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In a society where superheroes are celebrities and profitable marketing commodities under the control of a mega-corporation known as Vought, a scrappy squad of outcasts sets out to show the world the dark truths about the flawed heroes they idolize. Their main targets are the members of the an elite superhero team known as The Seven and its leader Homelander, whose wholesome, patriotic image belies a sociopathic nature.
The cast includes Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell, Antony Starr as Homelander, Erin Moriarty as Annie January/Starlight, Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve, Jessie T. Usher as A-Train, Laz Alonso as Mother’s Milk, Chace Crawford as The Deep, Tomer Capone as Frenchie, Karen Fukuhara as Kimiko Miyashiro/The Female, Nathan Mitchell as Black Noir, Aya Cash as Stormfront, Colbie Minifie as Ashley Barrett, Claudia Doumit as Victoria Neuman, and, welcoming a new addition in Season 3, Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy.
The Boys is based on an indie comic book series by Garth Ennis and produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke (creator of The CW’s long-running series Supernatural). Although the series deviates from the canon of the comic, it does more with the characters, making them relatable and able to connect to the real world. It’s not just full of body-exploding gore, sex, nudity, drugs, and foul language—although there’s plenty of that—The Boys offers more depth to its characters and holds up a mirror to our own society’s obsession with fame and hero worship, both super and not-so-super.
There are a few characters whose storylines I love, including Hughie, Mother’s Milk, and Kimiko, who is first introduced as a feral killer and slowly evolves to become the team’s most most tender-hearted member. Also, I must say they did an extraordinary job with The Butcher. He’s a complex guy, not completely a villain but no hero either. Each character deals with their own internal issues which, thankfully, adds to the story without being distracting. The writers put them through a lot, from bloody, violent incidents to internal conflicts that deter them from completing their mission successfully. No character has so much power that it ruins the show.
Make no mistake, though, a major part of this show is pushing boundaries and deconstructing the superhero genre. It also takes shots at politics, religion, media, and corporate culture by scaling everything up to ridiculous proportions. Just writing this, one crazy scene at the beginning of the newly released third season comes to mind, which was so shocking that my mouth dropped to the floor for about 20 minutes. And this is what The Boys is all about: shocking its audience and going places that heroes like your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man would not go.
Season 3—the first three episodes of which drop today—concerns the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the legendary hero Soldier Boy (a non-subtle Captain America knock-off played by Supernatural‘s Jensen Ackles) in the 1980s. Now working for the CIA, Butcher and his team set out to research the weapon that killed him and could potentially put an end to Homelander’s secret reign of terror for good. Fans of the comic will enjoy the Easter eggs and commentary referencing the source material and other familiar franchises (for instance, in a nod to The Avengers, Soldier Boy’s team is called Payback). With more recent Captain America influences to draw from, this version of Soldier Boy is even more interesting and has a bigger role than in the comic.
Despite some over-the-top moments, the third season of The Boys is the best so far. Instead of just having The Heroes versus The Boys, the story concentrates on their flaws and fears. Although there are clearly designated protagonists in the series, all the characters are so heavily flawed that I really couldn’t point out a pure soul in the main cast. Just like in real life, there are no simply bad or good people, just people making decisions based on their experiences and knowledge.
This season does not waste any screen time with filler episodes. At no point did I get bored and feel a desire to skip to the next one. As in previous seasions, there are tons of action scenes and effects, but they don’t look cheep or take away from the viewing experience. Unless you’re bothered by bloody body explosions and realistic dismemberment, that is. If so, this is definitely not the show for you.
The Boys has shock value, action, and gore, but also peels back the layers of its characters, making even the super-humans seem more human.
Adult fans of superhero and action movies, because this show is definitely not for anyone under the age of 18. Or better yet, 25!
The show’s TV-MA rating is no joke. Each episode begins with a disclaimer, but it’s worth restating here that it contains foul language, nudity, sexual situations (including assault), violence, gore, and many other disturbing scenes not for the feint of heart.