The Boys isn’t the show it used to be. It’s still great, and remains a biting satirical take on alt-right communities, contemporary politics, and our obsession with capitalist media, but the central thrust of its narrative and the characters we’re expected to root for have slowly begun to fall away. A few weeks of rushed dialogue and hamfisted plotting came to a head in last week’s season finale, with a showdown fans had been waiting years for ending in a relative whimper. Turns out Homelander isn’t unstoppable after all.
I wish the Season 3 finale had delivered on its potential instead of striving to do so much and faltering under the weight of its own ambition. Now we have to wait until the next season to see if it recovers, set to journey on a completely different plotline as Soldier Boy is frozen once again and Maeve flees the threat of Homelander with her powers gone forever. I’m excited to see where it goes from here, while also mourning what quite clearly could have been.
It all started going downhill from Herogasm, a strong episode that was hyped for weeks thanks to the infamous part of the source material it was adapting. We were promised sex, violence, and acts of debauchery so heinous that we wouldn’t be able to remove its sordid images from our minds. The reality wasn’t far off, but this unnecessary hype doomed the remaining episodes. Actors were asked to sell deep character arcs and sweeping plot points in a matter of minutes, with moments that should have been seen as unexpected twists instead feeling like awkward bouts of exposition that were thrown in out of necessity.
The Boys used to be much smarter, using large parts of entire episodes to delve into the psychology behind its troubled Supes as Homelander grew more and more unstable, willing to murder those closest to him if it meant feeding his own twisted sense of self-worth. Butcher, Hughie, Mother’s Milk, Kimiko, and Frenchie were afforded similar levels of development, but much of that seemed to have fallen away. The finale is a perfect encapsulation of that rushed feeling, with subplots being wrapped up with abstruse scene transitions while the big plan to stop Homelander with the help of Soldier Boy wasn’t thought through in the slightest.
Lure the most dangerous men on the planet out into the open instead of storming Vought Headquarters and forcing an evacuation in the midst of a metropolis. Or use his desire to reunite with his surrogate father as a well-placed piece of bait, taking the showdown somewhere beyond a television studio and neighbouring corporate office. Any of these would have been better than what we got, which made usually intelligent characters feel like complete idiots, choosing brawn over brains when the situation called for them to be so much smarter. This wasn’t The Boys me and so many others had grown to love.
We were just expected to nod our heads and go along with it, watching as main characters marched to their certain death, but it was impossible for them to die due to how important they are to the coming season. Stakes were minimal, and that’s not good for a battle we’ve been waiting to see for so damn long. Homelander felt weak for the first time, which is so much different to seeing him afraid of what Soldier Boy is capable of and scrambling to remain on top as his throne starts to crumble. His unease is fascinating because he could destroy the human race at the drop of a hat, but here is almost bested by a few fellow Supes, some of which aren’t even used to having powers. I didn’t buy it, which sounds silly given the show we’re talking about, but it’s otherwise spent years building a fictional universe that feels believable despite its absurdity.
That’s being thrown away in favour of cheap attempts at satire and once strong world building that now feels disjointed. Starlight’s betrayal of Vought at the end of Herogasm should have shaken the entire show’s core, painting her as a public figure willing to throw a huge corporation under the bus in order to do the right thing. The consequences for this weren’t explored much at all, with characters zipping from place to place in order to connect the eventual finale. Compound V was the same, with the temporary drug revealed to be fatal much too late to have any lasting impact, instead acting as a convenient way for Butcher to save Hughie’s life and set him up for a fight to the death with Homelander next season.
I have a feeling I know where it’s all going from here, and that’s not something I could have said just a few short months ago. The Boys began as one of the most daring, subversive shows on television with a satirical bite that wasn’t afraid to show its fangs. In many ways it still maintains that reputation, but poor writing and rushed character development have made its finest qualities less impactful. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to let the story breathe in between all the glaringly obvious satire and explosive bouts of gore. The Boys has always been better for this approach, and I fear it’s starting to lose me.
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