The Boys Season 3 review: Superhero masterpiece with the best villain on TV
With Season 3, The Boys has certified itself as the supreme superhero property across screens big and small; razor-sharp, frightening, and always exhilarating.
Cast your mind back to the state of pop culture in July 2019: we were a few months off the back of Avengers: Endgame, the biggest movie event of all time; Far From Home dropped a whopper of a Spider-Man cliffhanger; and the DCEU was still caught in the Snyder Cut campaign.
Then came the first season of The Boys, a whole new breed of hard-edged, guts-and-lasers television that showed superheroes as egotistic, overzealous maniacs. It was renewed for a second season before its premiere, and as Amazon expected, was an instant smash-hit across the world.
Three seasons later, it’s the cream of an otherwise whelming crop. In a through-the-motions era of comic book movie dominance, The Boys feels like the only superhero show that matters, if only for its ceaseless risk-taking. At this point, showrunner Eric Kripke can do “whatever the f**k he wants.”
The Boys Season 3: Homelander is the best villain on TV
Homelander (Antony Starr) has always been the big bad of The Boys. Stormfront (Aya Cash) served as an effective foil-turned-lover in Season 2, but her taste for Nazism and the “master race” never felt particularly threatening – perhaps that speaks volumes about the real world.
This time, it’s paved the way for Homelander at his most terrifying, amassing legions of MAGA-esque supporters who’ll chant his name even when he blasts a man’s head off in their face. If he actually existed, it’s no stretch to believe it’d be exactly like this.
There will come a time when questions need to be asked about Starr’s lack of Emmy recognition. Quite simply, there hasn’t been a villain as scarily compelling and skin-crawlingly charismatic as this since Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones. Every flicker of his eyes, grimace, and strained smile strikes a chill.
The Boys Season 3: Homelander is the show’s MVP, but Soldier Boy was this season’s highlight
Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) was highly anticipated from the outset, particularly given this season’s unforgettable inclusion of Herogasm. No, Soldier Boy and Homelander didn’t get it on, but their dynamic has been a source of constant fascination: the two mightiest men in the world, interlinked in ways they didn’t yet know.
Ackles makes a meal out of every scene, imbuing the character with a steely, cheesy gravitas reserved for the action heroes of the ’70s and ’80s, like a bigoted Captain America. He also has the best line: “If you’re gonna act hysterical, I’m gonna slap you like I’m Connery.”
There’s some naughty fish-out-of-water hijinks, like masturbating in front of grannies and drinking a cocktail of milk and Coca-Cola, but his villainy isn’t as overt as Homelander. He’s a nasty piece of work, there’s no doubt, but he’s also a naive relic with his own daddy-fuelled, misogynistic angst. Hopefully, he’ll return in Season 4.
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Alongside Butcher (Karl Urban) and Hughie (Jack Quaid), his fight with Homelander may just be the show’s best moment so far. The face-crunching violence is a plus, but crucially, it’s a brawl steeped in character with every blow and cape-pull. Ultimately, it’s more exciting than anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and the same could be said for the rest of the season.
The Boys Season 3: Not a single weak episode
The Boys has always been brilliant, but the episode-to-episode strength of Season 3 never dipped. We started strong with Termite exploding out of his boyfriend’s penis, but the show’s shock value never feels like a surface-level play for discourse. It all speaks to The Boys’ treatment of violence in a super-powered world, and each death – no matter how extraordinary or whoop-worthy – has a grotesque coldness to it.
Stars and stripes may tear through the clouds, lasers may scorch the earth, but The Boys’ world isn’t far from our own. Mania fills the streets, whether they’re supporting Starlight or branding her a child trafficker. Public perception online is a greater fortune than money. The media is antagonized by the far-right. When the satire isn’t hilarious, it’s depressing.
Consider the staggering amount of plot across eight episodes: Hughie started off working with Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), before realising she was a supe and returning to The Boys; Hughie and Butcher took Compound V and learned of its dangers by the end; Stormfront killed herself, with Homelander steadily losing his mind thereafter and murdering several supes; and that’s before we even get to Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), Frenchie (Tomer Capone), Starlight (Erin Moriarty), MM (Laz Alonso), Maeve (Dominique McElligott), and Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell).
Season 3 feels complete, even with loose ends. It’s entirely satisfying on its own, while setting the stage for the next (possibly climactic) chapter.
The Boys Season 3: A superhero masterpiece
The Boys Season 3 ranks among the best television of the last 10 years. No other show shifts between horror, bone-breaching satire, edge-of-your-seat action, and gallows laughs with the same verve.
Its dark heart must be heralded and preserved, lest we lose the only superheroes that actually have something to say.
The Boys Season 3 is available to stream in its entirety on Prime Video now.