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The Boys: Season Three

"I showed people the real me, and they love me for it."

Boy, oh boy.


This is a fun show, I'll admit it. It's bonkers and irreverent, entertaining. Pretty good assortment of characters elevated by some great performances. It's got style, and features a lot of timely material the average viewer can recognize. Insanely well-produced, courtesy of Amazon. And it's playing with a genre I have a soft spot for. There's a hell of a lot to like about it, for me personally as well as other people.

So why don't I really like it?

Primarily, it's the show's weaknesses in crafting a solid thematic narrative combined with the way audiences seem to have lovingly embraced it during these increasingly cynical times we're living in.

Though it often does well with the execution of its plot points, The Boys TV show is a repetitive mess, for the most part. It might have a clearer sense of identity and direction than, say, AMC's Preacher, but in some ways it feels just as hollow.

What's It All About

The Boys, both the Amazon series and the graphic novel series, is meant to be a bleak, crude and debauched depiction of what the real, post-9/11 world would look like if it were running rampant with costumed, superhuman weirdos, taking aim at corporate greed and malfeasance. Though more often than not, its real aim is to be a sardonic and surreal reflection of purile celebrity culture, with insanely privileged corporate-owned "superheroes" (or supes) being the biggest stars.

Although, as the story goes on, it ends up being about other things too. Most saliently, about the bitter rivalry between supe-spanking anti-hero Billy Butcher and the megalomaniacal Homelander, the strongest supe. Their conflict and duality is what everything is centered around, certainly more than the Compound V turning people into superhumans or the heartless conglomerate that monopolizes it; this is even more true in the show.

What I Liked

I'd been waiting awhile for them to introduce the temporary Compound V, as it's part of the Boys' strategy from the start in the comic. But, of course, I have mixed feelings since they do both more and less with it in the show.

As usual, I was very moved by the developing relationship between Frenchie and the Female; at least, in their quieter moments. It's very effecting, and the actors both play it so well.

Despite how redundant it feels, I liked the way A-Train's seasonal arc concluded. That is, I like that he ultimately failed to redeem himself, even when he had the chance multiple times. There seem to be a lot of people nowadays who believe a character arc is only well-written if it ends on a satisfying note. I reject this completely. Just like in real life, some characters never outrun their demons, like A-Train. That is genuinely "realistic."

A big highlight for a lot of people, including myself, was Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy. I watched Supernatural for years, so it was nice to see him again in a dynamic TV role that isn't Dean Winchester. Soldier Boy is like a sociopathic, boomer version of Captain America. He's got some of the best scenes and dialogue.

This season definitely gets the most out of the show version of Black Noir, at least superficially.

Another character with way more prominence is Ashley, who finds herself increasingly overwhelmed by the stress of being Homelander's handler/terrified sycophant. It'd be depressing if it weren't so amusing.

Butcher and Maeve have drunken, hate sex. That was fun.

While they drew parallels before, the writers are pretty open now about the fact that Homelander is supposed to evoke Donald Trump, particularly after he takes over Vought Inc. And especially when he realizes his base loves it whenever he breaks script and speaks "honestly." His mood-swings, tantrums, self-pity and overall erratic behavior gets worse. He even compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. at one point. Creatively and politically, this all earns them at least a third of a point.

Even better and more relevant than the Homelander/Trump equivalency is the way the show portrays Trump's followers. What our current President refers to as "MAGA Republicans" and I refer to as "Republicans," but are more succinctly described as fascists. They are represented by Todd, stepfather to Mother's Milk's daughter. He's a perfect microcosm of the kind of weak yet egotistical morons who normalize and deify fascist demagoguery, even at its most vicious and absurd extremes.

Finally, I like the way they mirror last season's temporary end to Butcher and Homelander's conflict. Instead of Butcher quietly defeating Homelander by walking away with Ryan, this time Ryan leaves with Homelander, defeating Butcher.

What I Didn't

Waited three seasons for the Boys to finally turn the tables with Compound V. They finally do it, and it's pretty cool... but the show itself makes a moral judgement of superhuman powers, in general, with everyone else condemning Butcher and Hughie for using V. They try to wrap that up with the "he who fights monsters" angle they're building for Butcher, but it just came off as being hypocritical to me. Up until now, their only strategy combatting supes has been mostly weak attempts at blackmail; if that ever fails, their only plan is to just suicidally deploy any guns or explosives they have on hand. And to drive this message home, the new V is fatal if used frequently. This all despite the fact that some of the team's most consistently helpful allies are the ones with super powers: Kimiko/the Female, Annie/Starlight, Queen Maeve.

Once again, I have to voice my frustration with the show's brand of socio-political commentary. The Amazon adaptation is often applauded for being a better version of the source material. I will say it's a bit more subtle and nuanced, but honestly, the graphic novel has more integrity. At least, in terms of its messages. While I may not fully agree with Garth Ennis's views on superheroes, politics, pop culture, the military, etc., I can still appreciate that he sincerely holds those views. Even the really crass shit feels like it's coming from an authentic place. Barring a few examples, the show's version of this irreverence often feels as performative as Disney and Marvel's version of progressivism.

This leads into the problem with tone. I get the feeling the writers are trying to make this adaptation something more like Scream, both satirical and a faithful example of the genre its satirizing; this as opposed to The Boys comic, which was far too outlandish and scathing with its satire to ever be taken that seriously. I don't think they're succeeding, though. It's too dramatic to be as goofy as they want it to be, and too goofy to be as dramatic as they want it to be. Leads to scenes like the one where a newly-empowered Hughie confronts A-Train about killing his girlfriend, which might have been really cathartic were they not both standing in the middle of a ridiculous supe orgy.

Speaking of Hughie, this season killed my interest in him and his relationship with Annie/Starlight. He spends the first half of the season jealous of a supe guy she's friends with, then spends the second half even more personally threatened when Homelander decides he and Starlight will be the Seven's new couple. Moreover, he's very insecure about the fact that she has super powers and that his lack of any means he can't protect her; this is what compels him to start using V with Butcher (well, that and their epic bromance). We're meant to find it very sexist and stifling. We're also meant to find it very uplifting and not at all stupid when, in the finale's big action scene, Hughie lets go of his need to prove his manhood and instead uses a lightshow to literally empower Annie so she can face off against this season's antagonist.

Another thing I'm kind of over: Homelander. Obviously, Antony Starr deserves the props he's been getting for taking this character and making it his own; dude's a revelation. But more than ever, this feels less like The Boys and more like The Homelander Show. The plot for two and a half seasons now has pretty much been Homelander wreaking havoc while nearly everyone else tiptoes around him. It's to the point where he's sidelining other interesting villains (Stan Edgar, Victoria Neumann, Stillwell from Season One), and any that remain are ones who reflect Homelander's casually fascist mystique (Stormfront last season, Soldier Boy and Blue Hawk this season). What makes it worse is that, for a lot of people, Homelander's somehow become one of these "literally me" characters – I guess because people relate to his superiority-inferiority complex.

Which feeds another lingering criticism I have about this show: a lot of it feels like it's made to generate memes on social media. Nothing wrong with that by itself, lots of shows have moments or scenes that come off like that, at least to me. Memes are fun, we all enjoy them. Maybe it's so glaring with The Boys because everything else in it feels so samey. With the plot and characters being as thin as they are, all that stands out are the cheap jokes meant to appeal to those perpetually online. And while I do sadly fall under that demographic, it's not enough to hold me.

That this season ends in roughly the same way as Season Two does not make me hopeful for the show's future. I'm not surprised, given its popularity now and the fact that the writers are pretty set in their ways as far as where the story is going – I know the plot of the graphic novel, and can see how the adaptation is bending towards it despite the changes that have been made.

What I Think

My opinion on this is more to do with my personal taste at this point in time than the flaws of the show itself. I watched Team America recently, and then decided to look up Roger Ebert's review of the film (as I occasionally do after seeing an older movie), and while I liked that movie more than he did, I did agree with his general critique: "I wasn't offended by the movie's content so much as by its nihilism."

That's the way I feel about this show.

The Boys has all this material to work with, and money backing it up, but it doesn't have much to say. Besides what, fascism is bad? Or is it that fascism can be bad, but blind narcissism is worse? Or maybe it's just about things like toxic masculinity, the sins of the fathers and the cycle of revenge above all? Because that's what it always comes back to, with Butcher and Homelander. Anything else – corporate greed, government corruption, references to real life events, memes and whatnot – is just there to add color to the background.

It's very well-made, but I just know it's either going to try committing to the graphic novel's grimdark conclusion or it's going to sheepishly course-correct into something fuzzier and less likely to alienate viewers. And I don't think I'd be satisfied with either path, especially when more of what I've complained about here lies in between.

Like the graphic novel, I'll probably have to catch the cliff notes on this one.

Supes and Sceptics:

* The most minor yet still very annoying thing in the show might be Annie's glowing eyes whenever she's supposed to be angry or threatening. It's a weak special effect, no one is ever scared by it, and the buildup to her powers actually having an effect on supes (i.e. briefly distracting and winding Soldier Boy) was not worth all the attention they drew to it. Especially when previous seasons already established her powers are lethal, even to supes, whose vulnerable eyes she can blind.

* Though undercut by the moral hand-wringing over it, the scenes of Butcher and Hughie using their temporary super powers were a ton of fun. Between them and Soldier Boy, it was exhilerating to see Homelander face an actual physical challenge for once.

* Even better than Homelander getting wailed on is Queen Maeve being able to tell that he used foundation to cover up his black-eye afterward.

* The Deep screws an octopus at Herogasm, and gets his spot back on the Seven. That's about all the development he gets. He's another character who has mostly overstayed his welcome... but I guess people really love those Deep Thoughts with The Deep memes.

* Another thing that bugs me about this show is the way it tries to satirize modern superhero movies/shows in this sneering way, but then turns right around and plays those same tropes and cliches straight. The climatic battle of this season is a perfect example, much like the "girls get it done" scene from last season. It's another way in which The Boys comes off as disengenuous.

* Though I do adore Frenchie and the Female, the secondary villains introduced to broaden their backstories were weak and on the nose. They were just there to reiterate the point about Frenchie and the Female both being seen as savage and used by others like tools, a point which is made well enough by the way Butcher treats them.

* Homelander killing Black Noir was rather effective. They somehow made it feel like a raw, visceral murder despite it being between warped versions of Superman and Batman. I like that Homelander actually considered Black Noir his only friend, the guy who never spoke and was essentially just a brain-damaged shell of a person. I also like the scene right after where he lets his inferiors at Vought know that a) he just killed Black Noir, and b) he likes them all way less than he liked Black Noir.

* Queen Maeve and Soldier Boy's fake out deaths were lame. And I say this even though those two characters/actors are among my favorites on the show. Here's hoping neither of them end up like Stormfront this season, brought back in a pretty thankless role only to die offscreen.

* While I was intrigued by the weird Ouroboros of dysfunctional father-son issues tying Soldier Boy, Homelander, Ryan and Butcher together, it comes up too late and relies too much on the vaguely characterized Ryan.


Stan Edgar: "In five years, I hope to be out of the superhero business entirely."

Homelander: "Well, what if we share a different destiny. Something a little more... scorched earth. Shock and awe. Blood and bone. And in the end, only one of us left standing. Isn't that what you want?"
Billy Butcher: "Too fucking right. More than anything."
Homelander: "I look forward to it."

Stan Edgar: "I am curious. What did you give her?"
Homelander: "A little respect, Stan. Something you should have given me."
Stan Edgar: "What good would that do? Where would it even go, but to the bottomless, gaping pit of insecurity you call a soul."
Homelander: "Oh god. You wanna know something? I used to be intimidated by you. I did. And now, I look at you, and I have no idea why. Seriously, you're not even pathetic. You're just... nothing."
Stan Edgar: "Then why are you still here, looking for my approval, like I'm your daddy."

Stan Edgar: "Eventually, probably soon, the world will recognize you for the pitiful disappointment you are. You are not worthy of my respect. You are not a god. You are simply bad product."
I was tempted to make this the quote at the top.

Soldier Boy (in a propaganda film): "I'll stand by our Mujahideen brothers until the end!"

Homelander: "Go ahead. Release it. I mean, sure, I'll lose everything, but then... I'll have nothing left to lose."

Soldier Boy (smoking a joint): "Still can't believe this shit is legal. I locked up so many assholes for it back in the day... What the fuck did you say?"
Hughie: "Uh, literally nothing..."

Homelander (to Ashley): "Is your idiot brain getting fucked by stupid?"
The scene where Ashley reuses this line later on was a thing of beauty.

Butcher: "For once, I've leveled the fucking playing field."

Mother's Milk: "The whole point of what we do is that no one should have that kind of power."

Homelander: "It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you."

Homelander: "Was anything about us ever real?"
Queen Maeve: "From the start... I hated you. But what's more... I fucking pitied you."

Homelander: "This whole thing... really is all about me."
Seems that way.

Hughie: "That's what we do. We save everyone. Even if they don't deserve it. Especially if they don't deserve it."

This review is long overdue, but the truth is I struggled with summarizing my thoughts on this one more than I usually do. However, in my meandering way, I think I finally got there. Two and a half out of five superhuman daddy issues.


  1. I tried a few episodes of this show when it premiered and couldn't get into it. Your review--and the way you riff on the great Ebert quote--really helped me understand why it didn't work for me.

    That gift of Jensen, though, is lovely eye candy. (Although I think I'd call him Gen X rather than a boomer.)

  2. I meant the character, not the actor. Soldier Boy is a literal Cap knockoff (super soldier from the WWII-Cold War era), but with more overtly stereotypical boomer tendencies in place of all-American heroics; Ackles described him as a "grandpa." He plays it very well.

    Thank you as always for the comment, though, Josie. Glad I'm not alone in feeling this way about it. The actors in this are so damn solid, I just wish they were in something better. It irritates me that shows like this are what's popular and successful, but something truly ambitious and meaningful like Westworld gets axed.

  3. Logan, thanks so much for this well-written review. I so agree with pretty much all of it.

    There's a lot that is really appealing about this show, and a lot that is truly revolting as well. I go back and forth. I started this season when it dropped, stopped almost immediately (you probably know where) and eventually went back and finished it, probably because of Jensen Ackles.

    I'm worried that I'm hate-watching. I don't like to hate-watch.

  4. Thanks, Billie.

    I get watching this season purely for Jensen Ackles; that pretty much was the only real draw for me to come back and watch Season 3.

    Great performances aren't enough for me anymore, though. The show is just too damn cynical without much of a point. Its pros don't outweigh its cons, in my opinion. I try to make a habit of quitting shows when they get like this.

  5. Oh, the character! I get it now. I'm so sorry.

  6. Good review, Logan! It’s refreshing to see a review that isn’t heaping glowing praise on this show. I like it and all, but the the flaws in this season were too glaring to overlook. Here’s a couple of my own issues:
    1. Not enough of Jensen Ackles and his magnificent voice. He’s only of prominent focus as Soldier Boy in episodes 6-8, which really stands out when you remember that Stormfront, a character far less interesting than Soldier Boy in my opinion, had prominent focus in almost every season 2 episode.
    2. In the end, I feel the show utterly failed in portraying Soldier Boy as the greater evil compared to Homelander, even though Eric Kripke explicitly said before the season started that he was worse than Homelander. He’s a villain in his own right, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not Homelander-level, especially since the latter seemed to be at his absolute worst this season. When Soldier Boy casually threatens to roast the planet alive if he loses the public’s shallow love, then we’ll talk. It was for that reason that I was annoyed that most of the titular team (I’ll give MM a pass, of course) was adamantly against using him to kill Homelander even when it was basically their only option, especially since he’s Homelander’s kryptonite and has an exploitable weakness of his own whereas Homelander has none.
    3. While I can appreciate what the show is going for, I was actually not a fan of the overt parallels between Homelander and Donald Trump. Mainly because basing Homelander’s lines and actions off of an imbecile diminishes his threat level and makes it hard to take him seriously, as is the case with most shows who use this type of overt comparison with their villains.

  7. I'm fond of this show because it's the only clearly shitty show I can still feel compelled to watch as it airs. I don't know what that black magic is, but it's got it. Also I absolutely loved the season 2 poster for it with Homelander's extended jaw
    But I'm surprised people use this show as example of adaptations that exceed the source material... I checked out the comic after watching the show and it is obscene and too much for me but Mr Cox already explained what's essentially respectable about it that the show lacks.
    I want end-of-season-1 Homelander back. That guy was really cool

  8. No worries, Josie.

    Anonymous, I'm with you that they never manage to sell Soldier Boy as being worse than Homelander (Stormfront was a better example of that), but I like how they illustrate that one's brand of badness sort of begets the other's. That said, I don't think Soldier Boy needs to be as evil or powerful as Homelander in order to be an effective antagonist; I think Stan Edgar is a better villain than both of them, but he's neither as cartoonishly evil or as powerful (in the show at least).
    I think the Trump parallels are incidental and largely unnecessary since Homelander was already a Trump-class NPD case; there's no need to make him say or do Trump things for the comparison to be drawn. Doesn't really matter to me, since I take Homelander about as seriously as Raul Julia's Bison from the Street Fighter Movie; he's just a wacky, vain, evil guy. The most interesting thing about Homelander, to me, isn't that he's so powerful or threatening, it's that he's this walking time-bomb of unchecked neuroses and impotent rage. For all of his superpowers and low cunning, he's still so ridiculously insecure and limited.

    Onigirli, I do agree that the show is still very entertaining despite the flaws I've pointed out.
    What's even more egregious to me than the ones saying it exceeds the source material are the ones touting it as the "best superhero series" or "best show on TV." Neither is accurate, in my opinion.

  9. Billie, most of the time, I think that I am hate-watching The Boys, but then something comes along that I like. For example, the musical number in the hospital. But so much of the show is terrible people doing hateful things to each other and avoiding consequences.


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