The first three episodes of the new season arrive this weekend.
Every now and again we’ll discover that TV and streaming does seem to be where you’ll find the more interesting and unique takes on the comic book genre. Most of the superhero movies are moving increasingly closer to a state of homogenisation, but there have been some spectacular additions for home viewers: HBO’s Watchmen, Prime Video’s Invincible and Disney+’s WandaVision have all managed to leave an impression, asking questions bigger than “What if the goodie and baddie punch each other a lot?”
The first season of The Boys set out its stall pretty early as a violent and sardonic twist on the genre, closer in tone to Deadpool than anything else. The second season allowed us to get to know the characters a bit more, but meandered a lot to its inevitable conclusion.
Critics have been shown the first five episodes of the eight that will make up The Boys Season 3, and if the quality remains as high as they’ve been so far, then it will be the best comic book TV show made so far.
A quick recap: Billy (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) are now working with the CIA to bring misbehaving ‘supers’ to justice. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is publicly dating Starlight (Erin Moriarty), and he is working with Congresswoman Neuman (Claudia Doumit) to take down Vought, which is part PR company/part entertainment conglomerate for supers. However, Neuman is actually secretly a super herself, using her head-popping abilities to take out anyone who might denounce Vought.
Meanwhile, Homelander (Anthony Starr) is becoming increasingly volatile, violent and unpredictable with his super teammates Starlight, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) and The Deep (Chace Crawford), with the love of the public the only thing keeping him in check. Love that is garnered through propaganda movies like Dawn Of The Seven…
Most of the third season hinges on a particular mission to uncover something that could help defend the world from Homelander when – not if, when – he eventually lets the facade drop and decides to wipe out humanity without breaking much of a sweat. And this mission is somehow connected to Solider Boy (Jensen Ackles) – the world’s first superhero, who has been presumed dead for decades.
To give much more than that away would spoil the surprises that the third season of the show has in store, literally from the first scene. It arrives with a big swing, and never stops swinging all the way through. The writers have clearly learned a lesson from the drawn-out plot threads in the second season, as story elements here that might have usually been spaced out over a full season are begun and violently ended in an episode or two.
Some of the scenes, in other hands, would feel like they’re here simply for the sake of shock value, but within the heightened and debaucherous world of The Boys, they feel entirely natural. There are many, many, MANY moments throughout the first five episodes that feel tailor-made for reaction videos, and we’ve already been informed that the best/worst (depending on who you ask) is yet to come, with the sixth episode named after the infamous issue of the comic on which it is based – Herogasm. Basically, think Eyes Wide Shut with superheroes.
And while all of this can be purely enjoyed as surface level entertainment – which is absolutely fine – there is a constant tension bubbling underneath everything. The subtext of the haves-and-the-have-nots has never been clearer, while the constant battle of government and business for the hearts and minds of the public is also put under the blood-splattered microscope.
Each of the actors now know their character inside and out, allowing them to take them in interesting, at times viscerally unexpected directions, all the while never forgetting that this is all still a comedy. A violent, sex-filled, profanity-laced, psychologically dark comedy, but a comedy all the same.
The first three episodes of the third season of The Boys will be available to watch on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, 3 June, with the rest of the series arriving each Friday after that.
Clip via Prime Video