One of the best TV shows about superheroes is actually about our toxic obsession with them.
Kicking off its third season, The Boys splashes even more blood, gore, profanity, nudity and sex onto its boundary-free canvas. At this point, the Amazon Prime Video show’s shock value might be at risk of diminishing returns. But no. It turns out there’s plenty more taboo material to cover: A superhero shrinks down and climbs inside another person’s body part, evoking the Ant-Man-Thanos theory from Avengers: Endgame.
Not done with deconstructing Marvel and DC, the series rails against money-grabbing, virtue-signaling superhero culture, without sacrificing batshit entertainment. The sardonic humor, pop rock soundtrack and handful of sincere characters undercut the relentless stream of lurid superhero activities. Three seasons in, The Boys is an even more finely tuned package than ever.
Season 3 starts with changes for the titular group of vigilantes hunting down corrupt superheroes. After his wife Becca’s death, Butcher (Karl Urban) is more intent than ever on killing Homelander (an impeccably unsettling Antony Starr). He leads an investigation into the coverup of a dangerous past “Supe” known as Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles). Plus, a new serum that gives normal superpowers for 24 hours could help The Boys take the fight to evil superhero-creating corporation Vought.
But The Boys are fractured after defeating Nazi Stormfront (Aya Cash). Hughie (Jack Quaid) grapples with his powerlessness, working for anti-Supe Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) – who happens to be a secret super-powered assassin – and the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs, aiming to keep the Supes slightly more accountable for all their gruesome collateral damage.
Guilt-ridden Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) is taking time away from The Boys to be with his family, while Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) are wondering why they should not start a new life elsewhere.
As always, the Marvel and DC sendups are an endless well of riches: #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) memoir titled Deeper and a reality program searching for the next American Hero are just the beginning.
At the same time, The Boys covers a huge amount of heavy subject matter with even heavier doses of irony. Nothing is untouchable. Black Lives Matter and Antifa are addressed, as well as painful workplace politics and sexism involving Erin Moriarty’s Starlight.
This is where her storyline has always been the most compelling. The superhero’s sexual harassment ordeal in season 1 showed how sharply confronting The Boys can be. After taking a relative backseat last season, Starlight is a standout once again, earnest yet steadfast in the face of her body and image being commodified.
It’s the sincerity of characters like Starlight, Hughie, Frenchie and Kimiko that’s necessary to offset the abundant carnage. Even a happy, La La Land-inspired sequence is provided as a welcome interlude.
Otherwise, The Boys risks being repetitive and too full on to digest. Every episode guarantees early Game of Thrones level fornication and bloodshed – albeit the gory bits have a cartoonish CGI sheen. Even the Soldier Boy coverup storyline echoes the season 2 Stormfront mystery. Thankfully, as always, The Boys finds its sweet spot. It does so via characters more identifiable and conflicted than even the most ground-level Disney Plus heroes.
Season 3 of The Boys shows it’s not running out of superhero serum anytime soon. Instead, it covers even more ground, bulging with gags, topical issues and ludicrous action sequences to create the most potentially entertaining, eye-popping cocktail.
Season 3 of The Boys will premiere with the first three episodes on Friday, with the following five episodes each released weekly.
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