The Amazon Prime live-action series “The Boys” began its third season on June 3 and opened to rave critical reviews. The subversive superhero show has always been popular for its over-the-top gore, depth of characters and engaging plotlines, and Season 3 ups the ante even further by reinventing the show’s main antagonist, Homelander. Set up as a dark reimagining of Superman with none of the ideals or virtues of the Man of Steel, Homelander’s transformation promises to make Season 3 of “The Boys” its most terrifying and exhilarating yet.
“The Boys” takes place in a world where superheroes are real, but instead of crusaders for justice, they’re almost universally corrupt and immoral. Controlled and protected by corporations like Vought International, superheroes do whatever they want without a care for who they hurt. The Boys is a crack undercover team put together by Billy Butcher to put these “supes” back into their place. However, their actions slowly cause them to gain notoriety until they’re put into conflict with the greatest superhero team in the world, The Seven, and the most powerful and corrupt “supe” among them, Homelander.
Homelander is the primary antagonist of “The Boys,” and much of the show’s plot centers around the team trying to find a way to defeat him. His abusive upbringing under Vought’s scientists caused him to grow into an amoral, psychopathic narcissist whose compulsive need for love is the only thing stopping him from going on a rampage. Both the heroes and Vought abuse this fact to keep Homelander in line, using the threat of tarnishing his reputation to prevent him from harming people.
In Season 3, however, Homelander begins to go through a transformation. Following the death of his girlfriend, Stormfront, and constantly being pushed around by The Boys and Vought, he begins to snap. Previously, Homelander put on the persona of an all-American boy, caring about truth, justice and liberty. During this season, he does away with it and begins openly expressing his rage and god complex to the masses, beginning to threaten everybody around him more and more if they don’t listen to him.
This change has been greatly effective at injecting tension back into the show. While the heroes could previously get Homelander to step down with damning evidence of his villainy, these threats become less effective as he cares less and less about what other people think of him. Homelander goes from being largely controllable to a ticking time bomb who’s ready to snap whenever somebody doesn’t do what he says. This presents a constant threat to The Boys, who must find a way to stop him before he abandons all pretense and kills all of them.
Homelander’s changing public image also causes changes in his fanbase. He does away with his boy scout reputation and starts presenting himself as confident and honest, not afraid to say what he really thinks. While some disapprove of his change, he gains a new fanbase of young adult white males who like that he “tells it like it is” and isn’t afraid to flex his power. While Homelander previously hid his true personality out of fear that the public wouldn’t accept it, his rising approval ratings drive him to further let loose.
The political parallels here are plain to see, with the most obvious being the resemblance to former United States President Donald Trump. Trump was similarly popular with young white men for presenting himself as a strong leader who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. While Homelander has yet to use his influence in a significant way, the show promises that it will have harmful consequences. This could easily lead to terrifying parallels to the consequences of Trump’s influence, such as the Jan. 6 United States Capitol attack.
Homelander’s interactions with other characters are more spine-chilling than ever. He’s far more powerful than any of them and well aware of it, and now, without his reputation to hold him back, he freely bullies and mocks them, knowing they can’t retaliate. He mocks A-Train for losing his superpowers due to heart attacks, forces the Boys-aligned superheroine Starlight into a fake relationship with him even though she has a boyfriend, and makes The Deep eat a live octopus, knowing that The Deep can communicate with animals and hears the octopus’s cries as he eats it alive.
As a battle with Homelander seems all but inevitable, the morals of the other characters are tested as well. Despite hating nearly every supe, some of The Boys, including Butcher, begin taking an experimental drug that grants them temporary superpowers. Butcher has always been a vengeful, hate-filled man with a vendetta against Homelander for raping his wife, so his becoming a supe himself shows just how far the heroes are willing to go now. Homelander is such a massive threat that he might have pushed Butcher into going down the same dark path as himself just to defeat him.
The tension surrounding Homelander is consistently entertaining and keeps Season 3 thrilling the whole way through. Every scene has viewers on the edge of their seats, waiting for him to snap and turn all of the heroes into paste. Through its first four episodes, however, “The Boys” has wisely avoided having Homelander go all out. Instead, the conflict has been ramped up by having him become more and more of a threat. As he’s driven his enemies out of Vought, bullied every other supe into complacency and backed The Boys into a corner, a final showdown seems all but inevitable.
Before Season 3, Vought was the true villain of “The Boys.” They created Homelander, covered up the misdeeds of other supes and engineered all the conflict throughout the series. Season 3 has smartly mixed up the status quo by having Homelander assert himself as the most powerful and diabolical person in the world. Instead of fighting a faceless corporation that’s just trying to keep them out of their hair, The Boys have their bonds and their morality tested as they face off with their greatest foe. Though only its first half has aired, this latest installment of “The Boys” promises to be its most unforgettable yet.