'The Boys' S3 review: Amazon's biting superhero satire still has sharp teeth
With blonde hair, blue eyes and an all-American attitude to invincibility, Homelander (Antony Starr) heads up Amazon's hit superhero satire The Boys season 3.
Offering up a preening archetype of Aryan superiority with infallible approval ratings and a side line in psychosis, Prime Video welcomes him back from 3 June.
Basking in the afterglow of a bullet proof persona and donning some serious dentistry, this store bought Superman maybe cloaked in patriotism, but beneath that corporate spin ego is everything.
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A place where entitlement and self-interest meet, creating an indestructible man child with world ending capabilities.
With this Eric Kripke (Supernatural) adaptation of the Garth Ennis graphic novel now in its third series, it still has all the R-rated visual flair of its predecessors. Having racked up numerous Emmy nominations over two seasons, by balance savage satire with dramatic heft in equal measure.
Centred on a group of dysfunctional vigilantes striving to bring down some test tube superheroes known as ‘The Seven’, The Boys is a heady mix of graphic violence and comedic slapstick with dramatic overtones. Neither for the faint hearted nor easily offended, it indulges taboos and rides roughshod over delicate sensibilities.
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Executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who had already collaborated with Ennis previously on Preacher, The Boys allows them ample opportunity to land industry pot shots. Lighting fires under specific targets in superhero cinema, whilst blatantly criticising corporate oversight within entertainment.
Headed up by an eclectic mix of character actors including Karl Urban (Billy Butcher) and Giancarlo Esposito (Stan Edgar), The Boys is fundamentally about family dysfunction. Dysfunction not only in the penthouse headquarters at Vought, with its rag tag band of genetically modified ‘Seven’, but also at ground level with Hughie (Jack Quaid), Frenchie (Tomer Capone), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso).
If season one brought each group together and number two introduced some emotional explosives, then The Boys season three might just be that blue touch paper moment. As Butcher and his boys go in search of an endgame solution, which will finally level the playing field for everyone.
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What becomes apparent after a truly eye watering opening ten minutes, is that The Boys has lost none of its ability to shock. Although the exploding body parts and taste skating advertising segues walk a very fine line, there is always a sense that legal was around during writing. Meaning that boundaries remain a refreshingly vague concept.
In the aftermath of a public backlash, which saw Stormfront (Aya Cash) revealed as Nazi to the bone in season two, Homelander is under scrutiny as season three opens. Creating a seismic aftershock of momentum as Antony Starr delivers on every level, unleashing his superpowered man child in full force.
With Homelander still harbouring attachment issues from season one, he is prone to emotional outbursts and open to emotional manipulation. A situation which Stan Edgar exploits through fear and scaremongering tactics, in an effort to keep his most powerful asset in line. Playing both surrogate father figure and impartial voice of reason according to circumstance.
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At ground level Butcher is grieving as the season two finale exacts a heavy toll on his mental state, pushing everyone away in the process. With Hughie now working for the FBSA (Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs) and everyone else leading a close to normal life, Butcher lacks his support network. Leaving these two figureheads alone with too much time to think.
What season three does with delicacy over the course of this series is bring these two conflicting approaches together. Allowing both Urban and Starr to share more than fleeting screen time, as the lines between good and bad get increasingly blurred. Making this about much more than mere shock tactics and inventive executions.
With influences which have knowingly embraced Marvel Studios and their recently acquired X-Men franchise, The Boys casts its net wider this time round to accommodate another adversary. One that comes with shades of Captain America by way of The Minute Men from Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
A homage which comes with all the punching power of an ice packed super soldier, coupled with fan favourite hat tips towards Supernatural alumni Jensen Arkles (Soldier Boy). Not only broadening the dramatic potential for this season, but giving Homelander a blast from his past audiences can get behind.
Not only suggesting that The Boys numero 4 might get greenlit ahead of launch, but reminding subscribers worldwide that Prime Video is not afraid to get down and filthy dirty to entertain audiences.
To put it another way, The Rings of Power in the Vought universe, would come with its own line of eye watering adult merchandise, guaranteed to test the boundaries of discerning viewers who wanted a fuller experience.
Every season of The Boys will be available to stream on Prime Video from 3 June.