I decided against doing weekly episode reviews for Season 3 of “The Boys,” after doing do for Season 2; it’s very clear that, despite the fact that Amazon decided to release the show this way, it wasn’t written or tooled for weekly releases, and was best viewed in long stretches, like other bingeworthy shows.
“The Boys” Season 3 goes deeper into the corruption of Vought, the show’s evil superhero company, and also seems to get tired of it, as Vought keeps facing what should be company-ending scandals only for their public relations director, Ashley Barrett (Colby Minifie), and management to get ahead of the story and work out a new normal that still includes Vought.
Season 3 opens with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and Frenchie (Tomer Capone) working for the newly-created Bureau of Superhero Affairs, which is led by Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit). The main plot of this season gets started when The Boys learn that the power of their office is a farce, with Vought CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) revealed to be Victoria’s father, who also has the power to explode anyone’s head at will. Furthermore, they are instructed to strictly not kill supes, but report them, which Butcher becomes quickly against when it is revealed that those they find abusing their powers get no more than slaps on the wrist for even major transgressions like murder.
The main plotline for this season involves the return of Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), a Captain America ripoff who led Vought’s first superhero team, Payback. Soldier Boy was abjectly terrible, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, including Mother’s Milk’s grandfather, and as such was betrayed by his own team members in the 80s, and was captured by the Russians, whose care he has remained in ever since. Tortured and experimented on for decades, he has gained the ability to take the powers of other superheroes, as well as release a devastating energy beam from his chest. The Boys unknowingly set him free and Butcher decides to help aid him in taking down his former teammates in exchange for him taking out Homelander (Antony Starr), the show’s corrupt Superman and father of his wife’s son, Ryan Butcher (Cameron Crovetti). Meanwhile, Butcher and Hughie get hooked on a temporary version of Compound V that gives them limited superpowers, which they use to assist Soldier Boy, with Hughie getting transportation powers that doesn’t transport clothes, and Butcher basically getting Homelander’s powers.
Speaking of Homelander, the season’s early episodes have him slipping from power, with Edgar appointing Starlight (Erin Moriarty) co-captain of The Seven. Homelander does all that he can to intimidate her, from untruthfully announcing that they are dating, to snubbing her picks as to who will join The Seven (he picks her childhood friend, Supersonic [Miles Gaston Villanueva], who he later murders, and reinstates The Deep [Chace Crawford]). But his real masterstroke comes when he manages to twist a scandal meant to tear him down to bring Edgar down as CEO instead by intimidating Neuman.
Ashley is then appointed as the new CEO (or SheEO), but serves as a figurehead; Homelander is the de facto leader of Vought, and he quickly learns that he doesn’t know how to run a company. Instead, devoid of any checks or balances, he goes off the rails on live TV, doubling down on his past transgressions, which gives him a MAGA-like cult following. He even goes so far as to kill civilians in public, which he’ll probably face no consequences for, and further push him down his “Dark Superman” path.
But at the same time Homelander is getting more emboldened, he also gets a shocking wakeup call when Hughie, Butcher and Soldier Boy almost take him out. Homelander is so accustomed to overpowering his opponents that he’s not a good fighter, and is woefully unprepared to handle a foe with equal strength. Butcher, if given a full does of real Compound V, would destroy him with ease — one wonders if that is where he will go in Season 4, which will be ironic as he’ll become the very thing he hates (a supe).
Maeve (Dominique McElligott), the show’s version of Wonder Woman, also has a quietly good arc in which she finally stands up to Homelander. And we finally get to see what is going on in Black Noir’s (Nathan Mitchell) head, as we get his backstory and what Soldier Boy did to him.
This was a very solid season of television, leagues better than Season 2. Watching Season 2’s episodes as released was certainly not the way to go, but Season 3 has much deeper themes and more interesting character conflict.
I love how Homelander has all the power in the world, but because he was raised without parents or love, his need for attention and validation is the sole driving factor in his character, and it’s interesting seeing him try to constantly reframe what he’s doing as good and even make an attempt at being a father to Ryan when most things he’s doing are selfish and terrible. He’s a good villain precisely because he has no frame of reference, self awareness or care about how normal people perceive him, despite constantly craving their praise. He’s not evil just for the sake of evil, he’s a cautionary tale of what happens when a child is raised without love and is given the powers of God.
Butcher and Soldier Boy serve as interesting foils. Butcher is solely driven by revenge and shows that there is no line he will not cross this season to make sure Homelander is dead. Soldier Boy, on the other hand, is worse than Homelander in every way, having a narrow and cruel outlook on life painfully similar to that of Butcher’s father, who eventually led his brother to suicide, which the showrunners show us via subtle flashbacks. The genius of Season 3 is that Butcher unknowingly teams up with someone he’d hate more than Homelander if he knew Soldier Boy’s full story in order to continue down his self-destructive path of revenge, and this season does a really good job of showing how his pursuit of it has stripped Butcher of everything he once was and believed in.
Going forward, I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Edgar or Soldier Boy for that matter, but I do think that the end is near for Vought and Homelander. The Boys came very close to taking him down this season, proving that they only need someone of equal power with more fortitude and prowess. I think Butcher will take a full dose of Compound V next season and finally take Homelander out once and for all, though Ryan, who chose Homelander over Butcher this season and got brainwashed by his propaganda, will complicate things.
“The Boys” Season 3 gets a 9/10