Season 4 of 'The Boys' introduces darker themes, complex character dynamics

The fourth and the latest season of ‘The Boys’ presents the usual conflict between debauched and ruthless superheroes and relentless vigilantes, who seek to upend the grip they have over the masses, except with a tinge of dreariness and weariness. While the mockery of extreme right-wing propaganda and caricatures of contemporary events continues as usual, showrunner Eric Kripke’s depiction of unbridled violence appears to have become more diabolical. Concurrently, the show has upped its ante, introducing greater stakes, newer characters and one dying protagonist. Warning: spoilers ahead.

As the trailer and early sources suggest, the later episodes of season 4, which pick up six months after the events of ‘The Boys’ Season 3 will feature the supe-killing virus from Gen V. This virus holds the potential to level the playing field between the superheroes and the Boys. The initial three episodes of Season 4, released on Amazon Prime on June 13, depict escalating tensions among the Boys. Another new development we see is an ageing homelander, plagued with worries and fears, making him more unpredictable and ruthless. On the other hand, Billy Butcher is also facing an existential problem in the form of a tumour which seems to have cracked his usual savage demeanour. Despite Butcher’s propensity for leaving a bloody trail in combat, such as his encounter with the rapidly multiplying Splitter played by Rob Benedict, there are indications that he now considers consequences before acting, even when dealing with situations like offering sedative-laced cookies to Ryan, Homelander’s son and his stepson. It appears that only Joe Kessler, an old acquaintance portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, has the potential to awaken the true monster within Butcher.

Homelander’s paranoia paves the way for Susan Heyward’s scheming and intelligent Sister Sage, who becomes an advisor to Homelander. Antony Starr’s portrayal of Homelander remains sublime. Susan Heyward also pulls off a great job as Sister Sage, a character that makes the show interesting. Sister Sage’s lack of fear of Homelander puts her on par with Stormfront and as a near-contemporary to Homelander. Another new character that changes the momentum of the series is Valorie Curry’s Firecracker.

What distinguishes this season is how multiple dimensions of certain characters are explored further, not simply as lore, but as crucial events that dictate the flow of the season. Homelander, disturbed more than ever by Jensen Ackles’s Soldier Boy, reveals new layers. Billy Butcher, once formidable, now grapples with vulnerability as his teammates challenge his authority. The tense father-son-stepfather dynamics involving Homelander, Ryan, and Billy Butcher intensify, with both unwittingly manipulating Ryan, whose powers rival Homelander’s, amid a traumatic upbringing. This turmoil promises another unstable Supe for the series to reckon with.

Nonetheless, despite individual characters seeing developments, the storyline seems a bit repetitive. The series which peaked at the sixth episode of Season 3 seems to be greying a bit, and the overall dreary atmosphere seems to have claimed some of the audience enthusiasm. Overall, the latest season of the series, although dull in its storytelling, shows promise.  

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