‘The Boys’ Season 3 Gets Even More Vicious at Satirizing Superheroes in Tights
Amazon’s “The Boys” remains the perfect superhero show for an age of fallen idols. When it first premiered in 2019, creator Eric Kripke and producer Seth Rogen’s vicious satire about superheroes seemed like a perfect commentary for the Trump era. A new president and pandemic later, the series still feels right at home. By keeping up with the ongoing trends in the MCU and DC, “The Boys” plays like the wicked sibling just waiting to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Even when the original burst of originality has waned, Kripke and team maintain a fierce energy and sense of the absurd that casts an unnerving mirror image of America itself.
As the season begins the show’s team of crooked heroes, The Seven, are going through hard times. Vought, the corporation that runs the team, is facing backlash over the revelation last season that Stormfront (Aya Cash) was a literal Nazi. Violently maniacal Homelander (Antony Starr) is already a pariah for being so close to her. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) is looking for new brand opportunities since his super speed has been brought down a notch by heart issues. Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) has seen her queer identity inspire a corporate theme park. On the opposing side, The Boys are also going through changes. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is feeling the toll of going around catching and expiring heroes but is added to a new task force. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is dating the Seven’s Starlight (Erin Moriarty). Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) is focusing on being a good dad while Mute Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) wants to lose her powers so she can speak. Hughie has a new idea on how to kill the powerful, increasingly unstable Homelander. He needs to find the weapon that killed Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), founder of the team Payback back in the ‘70s.
From the first episode, “The Boys” never compromises in its offbeat humor and biting commentary. The Seven attend a premiere of another movie about them, and starring them. It’s a clear jab at Marvel with the film’s director looking like a clone of the Russo Brothers. There’s even a brief cameo in the “movie” by Charlize Theron, who recently appeared at the end of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” There’s also an “American Idol”-style competition to choose the next member of the Seven, including a former boy band singer who irks Hughie because he’s the guy who took Starlight’s virginity. Other wilder bits continue imagining the real-world implications we rarely ponder when reading comic books or watching a Marvel movie. In the season premiere a character can miniaturize and enter the penis of his boyfriend at a party. Once he sneezes inside the organ, the super-powered man erupts out of his boyfriend’s body, killing him. In moments like these, the camera likes to linger over the spilled viscera. Episode six includes a full-on superhero orgy.
The in-jokes and genuine satire work a little better than the plot this season, which is starting to veer in different directions that don’t always connect. The central storyline remains Homelander’s increasing instability as he deals with the public turning on him. He eventually erupts onstage during a program and tells the audience he is indeed superior to them all. Before that, he attempts to force Starlight to sing happy birthday in public. Later he essentially murders a suicide atop a building. But as Homelander becomes smug, the more he seems to connect with a disenchanted public that buys into his ego and rages. Sound familiar? Starlight warns her former teen lover-turned game show contestant he might not want to accept the role if he wins, since Homelander is obviously broken inside. Over at the Boys, Hughie discovers that Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), the progressive politician he works for, harbors her own deadly secret involving powers that can make the heads of political rivals (literally) explode. The fascist right-wing is a threat in this series, but so is corruption.
This season of “The Boys” also continues the show’s trend of taking familiar pop culture themes and reinterpreting them through its own, wild viewfinder. Nearly every streamer has some show about drugs and references to the Iran-Contra scandal. While searching for what killed Soldier Boy, Hughie and Butcher visit a retired CIA contact who does a whole flashback sequence in Central America involving the government’s use of the former team Payback. Too bad none of these shows seriously use the theme of the Sandinista Revolution and what was going on in Nicaragua (or why the Reagan White House wanted to intervene there). It’s just convenient decoration. Still, at its best “The Boys” is a cousin to graphic novels like Alan Moore’s “Watchmen,” using a particular genre for some visceral social commentary. Piled on top of all this is a plot development involving Vought head Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), who wants to get out of the superhero business but not before he perfects his plans for the Seven.
Hopefully for the next season “The Boys” learns that less can also be more. While this is still a highly entertaining serving, and a needed antidote to the ongoing wave of costumed content, it’s also starting to feel slightly crammed. Some characters like Queen Maeve and The Deep (Chace Crawford) disappear for long stretches and don’t seem to have a place in the storyline. Others, like A-Train, pop in for some biting satire, as when A-Train tries to push a video game about slavery. Butcher also crashes the event of a costumed hero promoting Q-Anon-type conspiracy theories. There’s barely any room for Mute Kimiko wanting to be able to speak so she can sing and speak to boyfriend Frenchie (Tomer Capone). Crammed but not stale, “The Boys” retains its relentless style and continues to deliver a needed black eye to a genre that refuses to let go of our collective pop culture.
“The Boys” season three begins streaming June 3 on Amazon Prime Video.