Antony Starr As Homelander Is The Best Performance On TV

Between slime puppy and a dick pic to dad, Succession has tried to be the most grotesque show on television. It comes close, but Amazon Prime’s The Boys takes the honor in a more literal sense: in the currently running third season alone, we’ve seen a man inside a bag of cocaine and we’ve seen The Deep eat a live octopus with whom he had sexual relations. The Boys is grotesque everywhere by design, but it’s the series’ main antagonist Homelander (Anthony Starr) that embodies it. Homelander can fly. Red lasers shoot out his eyes. He wears a red, blue, and gold uniform with a cape. The only thing he does not have in common with his superhero counterpart Superman is blonde hair, combed to perfection like a 90s boy band member or Ryan Gosling in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. At first glance, Homelander might seem like Superman, but his personality and enjoyment of killing a lot of people very violently and terrorizing anyone he does not kill distinguishes him from his inspiration who saves the world and thinks glasses make him unrecognizable.

In the second episode of the third and current season of The Boys, Homelander pops up on national television in a passionate speech about how he is better and more powerful than everyone. “I don’t make mistakes,” he says. “I’m not just like the rest of you. I’m stronger. I’m smarter.” Homelander’s eyes bulge as if they’re about to pop out of their sockets and his thin lips widen as he screams, “I’m better! I AM BETTER!”

This speech has been simmering in Homelander for a long time. It’s the first time he’s ever allowed himself to be honest on such a large scale, instead of being a corporate superhero company’s golden boy. Antony Starr’s performance in this scene exemplifies how he creates fear, excitement, and comedy with a nightmarish stare or a menacing smile. Unfortunately, the performance in this scene is so good that some blissfully unaware fans of The Boys completely missed the point and actually think the character is good. Every scene Homelander is in escalates my heart rate and when a scene involving Homelander ends without bloodshed, I let out a deep exhale after involuntarily holding my breath.

Starr has developed the villain from a bad hero with an affinity for breast milk into a more tragic – but still terrifying – one. The character has evolved with Starr’s layered performance which is emotional but not forgiving. As Homelander’s weaknesses are exposed, including his lonely childhood and his desperate need for family and belonging, he becomes even more unhinged and violent. When he commits violent acts, including burning Elizabeth Shue’s eyes off and pushing his son off of a roof, Starr, even with CGI-ed red laser eyes, shows everything in Homelander’s face: brief relief from his pain and twisted, euphoric pleasure.

Although Homelander has similar arcs every season in that he discovers something Vought has been hiding from him and the betrayal makes him act out, and the character never changes, he only gets worse, Starr never makes it feel static or numb. Homelander nonchalantly kills enemies, innocent bystanders and even friends as casually as a normal person checks their mailbox but it never feels like a villain sticking around too long that it becomes exhausting and too convenient, like Ramsay Bolton of Game of Thrones. Starr’s approach to portraying such a misguided and violent character is similar to Bill Hader’s performance on Barry: they give you enough to hate the guy, but enough to love watching them. It’s a perfect, Thanos-approved balance.

By now, Homelander should be dead. Almost every character is part of a mission to kill him, and some, like the titular The Boys, have been on that mission since the show began. But Antony Starr’s chilling but compelling performance implies there’s more to Homelander than we think, but at the same time he is exactly who we see. The performance is what holds the show together and is, weirdly, the show’s heart. Starr gives Homelander emotional depth but no excuses, either, and is so good that the show is impossible without him.

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