The Boys has been notoriously fraught with political messages since day one — about corporate greed and overreach, celebrity culture, sexual assault from those in positions of power, neo-Nazism, and white supremacy are just a few of the subjects the series unabashedly broaches. But a lead character’s swallowing of his own poison this season is the most profound political metaphor yet for the disease that is modern American culture.
The comic-based superhero satire launched its first three episodes of season 3 this past Friday on Amazon. Commended for its effortlessly entertaining fusion of dark humor and social commentary and revered for its cinematography, the gore- and violence-packed Prime original has grown a huge following since its initial release in 2019.
The series follows a group of vigilantes, “The Boys,” each of whom have been horrendously wronged by the nearly all-powerful superheroes who are worshiped by most of the world. Almost all of these “supes” upon whom The Boys swear vengeance are members of the Seven: America’s elite, branded group of superheroes that protect the country and star in Marvel-like blockbusters for a corporation called Vought. In reality, they are shallow, greedy individuals using their “God-chosen” powers to further their own political, and sometimes religious, agendas.
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In season 1, The Boys — with the help of their mole member of the Seven, Starlight — revealed that the supes were not, in fact, chosen by the almighty, but were simply the result of the effects of Compound V, a chemical injection given to newborns granting them powers for life.
Things get dicey this season, however, when one of The Boys, Butcher — a fan-favorite played by Karl Urban — injects himself with V24, a supe shot created by Vought granting its receiver with 24 hours of powers. As of the end of episode 3, the most recent episode available to viewers (until tomorrow), nobody yet knows of the secret, brutal side effects of the injection: Butcher vomits green liquid, sweats excessively, and has an especially short temper, raising concern from the rest of The Boys.
While we don’t yet know what exactly Butcher plans to do with the V24, it’s fair to say, based on The Boys Season 3 trailer, that it will be leveraged in some way against the show’s supe antagonists, who have honed these powers since the NICU.
To say that America is politically volatile in this day and age would be an understatement. With the increasingly frequent occurrence of mass shootings in the U.S., Americans are left to beat the dead horse of what can be done to prevent these tragedies. The most common consensus is pretty simple: lawmakers need to implement proper legislation to limit accessibility to firearms, and human lives must be prioritized over the right to own a gun. But the problem — as is the problem with making headway on Roe v. Wade, climate change, police brutality, and the plethora of social issues that continue to plague our country — is the untamed corruption of our lawmakers.
The political process nowadays is simply not made for the “good guys” to win. When they try to, nine times out of ten, they’re forced to sink to the same level as their opponents, and in turn to compromise the values they fought so hard to remain true to in the first place. And in the rare cases in which they’re successful, the majority of the “good guys” inevitably become motivated by money, power, and greed. This, unfortunately, is the infamously vicious cycle that is the U.S. government.
Since the supes in The Seven are as popular as celebrities and as influential as politicians, Butcher’s conundrum is the same. After nearly a decade of fighting tirelessly to take down ruthless, nearly God-like beings with mortal weapons, he now has the opportunity to level the playing field thanks to V24, and potentially beat the supes at their own game. But it comes with a hefty price — and that price will surely surpass the aforementioned side effects we’ve seen so far. Butcher is morphing into what he hates most, with good reason—but whether the sacrifice will be worth the outcome remains to be seen.
The Boys Season 3 airs its fourth episode, “Glorious Five-Year Plan,” this Friday.
Main image: Karl Urban as a super-powered Butcher.