‘The Boys’ Season 4 Enters Darker Territory While Savagely Nodding at Headlines

Amazon’s “The Boys” has always understood that good satire never holds back. Season four kicks off with a presidential candidate walking into frame to the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.” When the lyrics roar “the fascist regime” to political iconography, there is little doubt about what the filmmakers intend to get across. Even less subtle is how this series’ infamous, blond-haired villain is going on trial. Take a guess how this material is suddenly even more relevant? Because “The Boys” was always meant to deconstruct the superhero genre and blisteringly jab at the real world, it still feels fresh while superhero movies are starting to lose their punch as pop cultural events. It is locked in step with a world that feels increasingly off the rails.

The season begins with Homelander (Antony Starr) facing trial after publicly killing a protester with his eye beams in season 3. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), facing mortality after being infected with Compound V, remains obsessed with leading the Boys in taking down the fascist Homelander and his supervillain team, the Seven. One option he has is a virus designed to kill “supes,” first introduced in the spinoff series “Gen V.” But Homelander, with the support of the nefarious Vought Corporation, is ready to stage a false flag. He manipulates events so the protests outside the courthouse where his trial is taking place turn into a brutal bloodbath. Many of his own supporters, known as the Home Team, die in the clash with the anti-supes protesters, the Starlighters. The Boys have found an ally in president-elect Dakota Bob (Jim Beaver) but also need to watch out for the new VP-elect, Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), who has gone so far as to infect her own daughter with the supe-creating Compound V.

The team behind “The Boys” does not need to search far for inspiration, to the point where some of the winks are glaringly obvious. Consider that Congress needs to certify the Bob-Neuman presidency by Jan. 6. Homelander shamelessly appears before crowds claiming “we will save America together,” and fakes concern while watching a mob of his supporters engage in violence outside the courthouse. Strongmen look precisely like superheroes to their followers, who refuse to acknowledge the most perverse, glaring faults. A truly nefarious, but necessary, storyline this season focuses on Homelander’s young son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), whose dad is grooming him to be the same kind of cold, ruthless killer. This series knows when to drop the humor just enough when Billy tries to get through to Ryan, but how do you explain to the kid that his father is a tyrant? Crovetti is a standout as a kid grappling with a crushing conscience, especially after killing at Homelander’s request.

There is plenty of the gore, exploding bodies and shocking masturbation scenes that fans of “The Boys” have come to expect, but showrunner Eric Kripke slows the pacing down a notch to focus on the human aspects of these characters. It works well because it has been announced that season five will be the final season, so these characters need to truly evolve towards what will be the climax of this whole saga. Hughie (Jack Quaid) has to care for his ailing father while keeping loyal to the Boys’ mission. Annie aka Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is adjusting to life after leaving the Seven and becoming an activist leader that is firmly against Homelander. Her storyline has a delicate psychological balance, since she wants to atone for her past. She may have super powers, but has to carry the weight of what her alter ego did as part of the Seven. M.M. (Laz Alonso) finds himself having to take over more authority within the Boys, since Billy’s brain is being affected by Compound V and has little time left. When Billy suffers hallucinations and breakdowns over his condition, it is genuinely tragic. He may be stubborn and rough, but his aims are not unworthy.

In the Seven camp new characters are also introduced that darkly and hilariously show off the absurdities of fascism. Firecracker (Valorie Curry) and Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) join with their own unique characteristics. Firecracker used to be a right-wing podcaster, in an obvious riff on similar personalities like Ben Shapiro and Alex Jones. Sister Sage is the smartest person in the world. This character is another testament to this series’ satiric bite. She is aware of being a token Black addition to the Seven and asks that “Sister” be dropped from her title. But Homelander hates his acolytes to be too dutiful and gets annoyed when a team member is more than ready to perform fellatio on someone at the blond leader’s command. The overall plot involving viruses, break-ins and a few fights really does dissipate behind the stronger satire. 

Yet, the action too serves the story as more than just filler. A bat mitzvah shootout gives Firecracker the opportunity to rant antisemitic conspiracy theories. You want to laugh and cringe at the same time. Many of our headlines right now are cringe-worthy and there are currently elected officials who are as outlandish as anything “The Boys” can invent. Like true pop art, the spandex-clad gang channels everything we are living through into something luridly fun to watch. Even if superheroes were possible, nothing about human nature would change. We would probably get something even more terrifying than Homelander. As we barrel towards election time, “The Boys” is sharp, bold, and a good streaming tonic for our terrifyingly uncertain times.

The Boys” season four begins streaming June 13 with new episodes premiering Thursdays on Prime Video.