Monday, June 6, 2022

The Boys Three Episode Season 3 Premiere: 'Payback'/'The Only Man in the Sky'/'Barbary Coast'

The Boys Season 3 starts off bloody and brazen in a world headed for horror.
by Jeremy Fogelman

As we head into Season 3 of The Boys, things start off in “Payback” in a place that seems almost okay. The show immediately shows a clip of a new movie with the Seven fighting against Stormfront, here played in a cameo by Charlize Theron with obviously worse special effects -- this is called the “Vought Cut” in a direct reference to the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. Although it’s also a way to rewrite history, by showing Homelander also fighting against Stormfront instead of supporting her.

© Prime Video

The episode’s title is a reference to a team of supes in this universe, one that’s a parody of the “Avengers” in name and composition. Soldier Boy is a direct parody of Captain America, Crimson Countess of Scarlet Witch, Mindstorm of Vision, Swatto of Wasp or similar flying characters, and Gunpowder of such gun-based characters like Deadshot. The TNT Twins I’m not sure about, but they don’t have much of a presence so far.

Meanwhile, there’s now a Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs led by now Senator Victoria Neuman with her chief of staff, still out of the dark on her supe powers Hughie. Now Butcher isn’t permitted to simply kill criminal supes, here the Ant-Man or Atom parody “Termite”, who fights with Frenchie in a pretty ridiculous fight scene. Instead Butcher simply captures the little accidental murderer, who then gets off easy in exchange for other supes instead -- all part of the scheme by Stan and Vought, who are still pulling the strings behind Victoria.

The shoe drops after not much of a tease, as Hughie catches her in the act of using her powers to kill her childhood friend and we get a callback to Billy Joel when the episode is wrapped around with “Uptown Girl”, here given with multiple meanings for the two superpowered women in Hughie’s life.

The episode also introduces new political candidate “Dakota” Bob, a character adapted from the comic now in a different but similar way, a hardline military man who may be corruptible after all. Hughie and Starlight are doing pretty well as a couple, but things get shaken up when Stan offers her the co-captain position in the Seven for optics reasons, which means obviously Homelander is furious -- Antony Starr is unmatched in showing crazy behind in the eyes.

The other plot threads set up to drop are the worrisome group the “Stormchasers” supporting the now hospitalized Stormfornt still, Kimiko sadly considering her inability to do anything beautiful (thus the lovely and sad scene where Karen Fukuhara shows off her pipes but it’s all a dream), and MM with his mysterious vendetta against the supposedly dead Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles). And of course, Homelander and Butcher coming to an accord that yes, things will only end when one of them is dead.

It’s a pretty entertaining episode, getting into the half-baked comic book movie satire directly (which is not really the point of the show, just the varnish on it), an immediately overly bloody opening death and ridiculous fight, and a whole bunch of plot threads setup.

© Prime Video

Episode 2 is called “The Only Man in the Sky” which is a terrifying quote from Homelander about being the only true power in the world. It also starts off with a direct parody, a fake “television for women” movie with Billy Zane doing an intentionally terrible version of Goran Visnjic’s accent for the now-dead leader of the Church of the Collective. This movie is given the terrible title “Not Without My Dolphin”, another joke making fun of the 1991 movie title Not Without My Daughter, but the movie title has already been parodied a lot.

There’s more here of the fake “Hero Idol” show with Starlight’s ex, Supersonic (originally Drummer Boy), and his character is certainly softened from the comic, as here he’s actually a decent dude. We also see the (entirely believable) backstory behind Victoria working for Stan, as he became a new father figure for her, in another example of the messed up parent-child relationships on this show.

Probably the funniest throughline is A-Train’s attempt at cynically winning back people by using so-called “African” colors in his new costume, referencing a “tasteful” take on the slave trade. The sort of tone deaf thing that actually feels close to reality. There are also a few different investigations going on, Hughie heading to a home for supe kids that’s mostly played for laughs, and Kimiko and Frenchie trying to get info out of the Crimson Countess, which is played for laughs and horror when she accidentally kills a “Homelander” mascot.

The show also finally introduces the temporary Compound V concept and Butcher actually takes it, but not exactly handling it well -- this does lead to a fun little fight between him and Gunpowder, who does reveal a connection to Soldier Boy’s death and a mysterious weapon that might have the power to kill Homelander. This is also tied into MM trying to track down more info about racially motivated murders by Soldier Boy to MM’s family.

The big plot line though is Homelander’s birthday party, which ends with him giving an impassioned speech about being sick of kowtowing to corporate interests and says instead that he’s the only real hero. It’s terrifying but it also clearly strikes a chord with a certain percentage of the population.

© Prime Video

The last dropped episode, which is Episode 3, “Barbary Coast”, another mixed up reference to a storyline in the comics. The satire here is about that Hero Idol show parody, where one of the contestants is called “Body positive but not too body positive” -- another line that feels like it’s actually been said. The over-the-top nonsense brutality here is primarily when Homelander forces The Deep to eat his octopus friend to get back into the Seven in a classically funny but horrifying scene.

But the big reveals this episode come from Mallory giving a flashback to the utter failure of how the supes came to “help” in the fight with the Contras during the Reagan era, in a different (if similar) take to the WW2 version of this scene in the comics. The actress playing young Grace (Sarah Swire) looks a lot like Laila Robins and really does a great job in the scene alongside Justin Davis channeling Giancarlo Esposito for young Stan Edgar.

The situation goes as badly as to be expected, but the mysterious part comes in with a weird energy shooting out and both killing Soldier Boy and severely injuring Black Noir, who is revealed to simply be a superpowered black dude who originally was actually able to talk (a pretty big divergence from the comics).

This is all tied into Frenchie being approached by Russian mafia types calling him “Sergei” which he corrects to “Serge” instead, as we see him meet up with the sinister “Little Nina” played by Katia Winter (in a portrayal that’s a lot less problematic than the version in the comics) who wants him back working with her.

So it makes perfect sense that Butcher sees the obvious connections, because it was pretty obvious, and now we have a take on the gang heading off to Moscow for a new adventure. This is also a fallout from Butcher forcing little Ryan away by doing the “Get out of here!” classic trick, but Karl Urban does a great job of showing how he’s conflicted in those moments.

The show wraps around Starlight faking it to make it, both in awful to watch ways, with the ode to oversexualizing young girls “Hit Me Baby One More Time” playing as the episode starts and ends. Homelander calls Starlight’s bluff, explaining that he prefers to be loved over feared, but he’ll take the latter if it comes down to it. And he pushes a new bluff on Starlight, announcing publicly that they’re actually a couple -- but this is just the natural progression of the “Q” rating of the two being so high as a couple.

These episodes work pretty well as a crazy way to back into the world of The Boys, with the usually pretty consistent comedy and over the top violence we’ve come to expect. I appreciate the changes the show has made in adapting the comic, which never could have been directly adapted as is -- even if sometimes I feel that show isn’t quite sure how much it wants to tilt in the parody versus drama angle. It’s still as engaging a tale as ever.

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