4.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon Prime Video’s superhero satire raises its levels of insanity to deliver one of the most shocking and graphic television shows in recent years. If you’re complaining about the vanilla sanitising of adult TV, this may be the answer to your prayers. Over the first two seasons, The Boys has satirised the west’s obsession with superheroes. The more the show goes on the less hyperbolic it becomes to say it’s now a horrifyingly accurate mirror of modern America. Few shows understand the seedy nature of hero worship.

Any other drama would have repeated the trick that made its sophomore season a bigger hit than its first, but not The Boys and showrunner Eric Kripke. The sex, gore, drugs, and violence are cranked up to eleven from the opening shot till the last. We’re reacquainted with Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) now working under Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) at the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. He thinks he’s gone legit, but we know better, thanks to Neuman’s revealing her brain-splattering powers in the previous season.

Meanwhile, Butcher (Karl Urban) and the rest of his ‘Boys’ (except for Mother’s Milk, who has chosen fatherhood over battling evil superheroes) struggle to adapt to this new world of the government being involved in their machinations. Hughie is also struggling to maintain his relationship with Starlight (Erin Moriarty), whose role in The Seven is only getting stronger.

Homelander (Antony Starr) is having a hard time adjusting to life after his Nazi girlfriend Stormfront (Aya Cash). Of course, Vought CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) is using his breakup as a branding opportunity. Even superhumans can have their hearts broken by falling for the wrong person, right?

Vought’s has a new venture—alongside all the films, TV shows and general corruption— in creating Temp V, a modified version of the compound that gives superheroes their powers and enhances any users for 24 hours. Vought exec Ashley (Colby Minifie) continues to be the most horrifying and clueless, using real-world issues like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo as branding opportunities.

Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and Frenchie (Tomer Capone) continue their uncharacteristically sweet pairing now Kimiko’s learned sign language. There’s even a dance number, just don’t ask why. A-Train’s (Jessie T. Usher) dedicates his time to vocalising a performative stance on racism, with Kendal Jenner’s Pepsi advert under fire. These plots could’ve been explored more but there is simply not enough time for every interesting character on this show.

One character who finally gets his moment in the sun is Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell). Despite being a founding member of Vought’s Seven, he has no real name, no backstory, and no apparent family. We finally get to learn something outside of the fact he’s mute, scarred under the mask and deathly allergic to almonds.

Following the return of Soldier Boy, his old teammate, Black Noir gruesomely carves out his tracking chip and goes rogue. Holed up in a Chuck E. Cheese knock-off, he finds himself comforted by a selection of animated creatures. Instead of showing his past through flashbacks, animated children’s cartoon characters recall his memories. An animated beaver has never been so poignant.

Jensen Ackles’ much-teased Soldier Boy is introduced with the correct amount of spectacular. This universe’s version of Captain America, Ackles (whose talents were wasted on the CW’s Supernatural) relishes playing a bigoted, misogynist with a Chris Evans-style growl. Soldier Boy is certainly the hero America deserves right now; a throwback to war crimes the country has since romanticised.

Season 3 of The Boys centres on the long-running vendettas between Butcher and Homelander, benching A-Train and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), although The Deep (Chace Crawford) gets given a memorable plot that has nothing to do with anything else. Perhaps i’s a disservice to the cast that so many of them appear pushed back in favour of two white, straight men, or maybe that’s exactly what every superhero franchise does.

The Boys remains steadfast in its themes and motifs. While America’s complicated history with fascism is further explored, alongside the main theme of relationships between fathers and sons, this third season also talks about the lengths good people should go to for evil to be defeated. This is clearly a question borne out of real-life political frustrations.

It’s not all dark and political. The Boys also rips into reality TV (using an X Factor-style show to find a replacement for Stormfront), viral videos, and superhero blockbusters. The clips from the fictional Dawn of the Seven movie is a smart and entertaining riff on the ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League (2021), and the teen heartthrob in her purity ring a mocking of Disney channel stars.

The stories this year will have you on the edge of your seat. No one feels safe, whether it’s a real-life figure, a slice of pop culture, or a character on the show itself. In an industry that mostly plays things safer and safe, it’s commendable to see The Boys continuing to be so ultra-violent, sexually graphic, and outright batshit insane, and yet it manages to never feel out of place and there just for shock value. Everything is bigger, the fights more spectacular, the orgies so wrong you can’t take your eyes off them, and the shocks will keep you reeling.

The Boys season 3 really is a masterpiece of political and pop culture satire, but also an enjoyable action-drama in its own right. Sometimes it’s a subtle look from Antony Starr (who deserves more accolades than he’s been awarded) or an accurate remake of Gal Gadot’s infamous Imagine viral video, but this does more in one scene than whole episodes of late-night skits manage. The writing is incredibly tight with every character fully fleshed out, even if there isn’t enough time to spend with them all this time around, and every episode is loaded with a lot of fantastic twists and turns.

USA | 2022 | 8 EPISODES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

writers: Craig Rosenberg, David Reed, Anslem Richardson, Geoff Aull, Meredith Glynn, Ellie Monahan, Jessica Chou, Paul Grellong & Logan Ritchey.
directors: Phil Sgriccia, Julian Holmes, Nelson Cragg & Sarah Boyd.
starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Kapon, Karen Fukuhara & Jensen Ackles.