Holy smokes, season 3 of Amazon Prime’s The Boys is not holding back. Judging by the first three episodes, we are in for more gore, more super-powered mayhem, an even darker story arc than the first two seasons, and a more twisted take on what life might actually be like if super-powered beings lived among us (in the starkest contrast possible to the way Marvel depicts such a world). This one ain’t for the kids, folks, but I sure am enjoying the hell out of it.
Season 3 picks up not far after where the previous season left off. Our sympathetic, too-naive-and-decent-for-his-own-good leading hero, Hughie Campbell, is working for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman in the Bureau of Superhero Affairs. Most of the rest of The Boys are contractors for said Bureau, doing their best to operate within the law and according to the wishes of Neuman (who has her own ulterior motives).
The opening scene involves The Boys tracking down a “Supe” whose power is essentially the same as Marvel’s Ant-Man. The similarities are no doubt intentional and meant to show the darker side of a hero with the ability to shrink himself. What transpires at a party between the Supe, the Boys, a load of cocaine, and an unlucky paramour of the Supe, is at once revolting, shocking, hilarious, and obscenely gory. If it is meant to set the tone for the season, then we are in for one hell of a wild ride.
A sinister retelling of the superhero story
Meanwhile, Homelander, the barely-keeping-it-together leader of The Seven — this series’ answer to the Avengers, if they were corporate-owned and all had their own social media accounts — is struggling to deal with the hit to his reputation resulting from his relationship with a Supe who turned out to be a Nazi. Homelander is also facing a possible rival to his leadership of The Seven, in the form of Starlight (Annie), Hughie’s girlfriend and the only other truly wholesome character in the show. Homelander looks to be heading down the road to becoming a fascist, as he is growing ever more tired of pretending he is a “good guy” who is there to serve the people. Here we see the hint of the coming allegory, as it appears that Homelander’s strongman routine will be embraced by a significant part of the population who will crave his forceful leadership.
Finally, Butcher — The Boys’ more grizzled, sardonic, and ruthless version of Marvel’s Nick Fury — makes a decision that will allow him to seriously lay waste to wayward Supes, and we can only assume that Homelander is dead in his sites for a future confrontation. Having recruited NM, a reluctant member of the Boys, to rejoin the team, we can also assume that some moral and ethical reckonings are in store, as Butcher and his team will have to decide how far to take their crusade against not just Supes-gone-bad, but the whole lot of them.
The series, in short, continues to be a satisfying, deliciously dark, and sinister retelling of the age-old superhero story. It is hard to tell if it is a product of our age, in which everything from religion to politics has become encrusted with a distasteful and jagged coating of cynicism and despair, or if it is simply a cautionary allegory about where we are headed if we continue to give in to our seedier impulses and place power over everything else.
If those deeper and darker meanings do not appeal to you, then simply revel in the often hilarious, violent, and completely gonzo tale of a handful of super “heroes” and those mere mortals who try to acquire money and fame off of them, and also, keep them in check.
If this show is any guide, we are far better off without the Supes living amongst us.