The Boys season 3 opens with one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. Whatever you're imagining right now, it's worse. I'm not at liberty to divulge specific details about the scene in question, but rest assured it caused me to recoil in horror and scream at my television. In other words, I loved it. Why? Because it so boldly encapsulates The Boys. No other television or streaming show would have both the will and the means to create something so ambitiously grotesque, which is one reason why this series feels so special.
Of course, gross-out humour will only get you so far, which is why it's fortunate that The Boys has plenty of substance to shore up its most shocking decisions. The world of the show has always been a twisted reflection of our own and that hasn't changed in this third outing, which frequently feels ripped straight from the headlines. Crucially, showrunner Eric Kripke and his writers consistently find organic ways to weave their social commentary into the ongoing plot, in stark contrast to the heavy-handed and preachy implementation that so many other shows are guilty of.
Picking up after the events of the season 2 finale, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is now government-sanctioned, prompting him to reluctantly adopt non-lethal methods of keeping his much-loathed 'supes' in-check. In a status quo shift, former underling Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) is now essentially his supervisor as right-hand man to hotshot politician Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit). Meanwhile, at Vought International, the Seven remains in a state of turmoil, with the frighteningly powerful Homelander (Antony Starr) pushed to the precipice by his recent failures. It's only a matter of time until he snaps.
Starr lives up to his name with another scene-stealing turn as the unhinged Superman allegory, whose each and every interaction is fraught with unbearable tension. The subtlety with which he can make a forced smile seem like a death threat never ceases to amaze and disturb, while he's given plenty more opportunities to shine this season, with a key focus being his evolution in the eyes of the public. That particular arc has its finger firmly on the pulse of our increasingly polarised society, making it both fascinating and worryingly familiar viewing.
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But while Starr may retain his title as standout performer, this cast continues to fire on all cylinders. Each season they are given more outlandish material to work with and each season they tackle it with gusto. Urban resumes his enjoyably over-the-top shtick as cockney bruiser Butcher, with Laz Alonso, Tomer Capon and Karen Fukuhara each given moments to step out from under his looming shadow. Odd couple Quaid and Erin Moriarty are endearing as ever, while Jessie T Usher and Chace Crawford are also on top form, with A-Train and The Deep coming to blows in their desperate attempts to remain relevant.
There's some strong world-building as we're introduced to Vought's original superhero team Payback, led by Captain America stand-in Soldier Boy (played by Kripke's Supernatural collaborator Jensen Ackles). For all the hype that has surrounded this addition, the character has a disappointingly weak presence across the first five episodes, but it seems as if the writers are lining him up for a vital role in the final act. In the meantime, The Walking Dead's Laurie Holden should tide over genre fans, delivering several memorable scenes as Scarlet Witch variant Crimson Countess.
With its sharp satirical edge, The Boys season 3 often ends up an oddly therapeutic watch. If you find yourself worn down by the dire state of the modern world, it's refreshing to see a show address it with no sentimentalism or pulled punches, while still affording the little guys an anarchic victory here and there.
The Boys is back, let us simply bask in its depraved glory.
The Boys season 3 premieres on Prime Video on Friday 3rd June 2022 – sign up for a 30-day free trial and pay £7.99 a month after that.
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