"Don't be a c*nt."
Billy Butcher's parting words to young Ryan in the season 2 finale of The Boys may not seem like a particularly difficult standard to adhere to, but over the course of the third season of Prime Video's uproariously entertaining superhero satire, Butcher - along with pretty much every other character - struggles to follow his own sage advice.
We pick up a full year after the tragic events of season 2, with Butcher attempting to move on from Becca's death by turning over a new leaf (of a sort). He's still determined to bring Homelander down, but he has knocked the booze on the head and even formed a relationship with his wife's half-supe son, Ryan. Hughie, meanwhile, is working directly under Victoria Neuman, completely unaware that she's actually the "head-popper" the gang's been searching for.
Starlight and Maeve are still having to play nice with Homelander, but soon come to realize that the video of the air-disaster they've been using to blackmail the bastard will only keep the increasingly psychotic leader of The Seven in check for so long, and begin to hatch a plan to take him down for good. In order to level the playing field, Maeve brings Butcher some "Temp-V," a green version of Compound V which grants super-powers for 24 hours.
Billy has concerns about becoming just like the very "c*nts" he's sworn to destroy, but a more permanent solution soon presents itself in the form of a mighty weapon that's been kept "on ice" since World War II. Unfortunately, the formidable Soldier Boy is almost as big an asshole as Homelander.
The Boys stand opposed, but at what cost? Butcher has always been willing to do whatever's necessary to achieve his goals, but even he has a moment of reevaluation when Hughie - his "canary" - joins him on a dark path. MM, Kimiko and Frenchie worry about the lines that are being crossed (and snorted), and when a proverbial deal with the devil is struck, a rift forms in the team.
The Boys is just as brutally violent and gut-bustingly funny as ever, and while it still serves as a (mostly) good-natured parody of superhero movies (the opening "Dawn of The Seven" trailer is clearly taking aim at a certain director's cut), the sociopolitical satire is anything but gentle. It may not be subtle (this is The Boys we're talking about, after all), but the show's blistering take-down of America's far right is no less effective. Some genuinely unsettling moments follow, as Homelander's "[frick] your feelings" attitude and campaign against the "lamestream media" begin to strike a chord with his base and win him even more followers. The fact that he supported - and dated - a literal Nazi barely registers thanks to an expert spin-team led by the power-hungry Ashley (a superb Colby Minifie).
The brilliance of The Boys has always been its ability to juggle multiple tones while repeatedly hitting the mark. It's no easy task to have viewers erupting in laughter/cringing in revulsion at the sight of a tiny supe exploding from the insides (don't ask) of an unfortunate lover one moment and shedding a tear for a character's dwindling humanity the next, but Eric Kripke and his ensemble cast deserve all the credit for upping the ante in every conceivable way while maintaining that delicate balance.
Butcher and Homelander remain the feuding cornerstones the other characters revolve around, and Karl Urban and fellow Kiwi Antony Starr continue their stellar work. The Dredd actor infuses his volatile protagonist with enough heart to keep us on his side (even when he's practically begging to be given up on), and Starr is truly terrifying while still managing to evoke just a tiny amount of sympathy as the monstrous, hopelessly narcissistic villain.
The supporting players are also on form, with Jack Quaid finally getting the chance to show us a slightly edgier side of do-gooder Hughie, and Erin Moriarty delivering her best performance yet as possibly the one truly heroic supe who still believes in making a difference when everything crumbles around her.
The character who arguably makes the biggest impact this season, however, is the debuting Soldier Boy. Honestly, the less said about this guy the better, but Supernatural alum Jensen Ackles is outstanding as the highly inappropriate, yet disarmingly complex Captain America take-off.
Soldier Boy's introduction does result in reduced screen-time for other characters, and Queen Maeve and The Deep suffer. The former is given an important part to play after being all-but sidelined for a few episodes, but they're really treading water (no pun) with Deep at this stage. The Aquaman parody still yields a few chuckles (Kevin, ehh, bonds with an octopus at one point), but it's starting to feel like the pathetic suck-up is being kept around purely for shock value.
Which brings us to Herogasm. The sixth episode adapts the notoriously debauched miniseries, and it's... quite something. The supe-orgy and resulting carnage may not be quite as extreme as the comic (that's a good thing, trust me), but let's just say there will be blood (among other bodily fluids).
It's obviously difficult to discuss the finale in any real detail without spoiling something, but the inevitable showdowns don't disappoint - even if it's difficult to escape the feeling that the overarching story hasn't really progressed all that much from where we left off in season 2.
With its third season, The Boys gives the middle finger to the rest of the streaming content out there and firmly establishes itself as one of the best shows on TV... comic book or otherwise. Frequently hilarious, wince-inducing, and heartfelt in equal measure, you'll be right there in the thick of it with this motley bunch over the course of 8 filler-free episodes, hoping that everyone makes it out in one piece. The next season really should shake things up a little, but for now, it's time to strap-in: Daddy's home!