When I think about The Boys I’m invariably drawn back to a conversation with a friend of a friend. He’s a conservative, supposedly a “never Trump” sort, but is also vaccine hesitant, deeply concerned about the government encroaching on his rights, and the type of person who makes a “well you wanted to defund the police” quip during the insurrection 1/6. You know the sort (and if you are the sort, please go elsewhere. Your clicks aren’t wanted here.). It never occurred to this fellow that Homelander is a very precise avatar for the American imperial experience – angry, violent, quick to impulsive action, unable to repent. His brain seemed quite unable to process the reality that The Boys second season centers itself around how easily America was falling in love with Nazism (in the form of supe Stormfront).
Well The Boys season 3 wants to make damn sure even that guy gets the message. “Do you think I’m going to let a Muslim on the team? We’re Americans!” Homelander menaces. On some level, The Boys has reached the dilemma which plagued Veep’s last season. Real life is so fucked that the show’s satire feels depressingly on point. When Tucker Carlson avatar Cameron Coleman empathizes with Homelander’s “fell in love with the wrong girl” post-Stormfront/Nazi media tour it’s far too easy to imagine the real Carlson taking a similar position. If Ted Cruz dated a secret Nazi in his Princeton days, we’re all sure Tucker would be right there to defend how everyone makes mistakes and Cruz should get another chance, right? A supposedly biting depiction of a gun show feels… depressingly like Texas in 2022. As Vought Corporation has ensnared it’s way into all elements of day-to-day life from film production to water delivery, well… this show is on Amazon Prime Video.
I’m not sure there’s a “solution” for the show long term. In a world where people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are the public faces of one political party, there’s very little that can be done to make satire that’s more extreme than the stupidity of real life. When Homelander, the America Fuck Yea! character, engages in overt anti-semitism the feeling isn’t shock, it’s a numb “yup, that seems right.” Somehow real life has made a show as facially ridiculous as The Boys seem mundane.
Nevertheless, the actual episodes themselves remain fantastic fun. The action is as at least as absurdly gory as prior seasons – hell, the first half of the very first episode brings one of the series’ most hilariously depraved moments. And it doesn’t let up through eight episodes. Some of the goofier send-ups of superhero and nerd culture land incisively. The constant spoofing on The Snyder Cut works well and the script is peppered with some hilarious deep cuts for industry obsessives (shout out, Tony Gilroy!).
The entire cast of past seasons returns with a few surprises. The major new addition, Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), fits the show’s tone perfectly though I’ll withhold much comment for now as he barely factors in the first three episodes released today. Antony Starr (Banshee) remains the series MVP for me, even as his Homelander moves into more and more overt villainy. Starr is an immensely charismatic figures and imbues Homelander with just the right amount of weirdness. His plasticine smile is the perfect encapsulation of the friendly public face of America hiding the roiling menace within.
Jack Quaid (Scream) remains an excellent straight man and his couple chemistry with Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones) remains tremendous. Karl Urban (Star Trek, Thor: Ragnarok) is the perfect gruff leading man for this sort of show. The supporting players all feel particularly well served this year including strong sub-plots for Jessie T. Usher (Independence Day: Resurgence), Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad), and personal favorite Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl). The depth and excellence of the ensemble remains among the strongest on television.
So it’s more of The Boys. If you’ve enjoyed the show in the past, you’re sure to continue to enjoy it. And if you’re one of those “get woke, go broke” people who just now realizes the show has been making fun of you, well… if you were expecting a happy ending, The Boys ain’t that kind of massage parlor.
The first three episodes of The Boys’ third season premiere today on Prime Video.