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The Boys Season 4 Review: Still The Wildest Superhero Story Around

  • Strikes a great balance between funny and dramatic
  • The setpieces are still diabolical
  • The cast is terrific
  • Some storylines flag while others shine

"The Boys" is one of the sneaky shows that always sounds easier to pull off than it actually is. It has a reputation as a series willing to cross just about any line and push just about any extreme in terms of violence, language, and even taboo topics. It's the show that gave us babies with laser eyes and a beached whale being rammed into by a speedboat. It's over the top, and it loves it — and we love that.

But there's always been more to "The Boys" than just its excessive and glorious irreverence, and over the years, creator Eric Kripke and company have taken the comic book-inspired adventures of a gang of ruffians trying to beat a pack of sociopathic superheroes to some very dramatic heights. This is a show about messed-up people doing messed-up stuff, yes, but it's also a show about broken people learning how to fix each other a little at a time, combined with some of the best and wildest villains you'll find anywhere on TV right now.

Even by "The Boys" standards, though, Season 3 left things in a weird place, putting the show in a corner it would have to fight its way out of. Happily, now that Season 4 is here, we can tell you that it comes out swinging, never lets up, and succeeds in reminding everyone why it's still the wildest superhero story on any screen right now.

The Boys, broken

After the catastrophic events of Season 3, both The Boys and their opponents at Vought are fractured, looking for ways forward, and frustrated by their enemies. Even an ill-advised alliance with the supe known as Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) couldn't help Butcher (Karl Urban) to take out the deranged Homelander (Antony Starr), and on top of everything else, Butcher's still dying with just months left on his biological clock. His antics have cost him the leadership of The Boys, who are trying to carry on in his absence with a little help from Annie (Erin Moriarty), who's given up her "Starlight" persona for charity work and undercover ops. Meanwhile, in the halls of Vought, Homelander himself is trying to be a good father to his biological son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), or at least his version of a good father, all while realizing that humanity really will let him do whatever he wants — and that's both maddening and boring to him.

When we pick things back up, The Boys are largely focused on trying to prevent the secret supe Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) from getting closer to the Presidency and what would essentially be a supe-controlled government, but even that straightforward operation gets compromised. Mother's Milk (Laz Alsonso), Hughie (Jack Quaid), Frenchie (Tomer Capone), and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) have been in this fight awhile, but even they can't see what's coming next.

And that's just the basic set of conflicts you can find in the trailers. There's so much more going on here than the fight against Neuman and Homelander, but at its core the show is still the story of this group of people who have never really been team players trying to stick together and save the world, no matter what it might cost them personally. That gives Eric Kripke and his team of writers and directors plenty of opportunities to play with some classic comic book formulas, particularly as allegiances are tested and new players come to the game board — but no matter what genre conventions and it's toying with, this is still "The Boys," and that means it's not about to get predictable on us.

An ambitious, gory feast of a show

Even more than Season 3 before it, Season 4 of "The Boys" arrives in truly nimble form, dancing between subplots with a kind of brutal grace, never leaving characters by the wayside even as its larger narrative falls into place. That means a lot of key figures in the show have their moments, and it also means that if there's an overarching theme to this season, it's the sense that the past will always come back. We find that in the arrival of two new supes, the super-smart Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) and the alt-right media wizard Firecracker (Valorie Curry), both of whom bring their own perspectives on the past to bear on the new narrative. We find it in Homelander searching his own childhood for clues as to what Ryan is going through, as well as clues to his own emptiness. We find it in Kimiko's continued search for peace, in Butcher's yearning to do right by his wife, and in Hughie and Annie wrestling with secrets of their own. No one on this show is a person without shame, without scars — and all those scars come to bear in what might be the darkest season of the show so far.

Which isn't to say the show's sense of humor has gone anywhere. From a weird sex scene to an even weirder fight scene, "The Boys" is once again in top form when it comes to its inherent oh-so-right wrong-ness, and that doesn't just mean when clothes come off and guts come out. The show's focus on modern American media culture, on fringe views getting too much oxygen, and on the strange way we reshape narratives in real-time even as proof eludes us, is sharp as ever, and that makes the show both a pleasure to watch and a surprisingly incisive piece of storytelling ... you know, with lots of cursing and crude jokes thrown in for fun.

"The Boys," quite simply, is back like it never left. The two-year wait was worth it, the cast is still giving it everything they've got, and this show refuses to let up even for a second. It's still one of TV's wildest rides, and its superpower seems to be never losing that gift.

"The Boys" Season 4 premieres on June 13 on Prime Video.