Review: ‘The Boys’ Season 4 goes bigger, bolder, and bloodier than ever

Review: ‘The Boys’ Season 4 goes bigger, bolder, and bloodier than ever

The Boys’ success is due to its mix of dark humor, clever superhero parody, and sharp political commentary. Season 4 doubles down on everything fans like about the show, delivering the best chapter of the saga yet.

Season 4 begins six months after the shocking conclusion of Season 3, when Homelander (Antony Starr) murders a civilian in front of hundreds of witnesses. Homelander has always feared people realizing he’s a monster, but his brutal action has fueled the love and admiration of his followers. To counter the angry Homelander mob, Annie Starlight (Erin Moriarty) has been working to inspire people to use protest and democratic means to control the country and fight Vought, a challenging task since she spurns the Starlight mantle.

Homelander and Annie are disputing the hearts and minds of America in broad daylight, bringing a welcome change of pace to the show. Meanwhile, in the shadows, the Boys are trying to stop Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) from becoming Vice President, as they fear what a Supe might do with that power.

The Boys has always been a political show particularly interested in showing how the media is a powerful tool, for better or worse. Still, Season 4’s background allows the show to mirror U.S. politics better than ever. First of all, the Homelander/Annie feud splits the nation in half, not unlike the schism between Democrats and Republicans. In addition, what’s at stake in Season 4 is not only the future of the nation but truth itself, as conspiracy theorists fill in the vacuum left by people’s lack of purpose in a crumbling economy.

On the one hand, drawing inspiration from reality ensures The Boys can shed some light on the despicable strategies populist politicians use in their never-ending quest for power. Yet, Season 4 refuses to bite the low-hanging fruit of creating a simplistic dichotomy between heroes and villains. 

Homelander is the series’ biggest antagonist, so there’s the temptation of seeing his followers as deranged fanatics and Annie as the leader of the just and honest mob. The fact is that everyone is messed up. That doesn’t make one side of the conflict less unethical but also doesn’t exempt the other from their mistakes.

Image via Prime Video

It’s not random that, at the same time that Season 4 explores the dire consequences of Homelander playing the political game in public, The Boys also looks at the past and forces the protagonists to face their sins. Frenchie (Tomer Capon), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), and even Annie have done horrible things. So how can they judge the tortuous path followed by A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) and Ashley (Colby Minifie)? Taking things one step further, shouldn’t the audiences be more understanding of the horrible experiences that forged Homelander and Butcher (Karl Urban) into the savages they now are?

What’s at the core of Season 4 of The Boys is the frightful philosophical question of how our past choices mold who we are. Are people shackled by their past mistakes? Or should they pursue redemption? Where do we draw the line, and what kind of transgression is unforgivable? If heroes and villains made equally reprimandable choices, what makes them different? These are not questions that Season 4 takes lightly, as there are no easy and comfortable answers to share.

It’s astonishing that Season 4 of The Boys manages to have such a strong thematic core without losing sight of its characters and the major plot. By exploring everyone’s past, the series fills some gaps and allows fans to better understand what makes the people in The Boys’ universe tick. That goes for both sides of the central conflict, which helps expand the shades of grey that compose The Boys’ grim palette.

Image via Prime Video

While everyone’s Season 4 arcs revolve around similar ideas, Season 4 is exceptionally concerned with the parallels between Homelander and Butcher. Since the first season of the show, it’s clear that these two character are similarly evil, they just happen to play on opposite sides of the board. Season 4 makes this more evident than ever, with Homelander and Butcher both struggling with their humanity. The only difference between them is that one is trying to get rid of his human layer while the other desperately reaches for it. 

Their analogous journey is also connected to their mortality. As Butcher and Homelander realize their time on the planet is limited, their fight for Ryan’s (Cameron Crovetti) intensifies. The kid is Homelander’s opportunity to build a legacy, a future that Butcher wants to prevent at all costs. With Father Time knocking at their door, Homelander and Butcher will keep pushing Ryan, who might be doomed by both men’s desire to control his fate.

Season 4 of The Boys doesn’t hold its punches when it comes to putting its incredible cast of characters in a tough moral spot. Nevertheless, the series doesn’t stop being freaking diabolical. On the contrary! Season 4 has some of the bloodiest moments in the entire series. So, if the previous scenes made you look away from the blood and guts spread all over the screen, be prepared for some stomach-turning moments that are bound to become fan favorites. Despite the complex political discussion at the center of Season 4, The Boys know the gore and the morbid jokes are part of what makes the series so unique, and they are not trying to change it.

It’s also worth underlining that the writer’s room of The Boys keeps finding brilliant ways to subvert fan-favorite arcs from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series. Each frame of The Boys shows the creative team’s uttermost admiration for the original material, but also their rare clarity when it comes to adaptations. The goal is to translate Ennis’ narrative and themes to television in an era where superheroes dominate Hollywood. But the writers don’t want to copy comic book pages that wouldn’t make much sense in a different cultural context, and the series is better for it.

Image via Prime Video

As much as we can — and should! — praise Season 4 of The Boys, some characters get more attention than others. For instance, Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) barely gets an arc and is used more as a plot device to push Butcher’s story forward. On that note, the shaky relationship between Butcher and the Boys will be more or less believable, depending on the episode. Finally, Season 4 buries once and for all the character development The Deep (Chace Crawford) underwent in previous seasons.

It’s easy to understand why Season 4 of The Boys fails to give everyone the attention they deserve. The cast of The Boys has always been expansive, but Season 4 has two new major additions in Valorie Curry’s Firecracker and Susan Heyward’s Sister Sage. With so many stories to juggle, it’s expected that a few details slip through the cracks.

Regarding Season 4’s newcomers, Curry is marvelous as a conspiracy theorist who gets dragged into the Homelander and Starlight war. However, Heyward pulls off the impossible by giving Sister Sage a terrifying presence, to the point where she occasionally overshadows Homelander himself. That’s a feat to watch, and her unique skills will make fans wonder what true power is in The Boys universe. There’s also Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose mysterious character twists and turns the plot when you least expect it.

There’s a lot to love in the new season of The Boys, and Season 5 will have a hard time meeting the astronomical expectations set by Season 4. One thing is for sure: it’s going to be painful waiting one year or more to see how things unfold.

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