TV review: ‘The Boys’ delivers powerful, satirical punch in unpredictable season 3 finale
“The Boys” ends another season with cast members (from left to right) Jack Quaid, Karl Urban, Tomer Capone, Karen Fukuhara and Laz Alonso. In the latest season, the superhero satire delivers unpredictable narratives and political commentary. (Courtesy of Prime Video)
Created by Eric Kripke
Amazon Prime Video
By Francis Moon
July 8, 2022 7:08 p.m.
This post was updated July 10 at 8:23 p.m.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
The best superhero show isn’t about superheroes at all.
The satirical antithesis to mainstream superhero franchises such as Marvel and DC, “The Boys” continues the story of the antagonistic corporation Vought International and the titular vigilante group led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), who are victims of the company’s corruption. The Amazon Prime Video show’s third season, which wrapped with its eighth and final episode Friday, features innovative audacity in dialogue and plot twists, bringing creative execution to the most narratively thoughtful aspects of the show.
The first twist comes in the resolution of a cliffhanger from the previous season. In the opening episode, Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) is revealed to not only be the mysterious mass murderer seemingly working for Vought but also the adopted child of then-CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), who had been pulling the strings of the company’s corruption. This helps demonstrate the show’s status as a political commentary by alluding to real-world conflicts between corporations and the rest of society.
In the latest season, the writers send a clear message of their political opinions by using extremely dramatized and graphic fiction to set the bar high on the shock factor. Their writing further suggests the consequences of capitalism, political corruption and celebrity worship syndrome, in which celebrities are placed on an undeserved pedestal.
For instance, the fake gallantry of the superheroes represents an unapologetic depiction of the idea that with great power comes great corruption. Portrayals of such concepts are why “The Boys” is not a show simply about superheroes gone bad. Instead, its tonal focus lies on satirical commentary on the mass media’s overt obsession with not only superheroes but anyone in the world with power and influence.
Likewise, the season features more parodies that further reflect the creativity of its writers, such as the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad and the 2020 video of celebrities singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Both are portrayed as misguided efforts by idolized celebrities to be in touch with reality. In another real-world connection, the vehement supporters of Homelander (Anthony Starr) imitate radical activists with an us-versus-them mentality, blindly following Homelander despite learning his true deceitful nature.
The directors thoroughly juggle several character arcs, most notably the compelling paths of the two main opposing forces. Homelander, the leader of powerful superhero group The Seven, masterfully played by Starr, grows increasingly unhinged while steadily gaining more power than he has ever had before. Craving validation because of his lack of family, he develops into one of the most interesting antagonists in recent memory because of his added depth and incalculable nature. Butcher’s role as the revenge-driven protagonist also comes with new emotional character nuances as his detrimental actions begin to catch up with him.
The vigilante teams up with Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), whose heavily anticipated introduction powered much of the season’s directional ambiguity and energy. Ackles is a breath of fresh air for the series, as he brings charisma to the mysterious character, who is running on a self-redemption arc after being betrayed by his old team. The actor’s commanding voice and central role help him steal the show against an array of relatively stellar performances from the cast.
In the sixth episode, “Herogasm,” audiences finally see a glimpse of what seemed inevitable: a faceoff between Homelander and the unexpected duo of Soldier Boy and a super-powered Butcher. Standing out as one of the best moments of the season, the episode features some of the biggest risks the show has taken in terms of both graphic storytelling and opening the door for a number of possibilities for how the season might play out.
The season’s final curveball aligns with its shifted focus toward family. In the final scene of the penultimate episode, it is revealed that Soldier Boy is actually Homelander’s biological father. Additionally, the suspense and buildup of the finale, “The Instant White-Hot Wild,” culminates in a series of unexpected tests of loyalty and familial values, seemingly closing the book on several of the season’s storylines while also setting the stage for another chapter. With most of the main characters remaining alive and the emergence of even greater threats to national order, the show once again leaves a number of directions for the writers to take.
Ultimately, the performance of the actors and the unpredictability and creativity of its producers make “The Boys” stand out among other shows currently streaming. Despite pushing the boundaries for what could otherwise be considered a mainstream superhero series, “The Boys” utilizes a compelling storyline to prove its individuality from other films and shows of the genre.
With the series set to renew for a fourth season, viewers shouldn’t expect the bold mix of fantasy and satirical political commentary to change anytime soon.