The Boys Season 4 Review - A Diabolical Slow Burn

  • First Released Jun 13, 2024
  • television

Do not watch this show on a weak stomach.

It has taken two years, but it is finally time to suit up and dive back into the satirical world of The Boys. Eric Kripke's take on corrupt superheroes and the titular vigilantes determined to take them down returns for Season 4 on Prime Video this week, and it promises to be gory, outrageous, and to make you never look at a Carvel ice cream or German chocolate cake the same way ever again.

Season 3 delivered an explosive end (literally) with Homelander (Antony Starr) exploding the head of a Starlighter after the protester threw a plastic bottle at Homelander's son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti). The new season picks up months afterward as Homelander prepares for trial over the incident and struggles to find someone he believes is on his intellectual level within the Vought Tower who isn't absolutely terrified of him. Homelander's trial doesn't take up as much of the season as expected, considering how The Boys loves holding a fun-house mirror up to our real-world headlines. Instead, both supes and the Boys are focused on election night and the Jan. 6 certification of the election, with both sides going to extremes to ensure their respective desired outcomes.

With the Season 3 finale being a transparent metaphor for Donald Trump's 2016 "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and wouldn't lose any voters, ok?" boast, The Boys ditches any remaining subtlety in its political undertones in Season 4. Starlighters are the "woke left" mob, and Homelander supporters are stand-ins for the "MAGA" crowd. The season underscores the tensions between the two groups that we've all felt building up, especially in an election year. Vought News Network is essentially Fox News with broadcasts about the war on Christmas and covering Homelander's trial as a miscarriage of justice. At one point in the season, a member of the conservative elite paraphrases former Congressman Todd Akin's "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," viral statement to Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit). It's so on the nose that it can be distracting from the fictional story we are watching.

So you can't call the messaging of The Boys political "undertones" anymore, because the dimensions of the moral debate within the show are essentially copied and pasted from our own headlines--just find and replace "alt-right" with "alt-supe." Where The Boys retains its reputation for secretly being one of the smartest shows on TV is in the details. It's in Homelander's newest ally, Sister Sage (Susan Heyward), having to consistently correct people that she's the smartest person in the world, not just the smartest woman. It's in the frequent microaggressions thrown around Vought Tower and the overt "Black At It" campaign launched during the company's entertainment expo.

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The writers show that they still have a deft touch when they need it, but The Boys Season 4 is the first time the series has shown strain under the story weight of its massive cast. Everyone is on their own separate journey at the beginning of the season, despite swearing they are focused on the election. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is dealing with a family emergency, while Annie (Erin Moriarty) is in the throes of an identity crisis in her post-Seven life. MM (Laz Alonso) is struggling with leading the rag-tag vigilantes while Butcher (Karl Urban) faces his imminent mortality. Frenchie (Tomer Capone) is overwhelmed with guilt at the arrival of a complicated old flame, and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) is striving to overcome years of violent trauma to find her voice. Things are even more disparate on the supe side until Homelander brings in Sage to help him run the Seven.

It's a lot of characters that we care a lot about, but it means the early episodes of the season are a tangled web of interweaving storylines that don't always go together. The distended storytelling leads to a few clunky introductions of key plot points, like Frenchie's former paramour, a borderline criminal underutilization of season guest-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and a bombshell revelation about Hughie and Annie's lives during the between-seasons time jump. But the keyword for Season 4 of The Boys is patience. There is an answer for every head-scratching decision the characters make in the early episodes, and the tenuous unveiling of Morgan's character weaves rewarding story moments later on. It just takes a moment for the season to feel like it's firing on all cylinders, but when the gas kicks in you better buckle up.

There is no 11-foot penis or a superhero orgy in The Boys Season 4, but there's still plenty of scenes to make you go, "What the f**k?!?!" every episode, from an intense case of pink eye to demon sheep to the aforementioned ruining of multiple desserts. The amount of blood in this season will make even the most seasoned Boys fans wonder what we did with our lives to end up here. Do not watch any episode of this season on an upset stomach, because you will live to regret it.

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Even with all of the gore, The Boys Season 4 finds ways to be surprisingly emotional. Antony Starr delivers another terrifyingly profound performance as Homelander, who slips closer and closer to complete insanity with every season. However, it's Jack Quaid who delivers the season's most tear-inducing moment halfway through the season, proving Hughie isn't just there to worship Annie and be covered in blood and guts (though, don't worry; there's still plenty of that, too). The Boys Season 4 delivers a full Inside Out control panel of emotions from joy and fear to anger and disgust, and sometimes all four of those at once.

The Boys Season 4 makes up for any minor frustrations in the beginning with another jaw-dropping end. The battle lines are firmly drawn heading into the season finale, but the later twists are absolutely, in the show's words, diabolical and create a tremendous setup for both The Boys Season 5 and Gen V Season 2. If, at any point in the season, you're wondering where all of this could be going, we promise the juice will be worth the squeeze.

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The Good

  • The Boys gets in touch with its emotional center
  • The horror movie sheep will be a lasting memory
  • The most outrageous scenes you'll see on television this year

The Bad

  • A slow start and meandering set of premiere episodes
  • The politics are sometimes too on the nose
  • Underutilization of a scene-stealer like Jeffrey Dean Morgan

About the Author

Megan Vick has been writing about pop culture on the internet for over 15 years. She watches an unhealthy amount of TV and can be found on all the usual platforms, usually freaking out about mom shows, teen romances, space stuff, and K-pop. Prime Video provided all eight episodes ahead of release.