The Boys Season 3 Is Back in Town

This third season overview of Amazon’s The Boys is relatively punctual compared to my review of the first two seasons. (I threw in my reaction to Deadpool 3 news too.) This was also made possible courtesy of my patron, Korey Hughes. SPOILERS for The Boys season three abound, but none for its Diabolical cartoon spinoff because it wasn’t included in the professional quality bootleg DVDs. For instance, there is no sequence set to Garbage’s “Boys Wanna Fight.” I haven’t found any fan edits of this either despite putting the idea out into the world. C’mon, this is low hanging fruit! I like Christopher Lennertz‘s end credits scores though.

This series says “supe” so much it made made me crave lobster bisque. Do not have a drink every time they say it. Your liver will kill you in self-dense. Have a glass of milk instead. Here’s a portrait of my cat reconstructed from The Boys trailer stills!

Dawn Of The Seven has been reshot (secretly by Tony Gilroy ala Rogue One) so now Stormfront (recast with Charlize Theron, which isn’t a Marvel cameo no matter what clickbait headlines say) is the team’s enemy. (Can WB do likewise with The Flash film?) I want a churro too! I thought the real Stormfront was dead, but she was just horribly mutilated last finale. She commits suicide by swallowing her own tongue on Homelander’s “birthday.” Homelander confirming he didn’t want to make an Übermenschen army with her was the last straw. (He weirdly wants to freeze Queen Maeve’s eggs to make babies with later instead of impregnating the more receptive Stormfront.) He’s less of a white supremacist than he is a Homelander supremacist. He’s still racist, just not open to sharing the limelight & power.

Mother’s Milk’s OCD is handled well. His beloved wife left with their daughter after the first two season torpedoes his life. PTSD compounds his tics when the supe who killed his grandpa, Soldier Boy, resurfaces. He also has to struggle with safely expressing his anger as a black divorced dad. Laz Alonso finally gets a showcase.

With Mother’s Milk  & Hughie retired from the team, the remaining The Boys work as contractors nabbing rogue supes for the Federal Bureau For Superhuman Affairs. They chafe at needing to be less murderous than before. Once Billy Butcher gets a bee in his bonnet from Maeve about a mysterious weapon used to kill Soldier Boy being able to kill Homelander too, they’re back to being blunt instruments of carnage. They take entirely the wrong approach to interrogating Soldier Boy’s former Avengers Payback teammates, Crimson Countess & Gunpowder, begetting more violence that might’ve been avoided if they’d had more finesse & patience. It turns out Butcher could’ve just asked his CIA pal, Colonel Grace Mallory.

Hughie Campbell discovers Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), is a supe working for Vought at the end of the season premiere. I appreciate its approach to pacing as an actual television serial. No Netflix’s Surf Dracula here! Hughie rejoins The Boys once he learns his boss is a Vought tool. He doesn’t even suggest that an agency with resources holding supes accountable would be salvageable if Neuman was replaced with someone not corrupt. He’s immediately aboard the put out fire with gasoline vigilante train again!

Hughie learned not to scream when splattered with gore. Now that’s character development! Like him, I’m becoming desensitized to people being gruesomely exploded. Surely there are more creative ways to show folks getting murdered by superpowers.  Even a mascot literally caught in Crimson Countess’s friendly fire gets blown apart into gooey chunks instead of burning. How did they forget how fire works? The TNT Twins, who you’d expect to have explosive powers, shoot weak energy beams?

V-24 gives people superpowers just for one day. Because of Stormfront being outed as a Nazi, Vought can’t sell this $2 million a hit wonder-drug to the military. Double agent Queen Maeve smuggles some samples to Butcher to level the playing field. Not giving The Boys powers from the outset like the comics was a wise move, & making them temporary doesn’t irreparably pull the underdogs from their humanity. It also quickly becomes a PSA on not doing experimental drugs. In addition to standard superstrength, V-24 gives Butcher laser-vision & Hughie teleportation.

Homelander does the inverse of Superman (or Deadpool) talking down a suicide. (Why hasn’t Superman & Lois played that iconic scene straight yet?) The cast of Riverdale were slated to appear on Homelander’s birthday special, which is a big upgrade from Peacemaker wanting to frame them for murder. Supersonic’s “License To Drive” is very DuJour. They blew so much money on his other single.

After a year of being forced to publicly apologize for romancing a literal Nazi & having control of The Seven usurped by Starlight, Homelander snaps during his live television special. He announces he’s not sorry & gaslights viewers by insisting he’s the true victim. This breakdown restores the public’s admiration for him, much to his delighted surprise. (Is it still ironic if it’s inspired by real world politics?) He convinces Neuman to betray Stan Edgar so he no longer has anyone reining him in at Vought. When Starlight threatens to tank his image again by releasing the blackmail, he conters by promising to go on a nation-destroying rampage. To rub it in, he reinstates The Deep on The Seven & kills its newest member, Starlight’s ex-boyfriend, so it’s once again at a deficit.

Gunpowder appears to have the power of bullet-kinesis like the crummy movie adaption of Wanted. Does this telekinesis only work on bullets, or is that just what he’s used to manipulating? Does he even need to fire bullets from his guns if he can direct them with his mind? (I ask this whenever a Green Lantern generates a projectile weapon construct.) Or are his powers so limited that he still requires the firearm velocity?

The Boys’ new stance is “Only a good guy with powers can stop a bad guy with powers.” That may work in an optimistic superhero story, but this one is much too pessimistic. A gun show sequence in the second episode positions superpowers as an allegory for firearms. When the heroes use both guns & superpower drugs, making a strawman argument against gun owners as deranged extremists is hypocritical. (Even in non-satire, you never see any gun owners depicted supporting policy changes to reduce gun violence.) The Boys aren’t even a surgical strike team whose professionalism makes them an exception. They cause plenty of collateral damage.

Within the show, however, supes are more directly analogous to mutants since they were given powers as babies. They’d exemplify rights of personhood not The Second Amendment. Humans using V-24 are the ones arming themselves. Both forms of V are pharmaceuticals, so perhaps it’s actually just a straightforward condemnation of Big Pharma? Can a metaphor stand for things that’re explicitly part of the story already? So also like the X-Men, supes are broad enough to encompass multiple interpretations & become very muddled if you analyze them. Is that a pro or con?

New York Congresswoman Vicky Neuman is loosely inspired by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. I’m not sure if this was an intentional misdirect for her being a surprise baddie. Or is the series trying to say that even progressive politicians are really corrupt tools of big business? This is why American voter turnout is so low.

Googling all the Cats names pushed Ashley Barrett fully to the dark side. Now she’s a power top! Ashley pulled out her hair so much that now she finds it arousing during hatesex. Unlike every live action Lex Luthor, the newly minted Vought CEO is appropriately ginger. She named her strap-on The Star-Spangled Banger.

With his superspeed waning due to a heart condition, the out of shape A-Train desperately struggles for relevancy. He’s trying to play the race card but somehow manages to come off even more insincere than Vought’s usual pandering. He gets ribbed by everyone for his redesigned suit, but I kind of dig it more than his less colorful costume.  A-Train accidentally begins to honestly care when his brother informs him of supe brutality to black communities. His attempt to rectify this ends with Blue Hawk crippling his brother & wounding others.

Black Noir has to wear his Snake Eyes mask after he was gruesomely disfigured & rendered mute on a mission like Snake Eyes. (The movies changed his origin, but this makes it clearer Noir’s a GI Joe homage.) So he’s officially not a clone countermeasure against Homelander like the comics. He’s terrified of Soldier Boy after he brutalized him so badly he was brain damaged. Reassuring hallucinations of Buster Beaver cartoon characters have been with him ever since. Young Black Noir is played by a different actor than Nathan Mitchell, which seems unnecessary since we never see the adult version fully unmasked. Most of Payback are played by the same actors in the flashback & modern era, so why can’t he be ageless too?

Both of the stories of Soldier Boy being killed were wrong. He was just kidnapped by Communists, experimented on, & kept in suspended animation for decades until freed by The Boys. (Jamie the brain-eating supe hamster has a cameo.) Somehow being irradiated gives him the ability to make radioactive explosions from his chest even though he only had super soldier powers previously? His direct radiation burst was sufficient to nullify Kimiko’s regeneration but not outright kill her? (I briefly thought it allowed her to speak too.) For a series that prided itself on realistic depictions of superpowers, it suddenly veers into Silver Age territory.

Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden) sold out her boyfriend, Soldier Boy, to the Soviets for free because of color solidarity. Had she been paid off, she could’ve funded her chimpanzee sanctuary without being a cam girl for Seth Rogen. (Nope has the most tragic chimp prologue since The Lawnmower Man.) When Soldier Boy learns of her betrayal, he makes her better dead than red.

They made Kimiko look extra adorable this season. Why isn’t her sign language subtitled? Karen Fukuhara gets to show off her singing skills in dream sequences. She suddenly decides that her powers are a curse. Then she has the epiphany that superpowers aren’t inherently good or evil, it’s how you use them. Her budding romance with Frenchie is wholesomely sweet.

Little Nina is a Russian crimestress whose defining traits are being bloodthirsty & horny on main (for Frenchie). That’s the default setting for almost everyone in the series. Her swirly blue blouse evokes Vertigo. (Katia Winter previously portrayed the Beebo-worshipping Freydís Eiríksdóttir in Legends Of Tomorrow, which may explain her love of the hue.) Recuperating Kimiko was still able to kill her goons after being grievously tortured, which further debunks claims the show’s tone is realistic. Then this antagonist just disappears after inspiring Kimiko to get repowered.

While characters periodically tell Butcher his methods go too far, Homelander is such an enormous threat that any criticism is shrugged off. Billy does little speeches about how he has to make the hard choices himself so no one else does. Although he’ll grudgingly work with some, he’s still open about wanting to wipe out all supes once Homelander’s killed. He gets to have angry drunk sex with Maeve so relapsed alcoholism looks hot. Even when he saves Hughie from terminal V-24 exposure, he gives him a concussion instead of explaining the lethal side effects. So it seems like the show still wants you to root for a fascist so long as his backstory is tragic.

Many viewers root for Homelander instead because he’s more aspirational. While Neuman, Ashley, & his teammates on The Seven (It’s got the best team portraits this side of Stargirl.) have done their share of wrongs, they’re still empathetic on some level. Homelander has grown even more monstrous in his narcissism without a lover to distract him. (It’s always hilarious whenever someone says “Superman wouldn’t stand a chance against Homelander or Omni-Man because they aren’t limited by his moral code” as if he’s never fought General Zod or Ultraman.) Although he sadistically torments them, these allies still support him out of fear. It’s like how Joker bullies The Legion Of Doom in Harley Quinn but with powers to back him up. How did so many viewers honestly not realize he was an irredeemable villain before? (They’re most likely the same people harassing Erin Moriarty, which the show rejects.) Watching Homelander succeed constantly is frustrating because any headway against him feels like it’d just be a Pyrrhic victory at this point.

Hughie rightfully feels inferior to Starlight. Compared to the rest of the show, how he handles his fragile masculinity isn’t that toxic. Their relationship falls apart when he’s honest about  his questionable decisions with her. She rejects him taking V-24 to be able to hypothetically save her as patriarchal, although you could argue her not wanting him to be likewise empowered selfishly maintains their power imbalance. Sometimes high stakes situations make people fall out of love too.

Vought’s equivalent of Captain America is an abusive scumbag too? I am shocked! Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) is exactly what many viewers expected the MCU US Agent to be. He got his powers as an adult during WWII like Stormfront, which further undermines Vought struggling to give adults powers in season two. This swaggering fraud wasn’t even at D-Day! Not only does he conveniently now have the power to remove supes’ powers (whilst killing unnamed bystanders), he was also the sperm donor that led to Vought creating Homelander. Stacking both of these on top of him is narratively awkward, especially during the climax. His detonation is triggered by a surprisingly popular Russian song, making him extra unstable.

The unhinged Soldier Boy was betrayed with the backing of Vought to make way for Homelander. Why would Vought give Soldier Boy to the Russians when it’s staunchly capitalist? It just gives the USSR an opportunity to reverse engineer Compound-V. They didn’t need to endanger Payback assets in Nicaragua. Surely Vought could’ve kept him locked up in one of its own facilities.

Poor Starlight’s got to disprove power corrupts all by herself. (Though she’s yet to make amends for killing that driver during a carjacking.) She’s optimistic but not naive. After unsuccessfully trying to subvert the system from the inside, she finally quits Vought. She also rejects Neuman’s proposed alliance. She then leverages her social media clout to combat Vought’s fake news. I’ve seen so many superhero stories where the heroes inexplicably don’t take any basic steps to counter the villain until the climax, so her being proactive is refreshing.

Supe sex typically goes horribly wrong, but the annual Herogasm orgy seemed like it’d be a zany sex farce. Then MM points out there are human sex workers being abused to kill the mood. The ensuing threeway melee between Homelander, Butcher, & Soldier Boy is a series best. SB’s ensuing explosion turns the orgy into a superspreader event. Homelander denying the danger to the public suggests it’s a coronavirus analogy. Did the blast fallout render recast Love Sausage’s prehensile penis powerless? This tragedy probably marks the final Herogasm, so it’s a shame Frenchie missed it.

Both Hughie & Ashley call out A-Train for not caring about any of the lives he ruined until it affected his family. I was not expecting him to get a redemption arc. He apologizes to Hughie for killing Robin. He has a heart attack after dragging Blue Hawk across asphalt. In hilarious irony, Vought is able to revive A-Train by transplanting the dead supe’s heart into him. Instead of being pleased that he got vengeance, however, A-Train’s brother is disgusted that Blue Hawk wasn’t publicly brought to justice. Vought has spun him as another victim of the Herogasm massacre.

Black Noir overcomes his crippling trauma to return to Vought to help fight Soldier Boy. Homelander learns that he’d kept the secret of his parentage from him. Black Noir gets his guts ripped out for this perceived betrayal. Noir is comforted by his faithful cartoon companions during his tragic murder. He deserved better!

The season finale’s climax is confusing. Soldier Boy goes to Vought Tower to assassinate Homelander, but the heroes want to scuttle this mission because there’d be so many bystander casualties. Butcher & Maeve betray them to focus on the mission. The Homelander’s son, Ryan, walks in on the supe duel, which immediately makes Butcher prioritize saving him from the imminent explosion. Then it becomes a two-pronged battle to keep Homelander & Soldier Boy, who have their own complicated father-son dynamic, apart. The Boys’ ace in the hole against Homelander becomes the higher priority liability to stop. All the turns happen so quickly it’s bewildering.

During the climax, it looks like Hughie is going to take a fatal dose of V-24 to rescue Starlight. Instead he charges her up with the studio lights so much that she can fly. This is a great example of showing not telling character growth. Hughie gets over his insecurity to trust Starlight to save herself. Even if you consider him giving her the electrical boost a rescue, he does it in a smarter way that doesn’t make it about himself.

QueenMaeve

I used a season one image to pun at the third’s expense.

While I like Dominique McElligott’s jaded performance, sidelined Queen Maeve is underwhelming this season. She seems to just have the standard supe superstrength, but not at a level that threatens Homelander. He incapacitates her offscreen. Once she’s freed, she further complicates things by throwing away the rare anti-Soldier Boy nerve gas. Despite training sober for months, she’s just a nusiance to Homelander. Maeve only succeeds in stabbing him in the ear while distracted, but it’s not even clear if that caused permanent damage. Meanwhile he effortlessly gouges out her eye. It’s as infuriating as watching freshly resurrected Superman easily trounce Wonder Woman in either cut of Justice League.

After potentially ruining it, Maeve saves the day by heroically knocking Soldier Boy out the window before he detonates. How did Soldier Boy & depowered Maeve not die when they fell from Vought Tower? The depowered supe retires with her girlfriend & an eyepatch while Vought spins her a martyr’s death.

The season stars with two big status quo changes then quickly nullifies them. Homelander begins muzzled & losing the adulation he craves. The scenes where Antony Starr reveals his vulnerable chinks are some of the most engaging. Then he gets even more popular when unmuzzled. So they made negative progress on destroying him. We don’t explore how The Boys have to adapt their vigilante tactics to being FBSA agents after the first episode.

The Boys thwart Soldier Boy, whom was a problem they were responsible for unleashing. He gets put back into suspended animation, this time by Mallory. Kimiko becomes empowered again. Starlight officially joins The Boys, which she’s unofficially been doing before for almost the whole show. Butcher only has months to live. The Seven is reduced to three members, so I’m curious who’ll fill those four slots. Neuman is perfunctorily set up to be the next Vice President like her male comics counterpart.

The biggest turn is Becca’s son joining Homelander’s side. We don’t spend much time with Ryan, so it’s too abrupt to get invested in his corruption yet. He seems primarily motivated by Butcher’s absenteeism, which throws Mallory’s guardianship under the bus too by extension. Ryan was was raised by his beloved mother to be the antithesis of his father, so it feels like this’ll just be a rebellious phase. (Madelyn Stillwell’s missing son pops up as a teleporter in the supe orphanage.)

Starlight cut out everyone who’d make her compromise her ethics to get ahead. So why does she still allow Butcher to be part of The Boys? He ought to be ousted for betraying the team & prioritizing revenge. Keeping him around just enables those who idolize this working class bastard.

This feels like it ought to be the penultimate season. Showrunner Eric Kripke says Homelander’s winning streak was directly inspired by the Trump administration. Even having to revisit a fictionalized version is exhausting. They need to take him off the board to make the threats fresh again. The perpetual stalemate needs to end. With Butcher dying of V-24 poisoning, it’d be the perfect time for him to finally defeat his archenemy. Or to end the show on a very pessimistic note, Homelander could finally kill off The Boys by next season finale. Then Neuman can pop his head. Just don’t let it overstay its welcome. I worry the Gen V spinoff could stretch it even thinner.

I enjoyed this while it was happening, but the flaws were more apparent than usual. It doesn’t seem like the kind of season that can truly be evaluated by itself though. Although the eight episodes don’t drag, the overall story just went in a circle until it got to teasing the threats for next season. Those teases could’ve pretty much happened at the end of season two too. If season four fires on all cylinders, this will be seen as necessary set-up. If the next really doesn’t work, this could be the beginning of the end. It’s got big fulcrum energy.

~

Official Deadpool 3 news is even later than my MCU cold takes. Grodd damn it! Hugh Jackman promised he retired as Wolverine with Logan! Have these X-Men thespians no integrity? He better wear a real masked Wolverine costume this time to make his un-retiring worthwhile! I’d honestly be more excited if they’d announced Emma Dumont would be reprising Polaris.

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