The Boys season 3 is a masterclass in TV adaptations and socio-political satire. What started as a grounded and realistic take on superheroes has evolved into one of the smartest series in contemporary streaming services.
The Boys is part of a distinguished few adaptations that are better than the source material. If you are even passingly familiar with the graphic novel series that precipitated the show, by the end of season 3 you will have no choice but to admit that all the deviations and remixes of character arcs and storylines make the show much better.
If you haven't been keeping up with the show, here is a brief rundown.
Superheroes are real and are managed with all the glitz and glamour of celebrities with global appeal. In that vein the show portrays the shallow, venal, egomania of all involved parties that make up the fame game. The counterbalance to that is a ragtag group of highly skilled people who have been wronged by and are out to get all evil super powered individuals, which just happens to be most of them, barring Starlight who functions as the central anchor of the show.
Season 3 ups the ante in every way imaginable in terms of violence, adult themes and social commentary. No character in The Boys is treated as ancillary or relegated only to the background, everybody gets satisfying arcs that are very well written and engenders conflicting emotions from the viewer. This is where the show shines the most, the goals that the cast of characters work towards often stand at cross-purposes between the members of the titular group themselves. This evokes a lot of discussions of morality between the fictional characters and the viewers themselves.
Anthony Starr who plays Homelander in the show is riveting to watch and steals the show whenever he is on screen. A particular sequence that shows Homelander having a mental schism is portrayed beautifully and Anthony finally gets a chance to show the duality of Homelander and his inner conflict in stark detail. His performance is nomination worthy just due to the glut of Homelander memes that make up the largest part of the online discussion.
Anthony Starr perfectly sells the superman-gone-bad archetype and oozes psychopathic serial-killer charm. Karl Urban as Billy the butcher also does a fantastic job of making you hate yourself for loving him. Butcher goes through the biggest emotional change this season and actually starts exhibiting human empathy towards his teammates.
The tentpole episodes of this season will leave your jaw on the floor. 'Payback' and 'Herogasm' have some of the most gore-filled, absurdist and raunchy VFX shots in film history, so much so that streaming platform Amazon Prime actually formed an in-house censor board right after the latter episode was aired.
Showrunner Eric Kripke is doing the best satire on TV since Jon Stewart and takes shots at all sides of the political spectrum, but specifically the conservatives because Kripke feels that the "conservative agenda is more of an existential threat." One of the funniest unintended consequences of season 3 was watching the conservative fanbase slowly realise that the show is in fact bashing their views and belief systems.
Near the end of the season, themes about the cycle of violence and accountability take centre stage. Kripke shows time and time again how bad childhoods almost always produce terrible adults, and that it is up to the individual to make the conscious choice of stepping out of the terrible cycle of revenge.
The Boys season 3 provides a very specific release valve for an audience that is beset by news of excess, treachery and zero accountability of the powers that be. It is a cathartic experience to watch the show comment on current events in the same vein the vast majority of us feel like. The Boys is a very well done repudiation of pop-culture and corporate propaganda.
The emotional core of the series, as always, is the dynamic between Hughie and Starlight, two of the only characters that openly ponder their morality and attitude towards the world. This season's arc shows the two of them delving deeper into why they do the things they do and it is very refreshing to see how Hughie's need to feel useful to and protective of Starlight almost always comes at cross purposes to Starlight's need to stick to her morality even when the means might justify the end.
The Boys will remain relevant for as long as polarised tribes of people sling mud at each other. The entire production should be lauded for being able to keep a superhero show devoid of hero worship and make sure that its viewers know that there is no such thing as an innocent man of consequence in our world. Amazon Prime has already greenlit a fourth season and we absolutely cannot wait to see where this tale goes.