July 22, 2022

Swooping in to capitalize on the onset of superhero movie exhaustion, Eric Kripke’s The Boys shrewdly flips the script on the ostensibly illustrious caped crusaders. While most blockbuster pictures focus on their heroes’ valiant escapades, glossing over everything else they ever do, The Boys strips away the glamorous facade, portraying its superheroes’ flaws and foibles.

Unfettered by the fussy rules governing Disney’s MCU, the superheroes — referred to as Supes — in Kripke’s world are free to act on their motivations. They aren’t costumed altruists. They’re motivated and swayed by the same things as any mortal: money, power, and influence.

In its latest season, The Boys depicts this connection in spades. If you haven’t binged through the latest season yet, small spoilers lie ahead.

Season 3 introduces a key plot device. Temp V: It’s like Compound V, which gives superheroes their powers, but, as the name suggests, it only lends its user powers for a day. Succumbing to its allure, Butcher (Karl Urban) undergoes his biggest change since the disheveled brute was first introduced. Tormented and deprived of any semblance of a childhood,Butcher always felt like a Supe without the powers. To him, the Temp V is a tool to level the playing field.

Coming down from the drug’s intoxicating high, Butcher’s takeaway is: “V makes you more you.” Despite the abundant animosity he has accrued toward Supes, Butcher’s fleeting hours among their rank make him realize that powers alone don’t make a villain or a hero; they serve to amplify one’s strongest traits.

Homelander (Antony Starr), in this season, following the loss of his Nazi girlfriend and custody of his son, effuses a menacing presence evocative of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men — and with godlike strength to boot. Donning his slick, greased hair and a maniacal smirk, Homelander, in what might be the most disturbing scene of the series thus far, feigns affection for Deep (Chace Crawford), inviting him to dinner, where he forces him to eat his friend octopus Timothy alive, as he chuckles.

After daring Starlight (Erin Moriarty) to release her damning footage of him leaving people to die on the downed airliner from the first season, Homelander professes that he’d prefer the exaltation of humanity, but he’s willing to settle on annihilating civilization should they turn on him. Unbound by his erstwhile need for adoration and approval, Homelander, toward the end of the season, becomes even more petrifying than prior.

Picking up where Season 2 ended, The Boys continues its Homelander/Donald Trump parallel. He mimics the former president’s vainglorious ramblings, chides the press for unfair coverage, and prefers the embrace of Vought’s own VNN news network, a derisive gibe at Fox News.

But as it ebbs into political mockery, Kripke’s The Boys is closer in tone to South Park than Stephen Colbert. With equal propensity, the show skewers progressive neologisms and superficially liberal corporate campaigns.

In a highlight scene, after A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) complains about a racist Supe, Blue Hawk, targeting African Americans in his neighborhood, Vought CEO Ashley (Colby Minifie), carrying a saccharine smile, replies, “Of course. Social justice is so important around here. Black Lives Matter is my favorite hashtag. My Instagram? Nothing but black screens.” Asked when she would actually address the racist, she calmly retorts, “Later.” Vought instead shoots a satire of the tactless Pepsi commercial from 2017.

Amid a seemingly endless deluge of superhero content from money-grubbing studios, The Boys offers a refreshing twist on the stale genre. Moreover, its sardonic quips on the social and political issues of our benighted times are among the sharpest on television today.

Originally Published at The Washington Examiner