Fascinating Characters, Plots Make ‘The Boys’ a Must-Watch Show, Despite Gratuitous Gore

Forrest Hartman


The Boys breathed fresh air into the surging superhero genre when it debuted on Amazon Prime in 2019. Thankfully, it feels just as fresh and dynamic in 2022.


Six episodes into the third season, the show continues to forge its path as an adventure-drama that is equal parts action, social commentary and over-the-top gore. That’s an odd combination of ingredients, but it works, and it does so while forcing audiences to look at superhero stories in a new light.


Fans already know that the show’s concept is to portray superheroes as regular people with hopes, fears and – mainly – flaws. We aren’t talking minor issues, like Bruce Wayne working too much or Peter Parker having the occasional identity crisis. We’re talking the vanity that leaves a hero more worried about social media followings and endorsement deals than natural disasters. In short, many of the super-powered characters in The Boys are heroes in name and image only. That makes their abilities more frightening than inspiring, and it leaves the real heroes – characters without special abilities – in a state of fearful coexistence.



At the outset of Season 3, things seem to be looking up for the most sympathetic characters. Long-suffering Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) has become a top player at the Bureau of Superhero Affairs, charged with policing dangerous supes, and his relationship with the good-hearted superheroine Starlight (Erin Moriarity) is heating up. Even Hughie’s ne’er-do-well mentor Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) seems like he might be ready to do things by the book rather than policing supes however he sees fit. If that sort of plotting seems too tame for The Boys, don’t worry. Within a few episodes, Hughie, Billy and the rest of the crew are in as much trouble as ever, and viewers are likely to find themselves laughing, cringing and binging their way through all the drama.


If The Boys has a flaw, it’s the franchise’s much-celebrated violence and gore. Because the show prides itself on the sort of hyperrealism that is generally avoided in superhero flicks (how, after all, can Flash punch someone at super speed without dismembering them) a few characters meet a tremendously bloody end in every show. Obviously, some fans relish this. I find the gore self-indulgent and believe it distracts from the generally fantastic plotting that punctuates each season, but there’s zero chance this trademark is going away. That’s a minor problem, though, because the storytelling is first rate.



Whether focused on Hughie’s determination to bring dangerous superheroes to justice or the super-powered narcissist The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) efforts to restore his image, The Boys is enthralling. Plenty of screen time is also dedicated to the most powerful hero in the franchise’s universe, “The Homelander” (Anthony Starr), and his arc becomes increasingly dark and involving throughout the third season. Showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution) has a gift for creating clever storylines highlighting complex characters, and he collected all the right pieces with The Boys.


The cast is outstanding from top to bottom and – since there is such great material to work with – it’s difficult to stop watching. That’s not a particular problem since it’s an Amazon Prime vehicle and binging is part of the deal. Just be warned, the final episode of Season 3 isn’t due until July 8 -- and it will be an even longer wait for Season 4.  


Author Bio:

Forrest Hartman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief film critic.


For Highbrow Magazine


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