Amazon has captured lightning in a bottle with The Boys, and they know it. Toeing the line between the popularity of superheroes with actual cultural relevance in today’s America, The Boys is easily one of the best shows on television right now, and season 3 has been the best season of the series so far. And this week’s season finale shows that The Boys is still one of the few remaining shows that really knows how to get season-enders right, a tall order in this age of endless cliffhangers and uncertain renewals. Spoilers follow.
The show pulled a bit of a bait and switch as we watched Maeve and Soldier Boy go up in a nuclear explosion, the show actually saved both characters, putting them on ice (one literally) for later.
This felt like the right call, even though those kind of fake-outs don’t work often in other series. While I think Soldier Boy’s arc is over, leaving the door open for him to return is good, especially with how well Jensen Ackles did with the character. He had the monologue of the season in the finale, talking about how his father was disappointed he had taken a “shortcut” in becoming a superhero, a powerful moment that explains a lot about his character. And then he, in turn, does the exact same thing to his own “son,” Homelander, which was such a brutal takedown you almost felt bad for the psychopath for a minute. Almost.
The show has done some incredibly interesting things with Homelander this season, a character that has always been the key fixture of the series, but Antony Starr keeps getting better and better and we are now at a point where he seriously needs to be considered for an Emmy for this part, even though he remains confusingly off most mainstream shortlists. The dynamic at the end here was fascinating, as I genuinely do believe that Homelander wanted to have a real family with Soldier Boy and Ryan, though it was also clearly a tactic to save his own skin.
Now, we are entering dark new territory with Homelander, where it’s not just that Homelander is secretly evil, it’s that he’s now openly evil, and a certain segment of the population is embracing that. Before tonight, it was just leaked video of him making threats, but in the final scene, we see him publicly laser a critic who calls him a “fascist” and throws something (harmless) at his son. The crowd goes wild. Homelander beams, realizing he can be his true, violent self, and we even get a small smile from Ryan, an image which the show realized was disturbing enough to end on.
We have now moved into an era of the show where The Seven as a concept is effectively dead. Starlight has quit and become one of The Boys (another great moment was Hughie decided not to use the V to teleport, instead supporting Starlight and her power and trusting her to get the job done, which she does). Homelander killed Black Noir for keeping the information about Soldier Boy from him, and previously killed new member Alex to send a message to Starlight. That just leaves Homelander, A-Train and The Deep, less than half of the old Seven, and those two are little more than disgruntled sidekicks at this point. A-Train seems like he could vaguely be on a path to redemption, but what form that would take is unclear. The Deep is just…a mess, as ever.
We are very clearly moving in a specific direction, where Homelander remains a Trump stand-in and he has now cultivated a very public, increasingly violent following where the endgame does appear to be overthrowing the government. Homelander has installed head-popping Supe Victoria as future Vice President, and obviously she’s probably going to take the main job due to some sort of “accident” in the future. Homelander, meanwhile, I’m pretty sure wants to just…rule the world someday with his son, but do so with millions cheering him on. The question, as ever, remains what can actually stop him. And then a secondary question, what is The Boys without Homelander as the main antagonist? Can we ever get there?
All this begins again in season 4, and I can’t wait.