With each passing season of The Boys, more viewer and critical accolades pile onto Antony Starr‘s show-stopping performance as Homelander. And every year, the artsy-fartsy Television Academy and HFPA pass him by. Granted, this is actually not too surprising because we all know that the Emmys and the Golden Globes just do this sort of thing. How many years did Rhea Seehorn get snubbed before finally being nominated for the Kim Wexler role on Better Call Saul? Too many. These awards shows favor certain types of programming, and quite frankly, both The Boys and spinoff Gen V have the audaciousness to litter sharp writing with lewd content and humor that is too biting for “prestigious” award consideration.
As well, The Boys gleefully skewers itself while also being part of a genre that is largely shunned by fancy award shows, but my god. Between these shows and Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, we now live in a world wherein Amazon is producing superhero content that soars further into the stratosphere with each outing, unlike the now-floundering MCU and DCU. And even with Gen V, a show that has been swinging further and further with each episode, Starr managed to swoop in from the sky at the last possible moment and steal the whole finale in less than one minute of screen time.
(You can rewatch that scene here, but GIFs are coming, so hang tight.)
Back when I reviewed Gen V, only six episodes had been released to critics, so I obviously didn’t know about this cameo yet. And I’m glad that was the case, because I had the chance to comment upon how an on-the-scene Homelander’s “revolting charisma would distract the audience from getting to know a whole new roster of screwed-up Supes.” So, did I drop an “oh sh*t” when I saw him materialize in front of a statue of himself? Absolutely.
Let’s first check in with what Starr did. He landed amid maddeningly distorted patriotic music, quickly surveyed the mayhem, and decided how he was going to frame the narrative. Marie addressed him as “Sir,” but he wasn’t having it.
Anytime you see Homelander smile — whether it’s a little half-smirk like this ^^^ one or a full-on, toothpaste grin — you generally know that sh*t is going to go down. That’s down to Starr’s sheer presence, yes, and the way that the writers have developed his character in a frighteningly painstaking way. More than that, it’s the actor-ing. I’m sort of stealing the way that my colleague, Brian Grubb, often uses verbs during fun workplace exchanges, but I mean it here. Starr is not acting. He is actor-ing. (Maybe you and I will talk about the difference one day.) It’s a mood, goddammit.
Also important about the Homelander smile(s): Starr has this unparalleled way of making sure that he only smiles with his mouth. You can see it above, and it’s happening below, too. The smile never reaches his eyes because it’s fake as hell. That’s also a key delineator of psychopathy, and it’s rather astounding that Starr pulls it off in so many variations. Even more than that, he manages to still make his eyes appear dead above while also doing this little eyebrow pop before he lasers the hell out of Marie.
What’s also curious about this scene is that Marie survived, which suggests a future showdown. And I look forward to that with relish.
There’s more going on, though. Homelander referred to Marie as an “animal” for committing violence against “your own kind.” That’s a clever bit of writing that leaves open whether he’s being racist as hell, or simply that he sees himself in a different league of Supe (or both). He has sided with the now-forearm-less Cate after she was the one who was out of control and probably about to kill Jordan when Marie intervened. Did Homelander do this because he sees Marie as a future threat? That’s possible, but all of this potentially sets Cate up as a Starlight or Queen Maeve replacement on The Boys Season 4.
Man, the producers weren’t messing around when they said that the timelines of these shows bump right up against each other. And it completely makes sense that Homelander would want to pull Cate (and possibly Sam) under his wing because he’s no idiot. He has likely seen enough to know that Marie isn’t buying into what Vought International is selling, and again, her blood-bending abilities (girlfriend turned blood into daggers only a few moments prior to his landing) would be more than a match for his powers.
Homelander does what is good for Homelander, and he’s only growing more unhinged with each passing The Boys season.
To briefly recap: in Season 1, he downed an entire plane full of civilians and maintained that level of menace throughout Season 2, which he capped off by jerking off from atop a skyscraper, potentially killing innocents when his jizz hit the ground (clearly, I’ve thought about this scene too much). In Season 3, he convinced a woman to commit suicide as a birthday present to himself. That was perhaps the nudge that left a lot of far-right viewers having a raging meltdown once they realized that they’d been rooting for a bad guy. And in the Season 3 finale, he killed a civilian in broad daylight.
That act was a Trump reference (bragging about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, etc), but Starr has been quick to point out that Homelander is not Trump because that would be “very two-dimensional,” and if this was a political thing, then “with the speechy stuff, if you want someone who can string a sentence together, who does that better than … Obama?”
Fair enough. I prefer to think that Homelander is one-of-a-kind in terms of villainy that we’ve seen onscreen. He is much more complex than Trump, and the Obama comparison similarly only fits one ability of the character. He’s an amalgamation of several influences and a personification of power in and of itself. He is also one bad dude, to say the very least. Remember when he made The Deep eat his still-alive best friend (RIP Timothy the Octopus)? And yet goddammit, Antony Starr. He’s so good at this. Too good at this.
Much of this is down to the attention to detail from the writers of The Boys, but this is very much a case of Starr infusing what could be a cartoonish character with layers. Even when he’s doing terrible things, Homelander remains a pleasure to watch and the only character in recent memory that makes me shout at the screen like that Rick Dalton pointing meme, even if I might not be using the meme correctly because I’m not spectacular with them.
There’s also a little side inquiry from my head: Starr, a natural brunette, once told us about how he shaves off his Homelander hair after filming each season. He described doing so “to fix the damaged hair” with a side effect being that “the world backs off” because people aren’t noticing a “potential psychopath in their midst.” I suspect that also helps remove the Homelander ickiness from his psyche, but perhaps I’m overreaching there.
Yet I do know a few things for sure: (1) Starr is being far too humble when he claims that he has no idea what he’s doing while acting (go watch Banshee if you don’t believe me); and (2) Whatever the guy is receiving for a paycheck, it isn’t enough.
‘The Boys’ and ‘Gen V’ can be streamed on Amazon Prime.