Chances are, if you’re tuning into The Boys S3 – you’ve seen the first two seasons and you’re ready for more outrageous adventures with Billy Butcher, Hughie, and the rest of The Boys as they continue their efforts to take down the despicable Homelander and other ‘Supes’ who have powers but seemingly no honour or empathy. You might be thinking that you’ve seen the madness of the first two seasons and that The Boys S3 wouldn’t be able to push any of the boundaries of TV further. Well, you’d have been wrong; so very, very wrong. In the season opener, Payback, we see superhero Termite (think The Boys’ version of Ant-Man) shrink down before… well, I don’t want to ruin it. Let’s just say that it is clear from the first episode that The Boys S3 sets out to push the limits of what can be shown on TV and fans of the previous seasons and the comics they are based on will not be disappointed.
One year on from the defeat of Stormfront, Hughie and The Boys are working for the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. If Stormfront was the catalyst to propel the story forward in Season 2, then for The Boys S3, it is Soldier Boy’s turn. Billy aims the one supe capable of taking on Homelander at the despicable and increasingly unhinged villain and the fallout of his actions impacts everyone. The Boys S3 is just as violent and shocking as we’ve come to expect, but this season adds layers of vulnerability to almost all of the characters we follow. The show breaks down the main cast and puts them through the wringer to see what they might become on the other side. Hughie has to question what it means to be strong as he fights the urge to protect Starlight or allow her to protect him. Mother’s Milk battles with ghosts from his past and the tough task of raising his daughter whilst her stepdad offers her a completely different world view to the one he wants. Even Billy is given a chance to showcase his vulnerable side as he relives horrors from his past and fights against the idea that he is turning into the father he so despised. He is able to show glimpses of kindness and empathy in his own grim way as he pushes away those closest to him in the hope that it keeps them from danger.
The writing of The Boys S3 is some of the best on TV at the moment. The moments in the series that make you feel uncomfortable aren’t the violent, sickening acts of the characters before you, but the way in which the show effortlessly manages to shine a light on Western society and current politics. Homelander’s speeches throughout this season are frighteningly similar to certain politicians who have gained power in recent memory and the way in which vile and despicable actions are so easily glossed over and even supported by masses is scarily realistic for the audience. The Boys S3 does what great shows should do: entertain whilst provoking thought and debate. It helps to have an actor like Anthony Starr playing Homelander in what should be an award-winning role. Starr plays the villainous role to perfection and is somehow able to be the most hated character on the show whilst still managing to draw out moments of sympathy and pity as a man alone who craves the affection and admiration of those around him but doesn’t know how to get it without using fear and violence as his tools. The one misgiving I have of this season is the final episode. It felt as though the gun had been loaded throughout the season ready for a final explosive payoff but it ended with a whimper and the status quo of the show pretty much back in place.
Bloody, violent, and thought-provoking – this is the best series of The Boys so far. A consistently brilliant show with hilariously grim moments of shocking violence that houses a heart that isn’t quite gold, but is shining through nonetheless. Other than a small misstep at the end, this is a brilliant, dark superhero series that will not disappoint. The Boys are back in town and with any luck, they’re here to stay.