Queen Maeve is the true hero of The Boys. So why is she getting sidelined?
Dominique McElligott needs to be more than The Boys' deus ex machina.
The Boys, no new to high-level parodies, decided to join the fun of “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” by having its actors read one-star reviews on video after season 1’s release. Dominique McElligott, dressed as Queen Maeve, giggles as she reads, “Queen Maeve felt like a throwaway character.” Her arc might have been handled more effectively.” McElligott glances up at the camera and says, “More screen time for Queen Maeve,” without skipping a beat.
To be honest, I agree.
[Editor’s note: This piece includes spoilers for The Boys’ season 3 conclusion.]
The season 3 finale of The Boys concluded with yet another effort to take down Homelander (Antony Starr), this time with the “assistance” of Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles). Season 3 and its conclusion, in particular, are two of the show’s best episodes. But one of the reasons “The Instant White-Hot Wild” sticks out, for the better, is because it included Queen Maeve, a figure who has been continuously underutilized.
Maeve’s storyline has been steadily acquiring the guts to break away from a poisonous environment (in her case, both Vought and Homelander) and recover her power and individuality in return over the previous three seasons. It’s about finding hope after you’ve hit rock bottom, or discovering something that could someday develop into hope, which is an extraordinarily nuanced tale that hasn’t been handled at this scale in the comic book or superhero subgenre. However, the show does not do her journey credit.
Queen Maeve has been a series regular on The Boys since the pilot episode, but her presence has always been confusing. She’s been a member of the Seven for a long time and is regarded as the world’s second strongest individual, trailing only Homelander. They went on missions together frequently and even dated in the past. However, it soon becomes clear that Maeve has been selling pieces of herself to Vought in order to preserve her “superhero” persona and keep Homelander at away. When the audience first meets her, she’s a bitter and miserable lady who drinks to cope with the tragedies she witnesses. She has lost trust in the world, in herself, and in the concept of a hero.She wishes to surrender. Some may even claim she has — until she ultimately musters the courage to confront Homelander in the season 2 finale.
Nonetheless, despite the profundity of Maeve’s path, her full potential is never reached. Maeve is technically a supporting role in The Boys, which is an ensemble production. Even with a tale as important as hers about standing up to abuse, it’s not uncommon for her to have only one or two scenes of genuine storytelling every episode, typically existing on the edge of the frame for the remainder of the run time. There’s always the nagging suspicion that Maeve deserves better.
Dominique McElligott, luckily, is an immensely skilled performer who, despite her little screen time, conveys Maeve’s wrath, helplessness, and underlying power. As a result, her fight against Stormfront (Aya Cash) in the season 2 finale, as well as her threat to blackmail Homelander with footage from the season 1 aircraft disaster, became instant fan favorites. She was prepared to reclaim her independence and battle the oppressors who had reduced her to a shell of a human. People, furthermore, wanted to see Queen Maeve fight back.
When Season 3 begins, Maeve’s story of perseverance and atonement has been utterly erased. Maeve fades even more into the background. She is still the furious and cynical woman we know, but she has been relegated to the role of Butcher’s (Karl Urban) drug dealer, supplying him with Compound V and locating a prospective “weapon” for them. The entire Soldier Boy narrative line was Maeve’s idea, but we never see her in action; everything happens behind the scenes. It’s as if the second half of season 1 and the entire second season never happened. She is missing for full episodes, as if to further separate her from her development.Maeve’s role in season 3 appears to be to back Butcher’s plot by granting him abilities and having occasional sex with him (which is then used to build up Homelander’s storyline of becoming an unhinged explicit villain who imprisons her for these deeds). She serves as a story device.
Maeve’s ending, at least, was fantastic. She flees, insults Hughie (Jack Quaid) again at first look, reunites with Starlight (Eriarty), and, most crucially, initiates a vicious battle with Homelander in which they appear evenly matched. And she almost gets him until she discovers Soldier Boy is ready to blow up the Tower (and everyone within), so she kills him to save everyone else. Maeve displays herself to be one of The Boys’ genuine heroes when she sacrifices her own personal ambitions and safety for the greater good. She is the character that values people’s safety before personal gain, even if it means placing herself in danger.That’s a true hero. It’s a bold move in an episode that finally allows McElligott to tell her character’s narrative. However, it appears that the episode is also functioning as an apology for Maeve’s treatment, as they attempt to cram an entire season’s worth of character growth into one hour. Why was she only utilized correctly once this season?
More importantly, what happens now? To the outside world, Queen Maeve is dead, but in actuality, she is alive but depowered and fleeing with her girlfriend, Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude). After such a strong representation of the character, it appears like The Boys is either writing her out or pushing her farther to the sidelines. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that Maeve is finally happy with Elena and free of Vought and Homelander for the first time in the series. But Homelander is still alive and has feelings for Maeve, so a rematch appears inevitable. After all, Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) regained her powers, so Maeve can as well.It doesn’t appear to be the conclusion of Maeve’s arc. She’s far too powerful a character to completely lose. But it does appear to be a temporary goodbye, which is very underwhelming and, to be honest, unjust to Maeve, her fans, and McElligott.
If Queen Maeve had half the attention provided to the other characters on the program, she would fly and become one of the most popular characters on television in recent memory. She has all of the components to succeed — a terrific plot, a brilliant performer, and a compelling antagonist — but creator Eric Kripke never lets her completely soar, which is a tragedy and a waste of a fantastic character. Maeve’s experience is well known to Kripke, but she is never given the opportunity to completely express it, as was painfully evident this season. When it comes time to tie up her storyline, it’s rewarding because of McElligott’s performance, but also unsatisfying because she was missing for the whole season.What’s the sense of cheering for a character if we only get to watch her tale unfold once a season?
Queen Maeve has been a human deus ex machina throughout the series. She vanishes for the most of the time, only to reappearance at the last second to save the day. Her climactic scenes in the finales are fantastic, demonstrating just how strong Maeve and McElligott are. Unfortunately, her trip is spliced throughout a few episodes, so it never reaches its full potential.
As a result, the conclusion feels like a preview of how fantastic The Boys could be if Maeve was given the credit she deserves. The series’ uncertainty about her destiny undermines all of her major action in the climax, making it a tiresome watch. Kripke and the writers tell us that they comprehend the character yet discard her right away. They have no idea how important she is to the play.
After the season 3 conclusion, it’s clear that Queen Maeve is not just The Boys’ hero, but also its unsung hero. Her storyline could have — and at this stage in the series, should have — been handled better, according to that one-star review. And McElligott is correct: Maeve requires more screen time. When she’s on the program, it’s noticeably better and more thought-provoking. Queen Maeve is The Boys’ hidden weapon, so much so that Kripke and Amazon are oblivious of the prize they possess. However, it appears that in order for them to achieve their idea, they will have to lose her. You never realize how wonderful you have it until it’s gone.