The Pitch: When last we left The Boys, the assembled might of the anti-supe team and some sympathetic heroes had successfully vanquished loud-and-proud-Nazi Stormfront — and, in the aftermath of that battle, had made a real effort to return to a normal life. At the very least, Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) reunited with his family, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) rejoined the Seven, and Hughie (Jack Quaid) went looking a job that would let him keep doing the right thing “the right way, not covered in quite as many guts.”
What quickly becomes apparent in Season 3, though, is that as long as there are superpowered people around, there’s no escape from the chaos, corruption, and, yes, viscera that will rain down upon the world. (In the cynical world view of this show, you can revise that last sentence to say as long as there are people around, there’s no escape from the worst that can happen to a person, but certainly the superpowers amplify things a bit.)
So for Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his misfit friends this season, the goal is theoretically a pretty simple one: Take out Homelander (Antony Starr), the worst of the worst of supes gone mad with power. Taking out Homelander isn’t easy, though, which is why they look to the past — specifically once-iconic hero Solider Boy (Jensen Ackles), who died a glorious hero’s death decades ago… or so everyone thought. It’s just one of the mysteries unpacked over the course of the season, which might be the show’s most confident yet.
The Superhero Satire We Deserve: When Consequence was digging into Marvel Pop Culture Week last month, exploring all the ways the MCU plays with “our” reality versus its own, it was hard to not occasionally reflect on The Boys and how well it plays with all of the meta aspects associated with superheroes as they exist in our pop culture today.
Not just superheroes, but celebrity culture in general — not only does the Vought entertainment empire expand to cover a wide range of new genres in Season 3, including reality TV and Lifetime movies, but Episode 6 features one particularly brilliant bit of parody that cannot be revealed at this time, but will definitely drop you on the floor with its chutzpah.
Even while poking fun at the institution which currently keeps the American box office afloat, though, The Boys has proven its ability to have emotional resonance beyond the satire at play, which is hugely important to what elevates the series. While the pandemic doesn’t exist in this world, other key elements of the last two years of history play a larger role in the narrative, including the Black Lives Matter movement and conspiracy theory culture — and because it’s The Boys, you know its takes on those topics will be just uncomfortably close enough to reality to haunt you.
Not Exactly Super-Friends: The cast continues to bring their A-game to every ridiculous challenge placed before them, with Quaid in particular pushed to new limits, and Urban getting to spend a good chunk of one episode digging into Billy’s backstory. Sidelined a little bit are the women of the series, which is a shame because they’ve often been the most compelling — Starlight in particular feels a bit powerless over the course of the season, though she does get a few moments to shine, while as Kimiko, Karen Fukuhara gets to demonstrate some talents beyond mass murder.
The addition of Jensen Ackles to the cast this season is an exciting burst of new blood, though the actor himself is a fascinating performer in terms of audience recognition: If you weren’t ever much of a Supernatural fan, you might not be aware of how charismatic and appealing he can be as an on-screen presence (it’s hard to have time for other projects when you spend 15 years shooting 320 episodes of television). Meanwhile, if you were a Supernatural fan, you definitely don’t need this review to confirm that he has those qualities, but you’ll be surprised and impressed by the relish he brings to the twisted Captain America homage.
The Verdict: While so much of the season is focused on the drive to take out Homelander at all costs, the question The Boys might likely answer soon is: “Even if Homelander was taken out, would it actually make a difference?” The Boys feels very much of this specific era, and the nihilism it inspires — the way it captures how futile the struggle to do and be good can feel sometimes, when the systems in place seem like they can never be fixed for the better, give it a certain relevance to today that frankly it’d be nice to ignore.
The way the series captures the nature of not just toxic fan culture but the whole destructive soup of conspiracy theories online is eerie in its accuracy, in ways that can be harder to watch than even the most graphic displays of body horror (which, just so you know, are as present as ever, forever searching for a new peak of grotesquerie).
That’s because The Boys has no solutions for the bleak place in history we currently find ourselves, no optimism for the better nature of humanity to shine through. Instead, it’s focused on the blunt truth of today: If superheroes aren’t going to save us, then the rest of us need to step the fuck up.
Where to Watch: The first three episodes of The Boys Season 3 premiere Friday, June 3rd on Prime Video. The remaining five episodes of the season debut weekly.