Reel Thoughts: ‘The Boys’ are back and better than ever


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Based on a comic book series of the same name, “The Boys” questions what the world would look like if superheroes really did exist, particularly if it were intertwined with American politics and late-stage capitalism.

Meher Yeda, Senior Staffer

Warning: This article contains spoilers.
The Boys are back in town! No, I’m not talking about the 1976 hit single by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, I’m talking about “The Boys.”

If you’re not familiar with this subversive superhero series from Amazon Prime Video, I highly recommend you change that. Based on a comic book series of the same name, the show questions what the world would look like if superheroes really did exist, particularly if it were intertwined with American politics and late-stage capitalism.

The show follows Hughie (Jack Quaid) as he works to avenge the death of his girlfriend who is accidentally killed by a superhero. Hughie teams up with superhero slaughterer Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a man with his own vendetta, and together they go after Vought, the multibillion dollar conglomerate that oversees these licensed heroes. Along the way, they team up with superheroes Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), forming their own group — The Boys — along with a few others who have their own qualms against Vought.

Vought’s prime product is The Seven, aptly named for the seven Avengers-adjacent superheroes who defend Earth — and maybe take on an endorsement deal or two. The leader of The Seven is none other than all-American superhero Homelander (Antony Starr), who is not above killing civilians or fellow “supes” at will.

Season Three, the newest season, picks up in full force with Hughie and Butcher exploring new avenues to take Homelander down. This leads them to Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), the former darling of Vought who was “captured” by the Russians years ago. Upon learning that Soldier Boy is still alive and somehow able to strip superheroes of their powers, The Boys lead a mission to rescue and use Soldier Boy to take down Homelander.

Coming out of an absolutely unpredictable Season Two, I wasn’t sure if Season Three had the potential to top it. But boy, was I wrong. Even the opening scene had me watching through my fingers. Somehow this season was even more absurd, horrific and interrogative of the superhero genre than its predecessors. My personal favorite was Kimiko’s sex toy fight scene, where she fights a guy with his own collection of The Seven-branded dildos, all set to a Russian cover of “I Will Survive.”

Though I must confess my own incapability to watch violence on screen without looking away, one of the strengths of “The Boys” is its ability to pair violence with humor. Unlike many cinematic superhero fight scenes, these scenes not only further add to the realism of the show, but they also reveal the artistic capabilities within fight sequences themselves.

There were also plenty of other jaw-dropping moments throughout the show: The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) recreation of that terrible celebrity “Imagine” lip-sync video; A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) as Kendall Jenner “ending racism” in a Pepsi commercial; herogasm! — if you know, you know. If you didn’t think there were some obvious metaphors for America today, you definitely do now.

Homelander is another clear parallel to one of America’s current woes. Not only does Homelander’s descent into white Christian nationalism further his position as one of the greatest written villains of all time, but the idea that his fanbase is still going strong is almost too on the nose. The end of Season Three also sets up Season Four well; after all, what would the show be without Homelander? With The Seven reduced to three, The Boys facing their own moral reevaluations and both Vought and the government under Homelander’s control, the situation seems dire. I am on the edge of my seat here.

Overall, the showrunners did a fantastic job building on the show’s universe and crafting clever allusions to society today. Still, they managed to include positive moments and give the viewers (me) what they want. I definitely appreciated how they avoided the “bury your gays” trope with Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) in the final episode, giving her the happy ending she deserved.

And The Boys? They’re just getting started.

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Twitter: @yikesmeher

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