THB #164: The Boys - Penis & Cameo Season 3
The Amazon series, The Boys - about superheroes in the future, the corporation that tries to control them, and the effort of a rogue group to control both groups - has become the visual body splatter champion of all time. It started the first season with a few good splats. One of the set-up deaths in the series is a young woman who gets in the way of the fastest person on earth - A-Train - and is reduced to little more than entrails and flying blood. A-Train later tells a friend that he hit her so hard that one of her molars got caught in his throat.
This is a very specific flavor of TV show.
The funny thing is that Amazon has another show, animated, called Invincible, which covers some similar territory and came out after Season 2 of The Boys. It was even more graphic in its sex and violence than The Boys.
I have no idea whether the showrunners of The Boys saw this as a challenge. But Season 3 ups the amount of splatter, the amount of pretty graphic sex, and the combination. A lot.
I actually re-watched the The Boys: Diabolical series of animated shorts that came out in March as a guide to the changes. But those shorts, while often fun or charming, and always wildly more violent and/or gross than the live-action series, didn’t seem to be connected to the live-action series in any real way, except for shared characters. It wasn’t WandaVision leading to Doctor Strange 2.
The first 2 seasons of The Boys wasn’t shy about sex or violence, but you could certainly tell which of the lead actors (male and female) had nudity included in their contracts and who did not. The sexual dialouge and the active violence were so extreme that when the show didn’t really go Euphoria crazy, you could feel that they were holding things back.
This season… well… when the press copies of the season were made available by Amazon, they were early edits, completely cut together, but without finished effects. My guess is that they were avoiding spoilers and piracy. Regardless, watching this season that way was fascinating. You could tell what would end up being created, but it was a guide to how FX are done and what choices are made along the way. I really wish these early, unfinished edits were available, at least to film and TV students. Very small things and very big things alike… very interesting.
Point is (well, one point at least) that by minute 11, you have already established that their version of Ant-Man, Termite (played by Brett Geddes) is happy to entertain a crowd by literally having sex with a Barbie doll. So when he and his male lover go at it behind closed doors and you see Termite about to dive in, the unfinished orifice effect looked like the body part was a giant beef tongue full of divots and pink fleshiness. It was creepy, really. (I didn’t take a picture because that would be an invasion of Amazon’s rights.)
And I won’t take a picture of the image in the finalized show because… just because…
The gag, as it were, is that he is inside of his male friend and he knows the anatomy and what should feel good. Funny idea. Better joke if the sex partner was female and even with a 3 ft clitoris, the guy was still unable to locate it… but let’s put that aside.
When I saw the finalized version of the episode just recently, before it’s Jan 3 premiere, the point of entry was still creepy… but it was now clearly a penis… though it looked like one of those super close-up shots from a medical magazine showing you what’s really crawling around on your skin all the time, not very far off from the sand worms in Dune.
What happens next… I won’t tell you… no spoilers here… but just know that within 12 minutes of the new season, a man will enter another man’s penis.
For some reason, there is a boatload of sex in this season and a lot of it is about male genitalia. I don’t know if this is fear of not really knowing what women want or an attempt to flip the on-screen sex script or some short of weird comfort zone. It is actually one of the few genre series where gender identity is openly expressed by most characters at some point in the storytelling.
In a later-in-the-season case of a penis at least as long as the male attached to it (the return of Love Sausage), I don’t know whether the unfinished or finished version is weirder looking. That would be in Episode 6 of this season, entitled “Herogasm,” which features an annual sex party just for supers (more elaborate than the sex club for heroes in season one).
The other standout change in Season 3 is that there are a ton of cameos, many of which are really irrelevant to the storyline. They are fun. And they offer up a change of energy for the show when they turn up. There are also other anomalies, like animation and music. But aside from the first cameo, they all seem like inspired madness that really has nothing to do with the series story.
To tell you any of the cameos is to ruin the cameos. And I don’t want to do that.
As for the story of the season… it’s kind of classic superhero sequelizing. At the end of the 2nd season, the show’s Superman, Homelander, is clearly both losing his mind and turned power mad. What do you do when no one can stop your superhero lead? You create someone who might be strong enough to do so… or maybe more than one… or some combination that might work.
In this case - as seen in the ads - they came up with Soldier Boy, their kinda Captain America knock-off from World War II. But will he be like Captain America or will he be twisted in some The Boys way? (Duh!)
What twists this series, overall, is that their most powerful hero is also its most powerful villain. And from all appearances, the series will have more seasons. In a weird way, this tension, outside of the show itself, builds the audiences hopes and incredulity.
In some ways, by the end of the season, the purpose of the season (other than filling the catalog with interesting, quirky, crazy episodes) is unclear and perhaps a bit frustrating.
It feels like the writers picked the Soldier Boy storyline, then embellished relentlessly, as one would on an OG sitcom, gag by gag by gag. There are a lot of side characters who get a lot more time this season, which is a mixed blessing. Fans will love some of the stuff. But audiences looking for a broader experience may find it hard to follow or overly complicated for no clear reason.
Season 2’s hook was the return of the Nazi superhero. This year, it leans back into a theme it started in Season One… the family life of superheros and degrees of good and bad. Does it really make progress? Characters do. But my guess is that when there is a Season 4 and 5, this will be a season that could have been skipped. Doesn’t mean you should skip it. If you like the series, you will have plenty to enjoy.
I like excess in television and film. Or at least, it doesn’t throw me off. It is one of the reason I have liked this show in its first 2 seasons. It’s kind of American Anime’ using live production. In each of the seasons, The Boys has become more sophisticated in how its excess is delivered… the way the bots of the Transformers series evolved with increased quality in CG.
The acting is good, though I admit that with most of the cast, I am wondering what the show would be like with established stars. Maybe it would be better… maybe worse with over-familiarity. But with all the mirroring of DC and Marvel, The Boys always feels like a touring version of the real thing… regardless of how well acted, directed, and FXed. Then again, it has the guts to do many things the 2 mega-players would never ever do.
If you are new to The Boys, watch the first season. You will know if it - and Season 3 - are for you. If you have watched the first 2 seasons, the odds that you will be happy you watched this season are very, very high. And if you love penises doing more than you would ever expect in a superhero tv series… this is your season.