Nerding Out with The Boys, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Robots

Streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television are fighting for your viewership now more than ever. UnBingedis here to help you weed through it all, with reviews of the latest shows that highlight what we love, what we hate and what we love to hate-watch, too.  As life slowly but surely returns to some degree of normalcy, so does your television programming schedule. New shows are back in full swing, giving us TV nerds a full feast to choose from. As Comic-Con returns to form next month and summer movies look to rule the roost once more, small screen geek cred heats up thanks to the sinister superheroes of The Boys, the incredible animation of Love, Death & Robots, and the odd outings of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here’s what to binge (and not binge)…

The Boys (Season 3, Amazon Prime)

Amazon Prime’s dark superhero series The Boys returns for a third season, promising more over-the-top violence, more emotionally scarring sex scenes involving spandex, more Billy Joel tunes, and more demented situations.

Created by Eric Kripke and based on the Garth Ennis comic, the third season sees a slightly nicer, gentler Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who has pulled back on killing “supes” while Hughie (Jack Quaid) now works for the government, and may or may not be controlled by an evil entity. Meanwhile, ticking timebomb Homelander (Antony Starr) is one bad day away from destroying the entire god-damn world.

This year, the Boys team has a goal: kill Homelander and destroy the company that made him– Vought International. But how does one kill a god? To do so, the gang must dig deep into the death of Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), another superbastard from a bygone era whose powers were fueled by his Id.

What’s left for a series that once smashed a man’s head between the thighs of a drugged-out superhero during cunnilingus? Using a newborn with laser eyes as a lethal weapon, interspecies intercourse, superhero orgies and a shocking sex scene involving shrinkage (not what you think), to name a few things.

As always, Starr shines as Homelander as his sanity and humanity seems to slip even more. His cold blue eyes reveal not a single hint of human emotion while he terrorizes civilians and superheroes alike, and it’s absolutely chilling. A handcrafted hero whose lab-based childhood created a psychopath with superhuman powers, Homelander is perhaps the most vile villain to ever grace the screen and an absolute delight to watch.

The third season of The Boys delivers in spades. It’s got more violence, more random musical numbers, more heartbreaking moments of despair, and more to say about the state of today’s affairs. It feels like a punch to the cranium with its nihilistic doom, gloom, fucking and fighting. It might be crude. It might be savage. But it is also outstanding…for those who can handle it.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)

Disney+ continues to expand the Star Wars Universe with Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Mouse House’s latest small screen attempt to keep Star Wars audiences engaged and happy after the success of The Mandalorian and The Book Of Boba Fett (once it became The Mandalorian). Although the IP is considered sacred to the fandom, love for the character cannot save this somewhat paltry and overused story.

Set between the trio of prequels and the Holy Trilogy, Obi-Wan Kenobi follows the heavy-hearted Jedi Master (Ewan McGregor) after the fall of the Jedi Order. Ten years into his exile on the desert planet of Tatooine, he watches over Luke Skywalker from afar. But fate has more in store for Obi-Wan, as little Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) requires his assistance. The two embark on an adventure together, creating a bond strong enough to explain why she named her son “Ben.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to capture the lightning in the bottle that was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by taking disparities within the narrative and fleshing them out to add depth. To do this, the series tacks on the mentor-student road trip aspect of The Mandalorian, attempting to recreate the magic between Din Djarin and Grogu. But the problems with the story undercut any attempts to play on the fanbase’s love for previous properties.

Obi-Wan’s story development and supporting characters are uneven and at times, inane. Inadequate villains seem to fumble at the finish line like buffoons from comic book serials, which might work for the page, but not the screen. Why is the Empire hiring evildoers who are just gonna kill each other at the finish line? And why is that a reason to promote them?

It might just be a shaky start, but so far, Obi-Wan comes off as the one thing it shouldn’t be– cliche. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of pure glee, like when Darth Vader Force-chokes randos out of a window. Watching Obi’s interactions with Vader (Hayden Christensen/voice of Jones) make up the best parts of the series, but the story that surrounds their interactions is flimsy. The creatives behind Obi-Wan seem to want to exploit Star Wars fans here, hoping an occasional lightsaber battle between Vader and Obi-Wan will satiate the masses.

Obi-Wan is fine for die-hard Star Wars fans who need their fix, but not compelling enough for casual watchers looking for a good story. At its best, Obi-Wan Kenobi is pure nostalgia fuel for the die-hard fanbase, but at its worst, it is a series unworthy of its lineage.

Love, Death & Robots (Season 3, Netflix)

Created by Tim Miller and exec produced by Miller and helmer David Fincher, the third installment of Love, Death & Robots feels as unique as it did when the series first came to Netflix, delivering on the promise of the first volume’s mind-blowing animation. The techniques seen here elevate the sci-fi gore and homespun horror of its content and make for an impressive experience, even when the tales are a little lackluster.

To be clear, the title is a tad misleading: sometimes there is love, sometimes robots, and there’s a lot of death, but very rarely does the audience get all three in a single story. Edgier and a bit more bitter all around, this round of tales take a darker turn than in previous years, which is saying a lot for toons that usually encompass dystopian futures and the end of humanity.

“Swarm” is by far the most impressive when it comes to visual aspects and storytelling, following two scientists as they attempt to study an ancient insect-like alien society with somewhat dubious motives. Also good is Fincher’s “Bad Travelling,” which offers the salty tale of a ship crew battling a monster crustacean called a thanapod. “Vaulted Hall Entombed” is another impressive animation outing about a mission gone awry in an ancient temple.

Other amusing episodes include the shipwreck saga “The Very Pulse of the Machine,” the Scottish vermin Terminator tale “Mason’s Rats,” and the return of the delightfully dismal trio of bots in “Three Robots: Exit Strategies.”  Less effective installments include “Kill Team Kill” and “Night of the Mini Dead” an adorable if not bland effort of a zombie invasion in the world of Polly Pockets.

In all,  Love, Death & Robots proves why it deserves every one of its animation Emmy wins as it advances the industry while blowing our little minds. And  this time around, there are a bit more terrifically twisted tales to match the tremendous array of techniques.

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