When The Boys Season 2 came to an end, things were looking up for the good guys — across both the eponymous vigilante team and the members of The Seven superhero team who actually have consciences.
Stormfront (Aya Cash) was outed as a Nazi, stomp-kicked by the other women she was originally supposed to fight crime alongside, and ultimately made limbless when Homelander's son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) took his revenge for the death of his mother. Starlight (Erin Moriarty) was welcomed back into The Seven and publicly apologized to by Homelander (Antony Starr), and she and Hughie (Jack Quaid) were still going strong. Hughie decided to get a bit more political, joining Congresswoman Victoria Newuman's (Claudia Doumit) secretly-funded Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs (FBSA), while Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) kept Ryan safe from Vought International, the conglomerate behind The Seven, and was offered a gig in the same government group. Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) finally reunited with his daughter; A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) made it back into The Seven; Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) used her power to keep Homelander from coming after people she cared about; and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and Frenchie (Tomer Capone) walked off into the sunset together.
But if there's anything fans of the Emmy-nominated Amazon Prime Video drama know, it's that wins can be fleeting — and fraught. And that's exactly what you should expect in the third season, which premieres June 3 on the streamer.
"The year of peace time that we come in on The Boys with is complicated because it's coming from the FBSA compromising with Vought, playing back and forth, and allowing this superhero to be arrested while not touching that superhero," creator and showrunner Eric Kripke tells Metacritic.
"Both Homelander and Butcher, on their alternate sides, hate that because they're both scorched-Earth, no compromise, complete absolutists, and if that means everyone has to die, then so be it," he continues. "So, there is a certain thematic in here about compromise versus radical absolutism and how absolutism generally only leads to destruction. People seem to have forgotten the give-and-take of living as citizens in this country."
Making things even more complicated in the third season of The Boys is how the power dynamic has shifted for those men Kripke calls "complete absolutists." While Homelander was once seen as the most powerful supe (and the most famous and beloved supe), he is now bested by a few of the women who surround him, and probably the arrival of the original super, Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), too. Meanwhile, Butcher has been given temporary supe powers, which gives him the strength to go up against any supe without nearly as much preparation and planning as he once needed to do.
To prepare you for Season 3, here, Kripke talks to Metacritic about where the new season finds each main character and what their challenges are this season.
The second season was particularly challenging for the de facto leader of The Seven. Without his mother figure, he was adrift and tried to achieve what he got out of his relationship with Madelyn (Elisabeth Shue) through a supe known as Doppelganger. It wasn't enough for him, though, so naturally he ended up killing Doppelganger. His relationship with Stormfront also went south when Ryan severed her arms and legs after she attacked Becca (Shantel VanSanten). Maeve threatened to expose his hypocrisy as a hero. And even Ryan, who he had spent some time trying to mold in his image, was taken away from him. That left him literally alone, throwing a sexual tantrum on the top of the Seven Tower.
When Season 3 picks up, Homelander will be forced to stand side-by-side with Starlight, while Stormfront is imprisoned somewhere, finally gravelly injured. Although Maeve didn't end up going public with the video she has of Homelander sacrificing a plane full of people, his star has dimmed because of his relationship with Stormfront.
"Homelander is getting it from all sides, and because he is who he is, he feels intensely victimized and persecuted — there's no one in history who has ever been as persecuted as Homelander — conveniently forgetting that he's the most powerful man on Earth," Kripke says. "He's a powder keg. And there's only so much indignity he can take before he finally lashes out, and sure enough, that's exactly what happens."
Kripke says there is a "massive crisis" coming to Vought International at the same time Homelander begins to get some of his power back in the third season. And when that happens, it showcases "just how woefully inadequate he is to deal with a national crisis, which also may remind you of recent leaders we've had."
Starlight, or Annie, if you call her by her real name, spent Season 2 working alongside the titular vigilante group to try to bring down the supes, and she was even caught and publicly called out for being a mole within The Seven by Homelander. But by the end of the season, she was back as part of the team, sitting alongside the fearless leader at a press conference after helping to take down Stormfront. (Before Ryan's laser eyes got her, Starlight was part of a girl group attack on the seemingly immortal Nazi supe.)
"Starlight finds herself in a really interesting spot because she's, at the moment, a bigger star than Homelander," Kripke says of the start of Season 3 of The Boys. "After all the controversy of last season, as a wholesome, reliable, Jen Aniston hero, she's testing through the roof and testing higher than Homelander ever has. So, she's finding herself, in a way, having more power than Homelander within Vought, and obviously that's really tense."
Homelander apologized to Starlight at the press conference, but he still hates her and could easily "laser her face off," Kripke notes. But that isn't deterring her because "she sees an opportunity, at least when we find her, of actually doing some good with all of this newfound power she's been given."
Hughie and Starlight grew closer in the second season, even though they often had to be apart so she could work on taking down The Seven and Vought International from the inside. But although Kripke compares Season 3 Starlight to Jennifer Aniston, he says the show has no interest in doing the "ping-ponging of, 'They're together, they're separate," ala Ross and Rachel on Friends when it comes to Hughie and Starlight as a couple.
So, they're together at the start of the season, he confirms, and "in fact, they're together all season."
"That isn't to say there isn't some pretty intense conflict between them, but we were interested in, 'Just because there's conflict doesn't mean you're split up forever until it's time to bring you all back together,'" he continues. "When we find them in Season 3, they're actually both happy, but that happiness is short-lived because the show is what it is."
Hughie vowed to fight Vought "the right way" at the end of Season 2 and stepped outside of the vigilante group to work for Victoria. When Season 3 rejoins him, he is "so happy and confident in his job at the FBSA," Kripke says. But that job is "part of the sword that's dangling over Hughie's head" this season. Because although Kripke doesn't want to spoil when Hughie will find out his new boss is a secret supe assassin, the audience already knows that she is one, so "it's only a matter of time before Hughie's mind explodes at the revelation," he says.
But calm down, as much as The Boys loves seeing whales and other people explode, Hughie is a major character, so, this time, Kripke isn't being literal.
Butcher finally had to say goodbye to Becca for good at the end of Season 2 when Ryan's laser eye beams accidentally hit his mother. Although Butcher had initially made a deal to turn Ryan over to with Vought CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), he called Grace Mallory (Laila Robins) to take Ryan and keep him safe from Vought instead. Grace offered Butcher a job on a new task force that would keep tabs on supes, which would have had him teaming up with Hughie in a new way, if he had taken it. He walked away from Grace in the second season finale episode without verbalizing an answer, but between the way he walked away and everything we've come to know about his nature so far, such a government-style job does not seem the best fit for our favorite charming brute.
In an interesting, but perhaps unintentional, nod to his challenges in Season 3, Butcher slipped on a pair of sunglasses before walking away from Grace. As the Season 3 teaser trailer revealed, Butcher is struggling with getting supe powers, including laser eyes now. And yes, struggling is the right word to use here.
"Butcher's f---ed up. I don't think anyone, Karl included, would say that Butcher is a healthy, balanced individual. He's completely overcome with rage — he has some pretty serious anger management issues. He does have his spots of humanity more than Homelander, in terms of how he cares about Ryan and how much he cares about his team, but he lives on the warpath, and yes, it's about Becca, but it's also about how he was raised," Kripke says.
"One of the thematics of the show is power doesn't necessarily corrupt you as much as it reveals the thing you've always been, and so, Butcher with powers is a really dangerous Butcher because he's able to unleash all of that darkness aside," the showrunner continues.
Ryan already exhibited the inability to control his powers in the second season, and now Butcher's journey will mimic that in the sense of him having to use good judgement about when and how and on whom to turn those powers.
"It's the allure of finally being able to level the playing field. It's really hard to fight superheroes, and it usually takes them months of legwork and blackmail and searching for weaknesses — or you can have laser eyes and punch them in seconds. And the appeal of that is really intoxicating to him," Kripke says.
Oh, and for the record, although Butcher handed Ryan off to Grace, he will still be in the boy's life at the start of Season 3, Kripke adds.
As aforementioned, Maeve used the footage she, The Deep (Chace Crawford), and his ocean pals found from the hijacked plane Maeve and Homelander abandoned in Season 1 to blackmail Homelander. (They chose to save themselves while a plane full of people perished.) While he backed down at the time (at the end of Season 2) because she was willing to show the world she, too, let these people die if it meant the world would stop putting him on a pedestal, there hasn't been time to see how long she can keep him at bay.
Until Season 3.
Kripke notes that Maeve "knows better than almost anyone what a threat Homelander still is" and that the video she has is really just "a Band-aid to who is this absolutely satanic, apocalyptic person and the unbelievable destruction he's ultimately going to wreak."
So while she definitely bought time to formulate a bigger plan to take him down, the time is coming to get to work on that, and she is not taking that lightly.
"She's leading that charge," Kripke says. "More than anyone, I think she's had it after everything that happened last season and she's a little bit on the warpath."
Although The Deep came through for Maeve in Season 2, much of his time was spent in an ill-advised church group (the Church of the Collective) that promised him — and A-Train — that it would help him get back into The Seven. He followed the church's advice, including getting married to rehab his image, but it wasn't enough, and when The Seven only had one open spot, it went to A-Train.
That leaves The Deep broke (because the church is also a Ponzi scheme) and married to someone outside of the superhero world (who he doesn't care about, by the way). But, Kripke says in Season 3, The Deep is officially out of the church.
"The Deep is like the Forrest Gump of Hollywood trends. He was in the church, and then he also gets to get some leverage out of being out of the church and fighting against the church. If there's a Hollywood trend, The Deep is right in the middle of it," Kripke says with a laugh.
However, Kripke remained mum on whether that means The Deep will try NFTs next.
A-Train was kicked out of The Seven at the start of Season 2, but after a season of ups and downs with his health and getting involved in the Church of the Collective, he managed to worm his way back in.
Initially, Stormfront's racism was going to keep him from getting the open spot, which pushed A-Train to break into the church's archives to get dirt on her for Hughie and Starlight's mission to take her down. They released the information (about her being a Nazi) to the press, and the public turned on her. Vought distanced itself from her, and she ended up incapacitated anyway, so A-Train was welcomed back into the fold.
But that doesn't mean the drama will slow down for him in Season 3. After all, he still has a bad heart, which means he can't run.
"A-Train is a little half-in and half-out" of The Seven, Kripke says, because while he is a part of the group, he has a "tenuous grip" on his position within it since he's not at fully capacity, abilities-wise.
"For him, that level of success and access is more important than anything, no matter who gets hurt," Kripke says of the importance of being in The Seven to A-Train. "He needs to fight to hold onto his position."
After Stormfront killed Kenji (Abraham Lim), Kimiko's brother, at the start of Season 2, Kimiko began to bond with Frenchie. He even learned sign language to communicate with her, and at the end of the season, after she helped Starlight fight Stormfront and Butcher successfully got Ryan to safety, Frenchie and Kimiko planned to go dancing.
It certainly seemed like an almost out-of-character happy ending for the couple for a show known for as much blood, guts, and gore as The Boys. And Kripke confirms that their story isn't so simple as walking — or dancing — off together.
"I think it's an important distinction that they're soulmates, but I think they're figuring out whether that means romantically," he explains. "I think it's an interesting question because their connection is so deep, and it so crosses over into family that it's an interesting story to look at."
Speaking of family, the end of Season 2 finally gave Mother's Milk the reunion with his daughter that he was so desperate for. But pulling his family back into his life "will bite him," Kripke previews.
"For two years now, he's wanted to get back together with his family, so we were interested in, 'Let's give him the thing that he wants and then see what happens' because we reveal that there's things about that character, in terms of his crusade against superheroes, that doesn't change just because he goes home."
In Season 2, Mother's Milk revealed that his lawyer father had gone after Vought decades before after some cryptic "bad" thing happened between his family and the conglomerate. Mother's Milk found his father dead almost 20 years ago and picked up his mission to take down Vought, feeling like it was extra personal.
Now that he has his daughter back in his life, though, he is going to wrestle with how to strike a balance between that crusade and being there for her.
"He's been a little bit in denial with his belief of, 'I can just turn it off and it will go away.' There's a little bit of Hurt Locker going on with that guy, so we'll get into that," Kripke says.
After being outed as a Nazi and losing her limbs, Vought had to pack Stormfront away somewhere. Even if they just wanted to kill her, she has proven how impossible that task is. But although Stormfront is no longer in fighting shape (nor a hero in this world), her presence will still very much be felt in Season 3, Kripke says.
The decision to keep her spirit around "came from an online comment that I read, and it really struck me, where someone said, 'The most unrealistic part of that show is the extent with which every single American turned against her because she is a Nazi.' They were like, 'It wouldn't be everybody!' And I said, 'Oh that's so interesting,'" he explains.
Kripke and his writers' room thought about what that would look like in their world, and what they came up with are the Storm Chasers, a group of people who still worship Stormfront. They will be "in the background of the show — that you see every so often — and they may or may not be carrying tiki torches," he says.
Ackles steps into Season 3 of The Boys in the guest-starring role of the first superhero, created by Vought (and Compound V) in the 1940s. He became the first celebrity supe — even if he wasn't in The Seven.
Soldier Boy fought in World War II (hence the name), where he killed by the dozen, and he has an ego and the ambition to also rival Homelander. In the graphic novel, Soldier Boy was actually a leader of Payback, the second largest supe group, following The Seven, and he even tried to become a part of The Seven by sleeping with Homelander. (Kripke previously confirmed that his version of Soldier Boy would not be having sex with his version of Homelander.)
"We see the myth before we see the man," Kripke says of introducing the character in Season 3.
Because Soldier Boy has been around for so long, there are hundreds of pieces of media and press on him through the decades, and Kripke says that both he and Ackles had a lot of fun with creating those.
"Soldier Boy is in something like 40 years of Vought Media, so there's black-and-white movies from the '50s and there's congressional hearings in the late '50s and there's songs in the '60s and there's songs in the '80s. In previous seasons we did very modern-day music videos, and we do some of those this season as well, but we had an amazing time creating [in the past too]."
The Boys Season 3 premieres June 3 on Prime Video. Catch up with the first two seasons,