When considering the genre that is comic book adaptations, mainly superhero’s, counting on series like The Umbrella Academy and even the more recent Invincible and their streaming partner co-stars The Boys pushing boundaries into unfamiliar territory doesn’t take a lot of convincing to do so. Unconventional in methodically telling their stories, the respective creators for these three singular series have done remarkable work without a marquee named company constantly in the spotlight behind them. Sure, what the MCU and Kevin Feige has accomplished since 2008 is something to be celebrated but leave it to these rag tag independent stories to exploit a deeper connection to superhuman characters in ways that haven’t been done before.
Majority of the population admire superheroes – they save the world, stop bad guys, and become symbols of hope and justice. Series creator Eric Kripke has taken that admiration we hold so dear and skewed that perspective in The Boys since season 1. Now in their third season, the lines between good and evil have become blurred beyond repair. Heroes are at the mercy of their corporate overlord Vought Industries where it’s all about appearances, marketing, merchandising and box office ratings, and value. Heroes have been reduced to products – assets for a company to raise the stock price and earn the most for shareholders and board of directors.
The world of The Boys doesn’t have villainous monsters or armies of aliens from different dimensions or outer space looking to invade planet earth. Instead, the villain is leader of the proclaimed Seven, the Avengers and Justice League like team, Homelander (Antony Starr) who has become more unhinged and despicable since his series introduction. Charming, powerful, and charismatic as he may be, Homelander is the symbol of everything that’s bad with supes and the driving force of the titular team that look to stop him from becoming the absolute power in this world.
The titular team led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is scattered after the shocking events that ended season 2. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is working for the Bureau of Superhero Affairs as his and Starlight’s (Erin Moriarty) relationship has gone public. MM (Laz Alonso) has retired from the group, spending more time with his daughter, helping out with paternal duties while the stepfather is supe obsessed, mostly with Homelander and the influence of the media’s portrayal. Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) are working with Billy who’s getting intel from Hughie on rogue supes, and a former team now retired called Payback. What brings MM back into the fold surrounds the mysterious disappearance of a past hero named Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) who may be the secret weapon Butcher is looking for killing Homelander once and for all.
What makes The Boys stand out even among the other independent series mentioned above is the sheer shock value of the series of events depicted. Somehow, being desensitized to the world around us isn’t enough anymore – opening episode 1 is a sequence that needs to be seen to be believed, otherwise speaking about it or in this case, writing about it may cause skepticism behind the description. I didn’t know whether to cower from the sight of it or become fully engrossed – either way, season 3 starts as normal as expected for the caliber of this show.
From there, Kripke and his writing staff bring a realistic approach to season 3. There is a clear division among supes and their loyal fans that correlate to how the world is currently in 2022. Politically charged, The Boys doesn’t care who it offends or openly mocks in its satirical nature. Watching certain scenes is just as difficult to digest as watching the news or opening up a social media app. Season 2’s Stormfront was nothing compared to the symbol Homelander has become in season 3. His true villainy started in season 1 with an unforgettable moment between him and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) that climax’s when season 3 starts and gets its wheels spinning ending in a grandiose manner in the finale. Leave it to Homelander to spark true terror that leads Maeve to work with Butcher and take down Homelander, once and for all.
With the ensemble cast that has been put together, each character gets their groundbreaking, emotionally draining moment to shine. Season 3 explores Butcher’s backstory that was teased previously but now completely shown, is a backstory born in tragedy. Frenchie and Kimiko together are an unstoppable force together – their relationship as well as the chemistry between Tomer and Karen is pure and full of joy that are juxtaposed by the harsh reality that surrounds them. Other members of the Seven who are back in the fold are given more depth. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) is given a new side to him, confronting his inner demons with a tragedy. The Deep (Chance Crawford) goes to new lows that for a show packed with absurdity adds new meaning to the word.
And then there’s Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), a character that doesn’t speak, is just present around Vought Tower and has minimal screentime is given one of the more emotional moments of season 3. The writing team has found ways to make unrealistic characters, supes even, relatable, and almost sympathetic. There are moments with Homelander that you feel bad for him. Leave it to the powerhouse performance of Antony Starr with the support of bulletproof writing for his character. Just when Homelander couldn’t be more disgusting and vile, Starr balances it well with empathy. That kind of writing is leaps and bounds better than what Marvel or Star Wars has done with their 6-episode streaming series.
For how over saturated the market has become, The Boys has remained consistent even improving on the previous seasons. The ensemble cast is remarkable, leading the way along with outstanding writing and themes that can be sensitive to many, but necessary to see in a dramatic fashion. Homelander is how Superman should be written and Starr has taken the burden effortlessly. Equal parts extreme, funny, charming, shocking, emotional, The Boys is almost too good to be true – Pushing the boundaries of what a superhero series should be, including a genre bending dance number, standing alone on the mountain top as the best comic book adapted series made. And that’s including Daredevil.
Created By: Eric Kripke
Episodes Directed By: Phil Sgriccia, Julian Holmes, Nelson Cragg & Sarah Boyd
Music By: Christopher Lennertz & Matt Bowen
Cinematography: Dan Stoloff
Starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chance Crawford, Tomer Capone, Karen Fukuhara, Jensen Ackles, Giancarlo Esposito, Nathan Mitchell, Colby Minifie
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Release Date: June 3, 2022
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Based On: The Boys By Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson