In the opening moments of season 3, there’s a sequence full of so much blood, guts, and depravity that makes clear only one thing: The Boys are back, and as unapologetic as ever.
Something that makes this Amazon Prime TV series so compelling is the way it tackles real-world issues. Season 2, for example, focused on the rise of neo-Nazism and the far right in the US. Yet, even without Stormfront, these themes naturally progress in season 3. One theme that’s dealt with especially astutely is systemic anti-Blackness, but in true The Boys fashion they don’t stop at showing overt acts of racism and anti-Blackness.
They also show the impact of subtle micro-aggressions and, as always, exhibit painful self-awareness by satirising the way capitalism has made anti-racism a branding opportunity. From characters saying all the right words without action to mentions of the Instagram ‘black square,’ and even satirising that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, Kripke doesn’t shy away from calling out performative allyship and showing how ridiculous — and later on, harmful — it can be.
With eerily-on-the-nose parodies of controversial figures like Tucker Carlson, the appropriation of terms like ‘woke’ and ‘cancel culture’ by the right-wing press is also a continual theme in season 3, where we continue to see objectively terrible people like Homelander weaponize these terms because they know its how to win the favour of certain demographics.
Given all its blood and gore, it’s no stretch to say that The Boys strives to make you feel uncomfortable, but it also does this through its quieter moments: holding up a mirror to society with its complicated portrayal of politics — and if it makes you feel uncomfortable? Good.
The talented ensemble cast of The Boys is one of its greatest strengths, but one problem that comes with such a bloated cast is that if you want to give screentime and development to one character, it comes at the cost of others losing out.
Although Queen Maeve, for instance, has a reasonably important role this season, you can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by her appearances. But this isn’t due to a lack of talent — Dominique McElligott is fantastic.
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But McElligott is so good that you’re left wanting to know so much more about Maeve and her past, how her life was with Homelander before the events of The Boys.
It would be great to delve deeper into her past more, and I’m disappointed season 3 hasn’t been the time for that (so far), but I have no doubt that will come in later seasons as it has for Nathan Mitchell, whose complicated and nuanced portrayal of Black Noir was one of the highlights of the season.
It was also reassuring to see other female and Black characters like Neuman, Starlight, and A-Train being treated with appropriate depth this season, after concerns were raised about these characters’ one-dimensional nature in the previous seasons, with their development being sidelined in favour of the white male cast members. But the thing about The Boys is that when criticism is raised, they actually listen. The same can’t be said for a lot of shows.
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Another highlight was Anthony Starr as Homelander, whose ability to make you completely loathe his character as he sinks to new lows you thought weren’t even possible is a testament to how skilful of an actor he really is.
While the first two seasons saw glimpses of humanity and empathy, any redemptive qualities have completely eroded this season: but at the same time, Homelander is far from a one-dimensional villain, and his descent into madness and deplorability like a buffed-up Macbeth doesn’t seem out of place.
Meanwhile, as he dabbles in the world of the very thing he swears he hates, Karl Urban takes his skills to new heights this season by not only delivering some fantastic, super-powered Butcher swagger, but also showing new levels of vulnerability and conflict, especially when it comes to his role as the custodian of Ryan and his relationship with Hughie: who, fans will be pleased to know, takes a more central role this season.
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But a partnership that undoubtedly steals the show is Frenchie and Kimiko, with Tomer Kapon and Karen Fukuhara doing an excellent job of bridging the year-long gap between seasons 2 and 3 by showing the development of their respective characters and their relationship.
Kimiko especially comes into her own, with producers helping to give her a voice through the creative use of SFX, dance scenes, and other stand-out moments. Speaking of creativity, the action and fight sequences have definitely upped in that way especially this season, with Homelander-themed dildos making a more formidable weapon than you might think.
And then there’s Soldier Boy. After playing Dean Winchester for so long, I was worried that we’d just be seeing another copy of the character on-screen. But fortunately, through the glimpses of Soldier Boy we were given in the first five episodes, it’s clear that we’re seeing Jensen Ackles doing something new.
While Soldier Boy is layered and to an extent traumatised, it’s also clear that he’s the blueprint for The Seven and the supe industrial complex as a whole: with him and his super-crew Payback being overpowered, overconfident, and gargantuan wankers.
Ultimately, from the first five episodes, at least, I think season 3 of The Boys definitely surpasses season 2 — and depending on how the last few episodes go, it may well surpass season 1.
The first three episodes of The Boys season 3 drop on Amazon Prime Video on June 3, 2022.
The Boys season 3 review
Awfully brilliant and painfully reflective.