Series Developed by Eric Kripke — Season Three consists of 8 episodes.
These days superhero shows are a dime a dozen. There’s the Arrow-verse, the Netflix-era Defenders Marvel series universe, the Disney+ shows, and so much more. There are so many that I can’t say I’ve seen all of them, even though I once was very much into following all of these superhero shows. These days it’s like the second you blink, that one superhero show you once watched a couple of episodes of now has had close to ten seasons and it feels like no one has noticed. For superhero die-hard fans, select shows are must-watch. These must-see shows are things like Peacemaker and the ever-growing streaming series corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but then there’s also this other show developed by the creator of Supernatural, Eric Kripke, and produced by the brilliant comedic minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I am of course talking about Prime Video’s The Boys, the one major superhero show that you can’t watch with your family without getting some awkward silences or looks. It’s a terrific show that I can’t believe exists, and this third season of the show was its very best thus far, even though the season peaked a couple of episodes prior to its season finale.
The third season of The Boys takes place approximately one year after the events of the second season. Ryan (played by Cameron Crovetti) is now in a safe house far away from his maniacal superhero father, Homelander (played by Antony Starr), who is struggling as Vought forces him to repair his image in public. The titular group is working for the government — the Bureau of Superhero Affairs — to apprehend, or take out, problematic superpowered individuals, and Hughie Campbell (played by Jack Quaid) now has an honest job as the middle man between ‘the Boys’ and the government. Meanwhile, Butcher (played by Karl Urban) is obsessed with the idea of finally killing Homelander, and, together with Maeve (played by Dominique McElligott), he has started to look into the possibility of finding the ‘weapon’ that killed Soldier Boy (played by Jensen Ackles), one of the original Vought superheroes. Maeve also has a surprise for Butcher. It turns out that Vought has created a drug that can give you powers for a limited time. Butcher now has the opportunity to level the playing field and fight fire with fire. But be careful what you wish for.
That is one of the main themes in this season, which also explores toxic masculinity. The former theme is not just explored with our protagonists but also with the main antagonist, Homelander, who everyone has to walk on eggshells around. But, at a certain point, Homelander also has to realize that control comes with some drawbacks. It is very clear that the writers are likening Homelander to Donald Trump, as is seen in many ways including the way the character uses the media but also in Homelander’s very last scene this season, which is a reference to an oft-cited and quite disturbing Trump quote. The show succeeds in being able to comment on both the media, the superhero film industry (the show has a lot of fun with the Snyder Cut at the beginning of the season), the American government, and more.
But, at the same time, the show never lost sight of the narrative or what makes the show unique. It often felt like I had to pinch myself to believe that a show like this exists. The action is great. The social commentary is executed well (in ways that are either disturbing or quite funny). The comedy never fails. The show knows just how to bend or lampoon comic book tropes. The show is not afraid of nudity or going the extra mile to shock us. This season will not just be remembered for “Herogasm,” an episode about a superhero orgy, but also for the scene in which we find out what would have happened if a superhero like Ant-Man were to crawl inside someone. And, on top of all of this, it is a show that is deeply anti-corporate, and it’s quite incredible that Amazon allows it to be exactly that.
The acting also just keeps being excellent. It’s an ensemble cast-led show and there are no weak links in the main cast. It feels wrong to single performances out when the actors are uniformly good here, but I must. Antony Starr is often singled out by others, and that is for good reason because he just carries the Homelander-character so well. He is so disturbing, but he also handles his more emotional and vulnerable scenes really well. He really gets to do a lot of different things this season, and he’s fantastic throughout it. Jensen Ackles is the main new addition to the show, and, as a long-time Supernatural fan, I’m so happy to see him in this show. He fits right in, and his performance as Soldier Boy is one of the highlights of the season.
However, there are a couple of things that bothered me at the end of the season, which had otherwise been tremendous. The way the show wrapped itself up in the (too fast-paced) season finale felt a little bit too neat and simple. After the penultimate episode it felt like the show was about to do something really big, but, ultimately, not that much has changed after the climactic event of the season. Things happen and characters get hurt (or worse), but the show stops just short of actually doing something they can’t take back. To me, it felt like the show had taken two steps forward and, then at the very end of the season, one step back.
Still, The Boys is a really special show that somehow manages to have its cake and eat it too. It is a successful anti-corporate satire of superhero tropes and the film industry, which is devoted to superhero films, as well as a satire of American politics and culture in general. But it is also the very best and most consistent superhero television show right now, in large part because of its great characters and the action that, on a smaller budget, mostly lives up to the kind of spectacle fans have come to expect from superhero-focused films. The Boys is willing to go where no superhero show has gone before. It is willing to step on toes, it is willing to execute both dark and inappropriate jokes and scenes, and this third season is the show at its very best.
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.