Review: The Boys Season 3, Episode 1 – “Payback”

There are big spoilers ahead for this opening episode review of The Boys. For those not caught up yet – then avert your gaze. You shall ruin it for yourself. Fair warning. So, here goes. Amazon Prime’s hit superhero show returns for a third season – and things have changed since the last we saw of Billy Butcher and the Boys. A year has passed, and the world feels like a pressure kettle. Beneath the calm and the quiet, there’s a sense that things are about to reach a boiling point. 

The episode opens with the premiere of Dawn of the Seven – an Avengers-style blockbuster featuring Vought’s eponymous seven superheroes. The film features a surprise cameo from Charlize Theron who plays lightning-powered Nazi supe Stormfront. After her real-life counterpart was outed as a Nazi in the Season 2 finale, the Dawn of the Seven has undergone extensive rewrites. On the red carpet, the Seven face fearsome paparazzi attention. Homelander (Antony Starr) sells the media a revised Vought-managed speech about Stormfront. A-Train (Jessie Usher) fumbles over questions about his future as a speedster in the Seven.

Maeve looks uneasy around Homelander, and Hughie (Jack Quaid) awkwardly bumps shoulders with Homelander as he publicly walks the red carpet with Starlight (Erin Moriarty). The metaphorical pressure kettle begins to simmer. Butcher (Karl Urban) works for the Federal Bureau of Superhero Affairs and reports to Hughie on problematic supes. In the past year, Butcher has gone straight. That means no violence and no drinking. Of course, it won’t last. 

Homelander - The Boys.
Homelander – The Boys. (Pic: Amazon Prime).

Butcher comes close to killing a supe with the ability to shrink following a violent incident at a downtown sex club, opting instead to call in the Bureau. The supe, who goes by the name of Termite, is later acquired for an endorsement with Vought – in exchange for three B-lister supes – Stacker, Airburst, and Cold Snap. Despite Hughie’s good intentions in fighting the supes the right way, Butcher is out of his element.

He’s displeased by the absence of MM and Hughie, and a conversation with Homelander later in the episode illustrates their desires to resume their fight with shock and awe, blood and bone. It won’t be long before said pressure kettle begins whistling. In the year since the Stormfront controversy, Homelander is a more restrained figure. Fair to say, he’s making people uneasy. His son Ryan is under the protection of the CIA, and Stormfront (Aya Cash) clings to life in a Vought facility.

The laser-eyed supe is at odds with his former girlfriend’s pro-Nazi opinions on a master race while Stan Edgar’s decision to elect Starlight as Co-Captain of the Seven goes down like a lead balloon. Homelander is also unhappy with the Deep for appearing on a TV chat show before him and laments A-Train for eating his body weight in calories – regarding him as an inferior member of the Seven. Apart from that – he’s totally fine.

Billy Butcher - The Boys.
Billy Butcher – The Boys. (Pic: Amazon Prime).

The Deep, meanwhile, has released his new book Deeper (penned by Shia LaBeouf’s ghostwriter). After an unsuccessful attempt to return to the Seven with support from the Church of the Collective, a chat show host alludes to the fact Alastair Adana (Goran Visnjic) has been out of the public eye for the past year. The Chairman of the Church, as we know, fell victim to Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), the head-exploding assassin. Neuman, meanwhile, has successfully evaded detection as the assassin and runs operations at the FBSA alongside Hughie. Until a mysterious man from her past begins to crop up – Tony. 

He knows her as Nadia and urges her to come clean about something known as Red River. Hughie is suspicious of Tony after spotting him at the film premiere and in the FBSA offices. To cover her murderous supe secret, Neuman kills Tony, causing his entire body to explode – and Hughie, hidden behind a bin, discovers the truth that the woman he works for is the assassin. Joining the FBSA is Hughie’s way to combat the supes properly – cutting out the blood and gore. That didn’t last long. Tony’s death does raise questions, who is he and what’s his connection to Neuman, who is Nadia, and what is Red River?

The pressure kettle just boiled over – and poor Hughie can’t catch a break from the bloodshed. His problems extend to his romance with Starlight as Supersonic, a supe and former flame from Annie’s time with Capes for Christ, returns. To add to Starlight’s problems, she’s conflicted by the decision to elect her as Co-Captain of the Seven, a first in history.

Victoria Neuman - The Boys.
Victoria Neuman – The Boys. (Pic: Amazon Prime).

In Vought Tower, Stan Edgar presents Robert Singer, the US Secretary Of Defence, a vial of V24 – a drug in the research and development stage that can give a soldier superpowers for 24 hours. If it sounds like a recipe for disaster, it likely will be. However, it’ll be a hard sell in Congress – chief among which due to Compound V’s affiliation to a known Nazi supe. Maeve later meets with Butcher and informs him about B.C.L. RED, an anti-supe weapon that allegedly succeeded in killing Soldier Boy, and she’s pinched some vials of V24. 

Considered as powerful as Homelander, Soldier Boy is believed to be buried beneath a nuclear reactor since the 1980s. Maeve takes Butcher to find the anti supe weapon in a bid to kill Homelander, using the stolen vials of V24 to give Butcher powers if he intends to go up against Payback – the super team before the birth of the Seven. Smartly, Butcher is about to pour them down the sink but changes his mind and stores the vials inside a teapot.

Elsewhere, M.M has a stable relationship with his family at his daughter’s birthday party – save for his wife’s new partner Todd. Unsurprisingly M.M has a secret wardrobe with investigations into the supes. A pro-Nazi faction of Stormfront supporters gains momentum, and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) meets a young woman called Tyler playing the piano. For the first time in three seasons, we hear Kimiko’s voice as she begins to sing. 

Payback - The Boys.
Payback – The Boys. (Pic: Amazon Prime).

“Payback” is a gruesomely violent opening episode and an effortlessly strong start to the new series. The series plays to its socially critical and ultra-violent strengths with ease and shows no signs of slowing down. Highlights include Kimiko’s singing, a crafty supe with the power to shrink inside a man’s tackle (he kills him with a sneeze), two surprising cameos from Simon Pegg on a video call with Hughie, and an appearance by Charlize Theron as Stormfront in Dawn of the Seven. 

The real Stormfront (Aya Cash) is also back, but the Nazi supe is not exactly at her best following the second season finale. True to The Boys, the episode ends with a violent demonstration of power from Victoria Neuman in an alley as she turns her old friend Tony into claret mush. Not to mention Frenchie survives a scare as the shrinking supe attempts to climb inside his bottom. On that note, this review is complete. We move on to Episode 2. 

Seasons 1-2 and the first three episodes of The Boys are available to stream on Amazon Prime. What did you think of The Boys Season 3 premiere? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Matt Bailey

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