The Boys Season 4 Review

The Boys Season 4 Review

The Boys Season 4 Review

This is a spoiler-free review of The Boys Season 4, which premieres Thursday, June 13 on Prime Video. Reviews of new episodes will post Thursday afternoons through July 18.

If the outrageous herogasm of The Boys has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no high without a comedown. Season 3 of the Prime Video series was a masterclass in political satire filtered through the lens of scandalous supe shenanigans, its excellence carrying over to the freshman year of its fantastic collegiate spin-off, Gen V. After so much fucking around, Season 4 ushers in the time of finding out – sometimes too much finding out, as showrunner Eric Kripke and team pack storylines like sardines into the tin can of these eight episodes. The unresolved issues of The Boys have backed Kripke into a corner, now intensified by Gen V’s big reveal: a virus that threatens the lives of Vought International’s crew of cape-and-mask-wearing not-so-do-gooders.

Season 4 presents supe-hunting vigilante Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his stars-and-stripes-clad nemesis, Homelander (Antony Starr) with the realization of their ultimate goals – but both men are uncharacteristically pensive and exhausted with possible victory on the horizon. Urban effectively showcases a squishier, compassionate side to Butcher, who hacks near-death coughs due to a throbbing, Temp V-induced tumor in his brain. Starr stays on task as Homelander continues fearmongering his way toward the top of Vought (and then the world), but he frequently gets caught gazing into nothingness, overwhelmed by what happens next. There’s no backpedaling from their rivalry when Butcher’s days are numbered, but the mutually assured destruction of their conflict weighs heavier than ever.

So does The Boys’ lack of political subtlety. Season 4 triples down on corruption that feels uncomfortably familiar during a real-world election year. Homelander’s ascension as a superhuman dictator directly references January 6, insurrectionists, and dissident lists with a warranted urgency. The Boys has never been quiet about who the show’s “Big Bad” is, and Kripke has no choice but to state the obvious about Homelander’s MAGA tactics, which he does without sacrificing the show’s values – they fit too disturbingly well. The threat Homelander poses to the United States has to be spelled out in massive, easy-to-read letters because some viewers still can’t accept that he’s a villain, and it’s more important than ever to make sure The Boys’ messaging is crystal bloody clear.

Season 4 is encased within a black box of gloom, manipulation, and despair. Butcher’s terminal diagnosis keeps him more docile. Marvin “Mother’s” Milk (Laz Alonso) steps in as commander of The Boys, but he’s plagued by his own anxiety flare-ups. Homelander pursues the “purification” of a supe-first nation, but finds his mind clouded by fatherhood duties and abusive childhood memories now that Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) lives at Vought Tower. Frenchie (Tomer Capone) dreams of happiness but only finds pain, Annie January (Erin Moriarty) flees from her alter ego Starlight because of what she’s responsible for, and Hughie (Jack Quaid) is mercilessly tested – this isn’t another high-energy season. It’s a result of the story’s trajectory and while there are plenty of worthwhile arcs seen to a fulfilling completion, the melancholy can become suffocating.

Newcomers to The Seven provide some reprieve. Firecracker (Valorie Curry) presents herself as a hybrid of Alex Jones, X-Men’s Jubilee, and Stormfront: a Homelander sycophant who moans about ANTIFA and peddles antisemitic conspiracies for biased media outlets. She casts a deliciously hateable aura. Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) is far more interesting: literally the smartest person in the world, she challenges Homelander’s patience by always telling him the unvarnished truth – even when he’s wrong. Firecracker feels more like a prop in her navy-blue camo outfit, whereas Sister Sage’s amusing commentary on Homelander’s God complex is one critical comment away from an eye-laser lobotomy, making for a much more intriguing relationship. Vought’s new recruits fill their roles with varying degrees of success, but both are welcome additions.

Things are a little more mixed for The Boys’ ongoing storylines, given the decelerated pacing of Season 4. Frenchie and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) keep their will-they/won’t-they chemistry afloat, but it’s in danger of running out of steam. Victoria Neuman’s (Claudia Doumit) entanglement in Robert Singer’s (Jim Beaver) presidential campaign points towards Vought complicity, but that plot is growing weary, too. The Deep (Chace Crawford) continues his sucky journey through self-discovery, cycling through repetitive motions as he once again lets someone else dictate his worth. That’s not to say any of these parts are poorly performed – a talented cast still makes the most of the absurd, caricatures they’re playing – but more a commentary on how Season 4 rehashes dilemmas that have existed since the series began.

Thankfully, none of this has any impact on the number of action sequences in Season 4. Kripke and company come up with a few customary “WTF” moments: Bloodthirsty Compound V-fueled livestock run amok, and a heavy metal version of “Hava Nagila” soundtracks a fight that features a whole lotta dong. It just wouldn’t be The Boys without extreme violence and senseless nudity, and while the shock value isn’t as intense this season, that signature flagrant charm is still present. There’s something so cathartic about watching Annie pummel The Deep unconscious, or following Kimiko on a revenge mission in Shining Light territory. The Boys doesn’t lose its step; it just dials down its tempo.

Just don’t expect much from the limp noodle of a finale, which plays more like a stretched-out advertisement for Season 5 than a memorable or impactful payoff. How Season 4 culminates is psychologically diabolical, but it pales in comparison to past season-ending highlights like Starlight, Queen Maeve, and Kimiko teaming up to knock the snot out of Stormfront in Season 2. Prepare accordingly: this finale goes out on a quiet exhale rather than a thunderous warcry.

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