UK TV review: The Boys Season 3
Superlative superhero storytelling8
Matthew Turner | On 04, Jun 2022
Episodes 1 to 3 premiere on Friday 3rd June, with new episodes then arriving weekly on Fridays. This review is based on all 8 episodes.
The Boys are back for a third season. Combining jet-black humour, extreme violence and razor-sharp writing, it continues to be one of the savviest superhero shows on TV.
After a spectacular opening that includes both the first of several guest star appearances and a jaw-dropping gore moment, the show quickly establishes what all the characters have been up to in the year since Season 2 ended. Hughie (Jack Quaid) has gone legit and is now working for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) at the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs, still unaware that she’s secretly the “head-popper” responsible for the Congressional massacre last season. Meanwhile, Butcher (Karl Urban) stumbles upon rumours of a weapon that’s powerful enough to take down Homelander (Anthony Starr), so he recruits Frenchie (Tomer Kapon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) for the search.
Elsewhere, Homelander has had enough of repeating his “I made a mistake” talk show routine, after falling in love with Stormcloud’s Nazi last season, and he’s starting to chafe against Vought’s control, under the influence of CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito). Things get worse for him when Annie / Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is promoted to “co-head” of super-team The Seven against his will, and it’s only a matter of time before he cracks.
Over the previous two seasons, The Boys has taken a razor-sharp satirical scalpel to many familiar superhero tropes. Its central focus has been the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely, or, as Butcher pithily puts it this season: “With great power comes the absolute certainty you’ll turn into a right c**t.”
This season, the show doubles down on its political satire and goes even deeper with its themes. With regard to Homelander, it’s essentially gone from asking “What if Superman was evil?” to “What if Superman was Trump?” The idea of powerful, populist figures getting away with literal murder because of their rabidly devoted fanbase is almost painfully topical, and The Boys exploits that idea to its full extent.
Previously, Homelander had to hide his monstrous excesses from the public, for fear of losing his popularity, but this season he discovers that he’s actually more popular when he speaks his mind, with certain factions of the public welcoming his attacks on “woke culture” and so on. If that sounds worryingly familiar, well, that’s the point.
The show has other ideas to explore this season too, particularly the question of just how far characters are prepared to compromise themselves in the name of the greater good. That concept creates fascinating character conflict between Hughie and Annie, without always offering easy answers.
Happily, the show remains as sharply observant on current entertainment culture as it’s always been, with some great jokes, ranging from a cheeky little throwaway line about “just dumping [the problematic latest film] on Vought Plus” to a full-on parody of Gal Gadot’s excruciating viral video of celebrities singing “Imagine”. More to the point, it’s consistently accurate in its skewering of our current cinematic landscape, where superhero movies dominate culture like never before.
The Boys also has a deserved reputation for shocking material. To that end, in its third season, the show has lost none of its capacity to leave audiences open-mouthed in disbelief, pushing boundaries of gore, sex and violence to ever-more outrageous limits. The clear highlight this time is the highly touted “Herogasm” (an equally big event in the original comics), where super-powered types get together for a full-blown orgy. Hats (and everything else) off to the various naked extras that are featured in the background of all these Herogasm scenes, because they’re really going above and beyond.
This season, the show also makes significant strides in terms of character development, including satisfying subplots for previously underserved characters, such as A-Train (Jessie T Usher), as well as more space being devoted to the female characters. Accordingly, both Annie and Kimiko have much more central roles to play, although Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) is essentially sidelined for plot reasons after a very promising start and an intriguing didn’t-see-that-coming development.
The show also continues to display its knack for pitch-perfect casting. Here, the guest star of the season is Jensen Ackles, who previously starred in showrunner Eric Kripke’s Supernatural. He plays Soldier Boy, The Boys’ version of Captain America, who mysteriously disappeared back in the 80s, and whose reappearance causes all manner of trouble for both sides. Ackles plays the part to perfection, layering hints of Chris Evans’ Captain America, while putting his deadpan comic talents to good use with some outrageous lines – there’s a Bill Cosby-related moment that has to be seen to be believed.
Ultimately, The Boys’ third outing is an enormously satisfying season of television, delivering splatter-heavy superhero action, colourful characters, superlative storytelling and political satire so sharp you could cut yourself on it. Bring on Season 4.