*Spoilers for all three seasons of “The Boys” below*
Despite being an instant critical and audience hit since its release, “The Boys” feels like it’s never been bigger and better than it was in its third season. One aspect that’s been thankfully getting larger attention as more people give the show a chance is how varied and great the ensemble is. From Karl Urban’s badass yet humanized performance as Billy Butcher to the understated silence of Karan Fukuhara’s Kimiko, “The Boys” contains, what I would argue, one of the best ensembles currently airing on TV. Yet, I side with the majority when I say no performance in the show comes close to what Antony Starr has pulled off as the main antagonist, Homelander. It’s far past the time he’s honored by the Television Academy with an Emmy nomination for his breathtaking, monstrous, and awe-inspiring performance.
Homelander is the most fascinating and complex character you’ll find on television right now. The most significant difference from the original graphic novels to the show (and there are many of them) is how the writers have handled the despicable character. It would’ve been very easy for them to make him a superhero with God-like powers with no disregard for human life, which is scary enough. But beyond the evil Superman of it all, Homelander is a deeply narcissistic, insecure man-child with a god complex and horrifying psychopathic tendencies. A character like that requires an actor who can display these qualities in a non-cartoonish way, and Starr was more than up to the task, giving us one of the best, most fully-realized television characters of our time, one that has permeated pop culture through countless memes and has been acclaimed by audiences and critics.
Season 3 sees something the protagonist and fans of the show have been dreading: Homelander has truly snapped. In episode 2 of the season, “The Only Man In The Sky,” Starr gets a moment to show us Homelander has reached his breaking point as his humble, God-fearing patriot public persona fades away and has an outburst on live television. He’s not doing anything particularly bad, yet Starr is terrifying in this moment. The ego, the frustration, and the childish anger shoot out of every word of his mouth with an added unpredictability. We’ve seen him casually kill children and we know if he’s pushed even further, who knows what he’ll do to this audience that has gathered in mass numbers in front his laser-shooting eyes.From this point forward, Starr portrays Homelander with the temperament of a fragile, ticking time bomb. His casual demeanor in the episode “Barbary Coast” as he threatens Starlight with genocide has so many layers of terror from Starr. We know he would, and if he really wanted to, he could, but Starr doesn’t play it as a cartoonish villain. He’s relatively calm, all things considered. It’s moments when his ego is at an all-time high that contrasts when his insecurities kick in, like in the episode “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed” when he goes on a pathetic Trump-like rant, only to buckle under the deep-rooted fear of being overpowered when he thinks he sees Soldier Boy, that Starr’s range shines it’s brightest.
And in the hopeful event Starr manages to receive his first nomination, he could pick any episode for his submission, and it would be valid. Each episode has a moment where he shows the highs or the lows of the character, but most fans will agree that the episode where he does it all is in the episode “Herogasm.” At the beginning of the episode, where he realizes Soldier Boy’s alive, the immediate fear in his voice is palpable, only to realize it’s rooted in his narcissism, which culminates in, arguably, the most impressive display of Starr’s talent in the show so far when the nimble cowardice of Homelander begins to speak to the arrogant version of himself in the mirror. It’s the look in Starr’s eyes where we really see Homelander’s sanity walking a tight wire act. And there’s one more moment in the episode where Starr is frightening; it’s a brief moment during the episode’s climax when Soldier Boy, Butcher, and Hughie have him pinned down that I think gets to the core of Homelander and why Starr nails it. He’s beaten, has no more control over the situation, and is inches away from dying; it’s this moment when he’s growling and screaming like an untamed animal his true nature shows itself and he flees the fight, fearing, maybe for the first time ever, for his life.That’s the secret brilliance of Antony Starr. Obviously, the writers get credit for adapting Homelander the way he is from the comic book. Still, it’s Starr’s performance where the root of Homelander gets across without saying a word or doing anything. The ending of the season sees Homelander killing a protester in front of a crowd of his supporters, only for him to receive an ovation from the crowd, a moment most people have undoubtedly seen as it’s been the center of memes for people not even watching “The Boys.” But while that moment was memorable, it’s Starr’s subtle yet loud reaction right after the murder and before the cheers that impresses the most. It’s that deep look in his eyes, yet clear to us as day. Homelander only regrets what he did because he did it in front of people, not knowing if they’d be ok with that. Through Starr’s performance, we see who Homelander truly is: He knows what he does is wrong, but as long as he can get away with it, he just doesn’t care.
The Emmys are meant to honor the best of the year, and Antony Starr has been just that for the entire three-season run of “The Boys,” with the third season standing as his greatest accomplishment yet. I don’t necessarily agree with his placement in the lead category, but his presence is felt through each and every episode. I believe he’s earned the title as the lead of this super-popular show. You don’t have to be a fan of “The Boys” to appreciate just how magnificent Starr is cause. It would’ve been so simple to play Homelander as a loud monster cause he is one. But, Starr opted for a nuanced and often subtle approach to the three-dimensional villain that makes his occasional outburst all the more effective. I hope voters make the right decision to finally right the wrongs of the previous two times he was up for this award and nominate Antony Starr for Outstanding Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Drama Series.
Do you think this will be the year Antony Starr is finally nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Homelander in “The Boys?” Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account and check out our latest Emmy nomination predictions here.