Jack Quaid (Hughie Campbell), Karl Urban (Billy Butcher), Tomer Capone (Frenchie), Karen Fukuhara (Kimiko), Laz Alonso (Mother's Milk)

Season 3 of ‘The Boys’ Is Darker, Dirtier, and More Cynical Than Ever

Amazon's nihilistic superhero series remains a biting satire.

In a pop culture landscape positively saturated with superhero content, Amazon Prime’s The Boys has managed to carve out a nasty little niche for themselves. The breakout hit, adapted from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s cult comic series, quickly made a name for itself with its over-the-top violence and wildly explicit sex scenes, often combining the two in a manner not seen since Game of Thrones. But The Boys truly shines in its unsubtle yet deeply effective satire of celebrity worship, corporate greed, and America’s broken political system. The first two seasons of the series took aim at toxic fandom, commercial Christianity, and the rising tide of fascism and extremism as embodied by Nazi superhero Stormfront (Aya Cash). In many ways, The Boys is a response to Trumpism, and the continuing fracturing of American society. The series is blunt to a point, and season 3 deepens the satire while pivoting unhinged supe leader Homelander into more of a Trump surrogate than ever before.

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Season 3 skips a year forward, finding its characters in a moment of calm (don’t worry, it’s brief). Homelander (a chilling Antony Starr) has been leashed thanks to Queen Maeve’s (Dominique McElligott) Flight 37 blackmail video, and is on media apology tour where he claims his relationship with Stormfront was an error of the heart. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is working for congresswoman (and secret supe head-popper) Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) at the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. He’s happily reconciled with Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and has committed to fighting Vought and the supes in a legal, morally sound way. Hughie has also enlisted Butcher (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) as government contractors to investigate law-breaking supes. Meanwhile Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), has quit the group and is focused on spending time with his daughter Janine (Liyou Abere). And Butcher himself has become somewhat of a father figure to Becca and Homelander’s son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti).

Of course, nothing can stay calm forever. This is The Boys, after all. Once Hughie discovers he’s been working for the enemy, he quickly realizes the futility in playing by the rules. It’s impossible to take the high road when those in power are speeding by on the lowest possible road, racking up casualties with impunity. It’s a lesson many (but not enough) frustrated democrats can relate to, as republicans continue to run roughshod over the rule of law. And how do you stand for something when you’re willing to discard your own values to win? Is there any truth in the idea that sinking their level makes us just as bad as the enemy?

Hughie’s dark turn is aided and abetted by Butcher, who has access to an experimental temporary Compound-V. An injection of the neon-green drug gives the user super powers for 24 hours, but the after effects are brutal. Butcher is finally able to level the playing field, but to do so he must becomes that which he hates most: a supe.

But what else can defeat the increasingly disturbed Homelander, who positions himself as a poster boy for white male grievance culture? As Homelander’s egomania and paranoia begin to take over, the Boys go in search of something that could kill him. They go after a rumored weapon that dispatched Homelander’s predecessor, Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles). Ackles, a new addition to the cast, brings plenty of grit and retro chauvinism to the avatar of toxic masculinity that is Soldier Boy.

The Boys is a satirical free-for-all, and season 3 is no exception. Everything from corporate wokeism to reality competitions to child beauty pageants to Trump’s COVID response is name-checked in the series, but some bits work better than others. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) gets shoehorned into a Black Lives Matter storyline that doesn’t quite get the time it deserves. And many may find that The Boys is retreading already well-worn territory. However, I think there is still plenty of life left in The Boys, and a depressingly endless amount of American hypocrisy and depravity to skewer. In many ways, The Boys is an imperfect but painfully accurate funhouse mirror of the world we live in today.

The Boys‘ first three episodes are currently available on Amazon Prime. Subsequent episodes will be released weekly.

(featured image: Prime Video/Amazon Studios)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.