How do you solve a problem like Maeve? Given recent real-world events, the ability for Kimiko to choose what happens to her body and Starlight being able to stand up for herself are both evidence that The Boys’ currently at its eerily prescient best. The same can’t be said, however, for the show’s treatment of Maeve.
Maeve was once one of the series’ focal points (if not it twisted moral compass), a Supe that offered a more relatable, flawed side to those who lived high up in the clouds at Vought HQ. Now, she’s been benched – at the detriment to both her and the show.
In fairness to The Boys, there could be underlying factors we don’t know about. Dominique McElligott, who plays Maeve, may not have been able to travel for large chunks of production in Canada due to the pandemic. If that’s the case, Maeve’s bit-part role in the third season is almost understandable. But, even then, it’s a tough pill to swallow when the writers have tried to half-heartedly keep her an important part of the plot. If you’re keeping track, Maeve has shared roughly the same amount of screen time as Blue Hawk, Supersonic, and The Deep having sex with molluscs.
The little flashes we do get of Maeve prove she’s far too compelling to keep on the sidelines. For one thing, she’s Homelander’s kryptonite. She can prod and unpick his fragile ego in a way no one else can. Where everyone else sees an unhinged Superman, she sees an insecure manchild, and treats him as such. To rob the show of that dynamic is to rob it of one of its most crucial relationships, one that keeps Homelander grounded and – thanks to the plane crash video – brings him to heel.
Take the third season's seventh episode. We finally discover Maeve has been kept prisoner in the bowels of Vought. It’s mercifully short at only three minutes long (by my count, The Deep’s octopus threesome went on for four minutes, which you can draw your own conclusions from), but the scene between her and Homelander reveals hidden truths about their characters. Maeve isn’t just Homelander’s kryptonite, she’s also (perversely) one of the few people he can actually be himself around.
“You need to be a Supe,” Maeve tells Homelander with a wry caustic smile. “I can’t wait until it’s all over.” In a show where everyone is gunning for super powers, it’s Maeve’s humanity that continues to shine through and offer a unique perspective. Homelander paints a picture of a happier time when the two of them were together, but Maeve can already see through his lies and bullshit, so he is reduced to violent threats.
Without saying much at all, Maeve has wounded Homelander more than any Soldier Boy punch. It’s such a strong scene, but it also serves as a stark reminder of just how much humanity the show loses when Maeve – and McElligott’s considerable talents – aren’t around.
The misstep with Maeve is also completely at odds, too, with The Boys improving with each passing season. Its biting social commentary – from ‘Imagine’ parodies to the prevalence of gun culture – feels timelier than ever. It has also grown more mature in how it’s handled the gross-out humor and bloody battles. Each such scene is still designed to shock, but these moments are usually now bolted-on to a significant story beat or well-earned message.
Don't wave goodbye to Maeve
When taking the show’s growth into account, it’s disheartening to see Maeve’s evolution – or lack thereof – throughout the seasons. In the first season, she was presented as someone Starlight could look up to in the Seven and then as a crucial ally; by the second season, Maeve’s relationship with Elena and her eventual breakdown formed the emotional core of much of its run. A rise should always come after a fall but, as the season 3 finale nears, that doesn’t look like happening.
In fact, you can count on one hand the number of scenes she’s been in this year. Her actions are even more damning: she’s had a casual fling with Butcher, is used to get Temp V, and has been threatened to have her eggs harvested by Homelander. The Boys may not always pass the Bechdel Test – where two or more female characters can have a conversation without mentioning another male character or his actions – but it's always prided itself on giving its women autonomy. By season 3, it’s sad to see Maeve reduced to a character who is there just to speed the plot along when it’s required for the vast majority of her appearances.
So, is Maeve ever going to get her redemption arc? It’s a problem The Boys doesn’t quite know how (or when) to solve. The show has rehabilitated A-Train, attempted to reinvent The Deep as comic relief, and even humanized Butcher. Maeve is left alone. She deserves better – and deserves to be the first in line to spit on Homelander’s grave should that day ever come. Here’s hoping The Boys can deliver on that next season, if not this one.