the best villains ever portrayed in any form of media, ever. I cannot wait to see how far he spirals by the end of the season and beyond.
The titular Boys themselves are also fantastic. Karl Urban as Butcher is the non-superpowered star of the show, as always. He’s able to do a lot more with his character this season due to his relationship with Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), enabling much more depth and softness than his character was ever previously allowed. It’s very interesting to see a completely different side of this character, a side that wasn’t even seen in the comic source material.
This season does a lot to bring the series closer to that source material, Garth Ennis’ six-year, 72-issue run of comics. This season introduces us to another superhero team in Payback, having the boys take compound V in order to have temporary powers themselves, as well as many small details and Easter eggs for comics fans.
At the same time, the Amazon Prime series departs even further from the source, which is complete to its advantage. The characters and plot in the comics were very one-note, being spiteful and full of contempt for the heroes being riffed. The TV series’ version is anything but, giving every character depth, every subplot meaning and fleshing out the world in a more meaningful way than just filling it with hundreds of parodies of DC and Marvel heroes and teams. Ennis’ cynicism is still prevalent, but the series isn’t nearly as mean-spirited and self-hating as he would probably want. Showrunner Eric Kripke does a great job adapting the source material to fit the current day and the medium, elevating it over its inspiration.
I can appreciate everything the series is doing with its satire, both on the surface level, like the VoughtLand theme park and its Inclusive Kingdom, and on the smaller scale with the series' portrayal of sex. It somehow feels like the series is being made right now, instead of the reality of it being shot a year ago.
I’ve seen some compare The Boys’ takes on politics, corporate America and established characters to South Park, which is completely understandable. I just think it’s much more impressive that The Boys can pull off similar commentary to South Park and its infamous six-day production schedule. Being able to predict where America will be politically and culturally a year plus past where production ends is nothing short of a miracle, but it’s now happened for each of the three seasons. It can’t be coincidentally miraculous three times in a row; these writers are just clairvoyant.
Regardless of the clairvoyance of these writers, directors, actors and producers, I can’t wait to see where the dark depths of this season reach over its remaining five episodes. There are so many possibilities to where the show can go, especially with the cliffhanger episode three, “Barbary Coast”, leaves off on. The series is as good, as gory and as sexually gratuitous as it’s ever been. That’s to say, The Boys are definitely heading in the best possible, even darker, direction.