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The Boys: Season 4 Is The Show's Most Chaotic & Unfocussed Yet

The Boys season 4 seems to have lost the intimate grip on a storyline that pitched those with god complexes against others with similarly depraved ideas. Manik Sharma writes.

The Boys: Season 4 Is The Show's Most Chaotic & Unfocussed Yet
Still from The Boys season 4. Image via Amazon Prime Video

Last Updated: 01.16 PM, Jun 17, 2024

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MIDWAY through the third episode of the latest season of Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys, a musical imitating recent events from the show’s world, devolves into an explicitly bloody rumble of gore and flesh. Dancers are mistakenly spliced into half, horrified humans cower for cover, and a man sporting ice skates accidentally bludgeons half a dozen people while trying to escape it all. It’s the kind of reckless, at times cartoonish inertia of violence that this show has become synonymous with. Ironically, it’s this rashness imbued with the bitten tongue of parody that still carries a series that has become far too unfocussed – and maybe even successful - for its own good. Season 4 is darker, murkier and grander but it also symbolises the urgent need to cull a path-breaking show while its bloodletting still holds sentimental value.

We begin season 4 after the events of 3. Homelander is facing criminal charges for vaporising a man who threw a cup of cola at his son, the remnant of the show’s most iconic and maybe grievously personal grudge (against Carl Urban’s Butcher). The kid, now in his teenage years, is tempted by his father’s larger-than-life boots. This battle between bad dads, surprisingly takes a back seat – for the most part – this season for the broader view of American politics as an image of fundamental decay. The last season upped the political ante with the revelation that notable politician with eyes on the oval office, is actually a supe-in-hiding. A mammoth presidential battle therefore becomes the canvas on which this latest season drags and draws its punchlines. Of which, as is the show’s tendency, there are plenty.  

Still from The Boys season 4. Image via Amazon Prime Video
Still from The Boys season 4. Image via Amazon Prime Video

The latest season is perhaps the show’s most chaotic and unfocussed of the lot. Days ahead of the release of this season, the creator Eric Kripke declared that season 5 would be the show’s last. It’s a prudent call, given how the merging of multiple threads, innumerable crumbly backstories and parallel storylines have begun to drain a show’s capacity to shock and awe; especially in favour of this self-serious pageantry of offence and pointless defence. The manner in which the show has rationalised heroism as a convenient offspring of populism remains a landmark moment, but it is also disheartening to watch a series so invested in the personal journeys of its characters begin to pander to its own hype.

Therefore, season four feels more political, at the cost of straying away from the motley bunch of underdogs we have followed for three seasons. Ailing fathers, traumatic flashbacks, untold legacies, new and old supes and teenage naivety are just some of the many subplots that fail to meet satisfying ends in a season that never looks short of ideas, but has clearly run out of breath trying to accommodate everything it pinned to a whiteboard. Not to mention, it’s also a season that hastily makes space for commendable but burdening spin-offs like Gen V, in what is a celebratory but telling sign of having become too big and fatigued for its own narrative good. 

One of the reasons why The Boys has sustained its globally popular run is its knack for selling overdrive, as a significant human capacity for chaos. In some way mirroring our own very human ineptitude for order. So much blood, limbs and lives have been blown to hell but the creators have only doubled down on a dehumanising streak that the series both critiques and uses as a template. It explains why Homelander’s contemplative peak arrives at the first sight of mortality. A peak that doesn’t quite draw out compassion the same way it derives derision from a man who can’t help but treat humans as lifeless beings. In one scene he tells his son, in exactly as many words that humans are “tools”. In the truest spirit of this world, it’s the deranged hero, the maniac who sees the planet in his shadow, who has become the most fascinating anchor for its many emotional orbits. It’s a terrific performance by Antony Starr, a fierce mix of megalomania, pride and lust for lonely pinnacles.

Still from The Boys season 4. Image via Amazon Prime Video
Still from The Boys season 4. Image via Amazon Prime Video

Season four’s problems mount the more it stretches itself to accommodate a whole lot of exposition, needless revelry and hallucinogenic trips. A lot of the rationale around the show’s world has receded in the background because no one wants to address the fact that a drug that makes you immortal, hasn’t yet incited riots, random civil theft or for that matter World War 3. The Boys has instead bullishly pushed ahead, to arrive at a podium of cheery transcendence. A place from where the comedy of violence suffices as a nugget of culture, as opposed to the subversions that felt pivotal in the first two seasons. The excesses have become the enduring legacy. In this penultimate season, The Boys is as big, noisy and self-important as the electoral battle it circles but has lost the intimate grip on a storyline that pitched men with god complexes against men with something similarly depraved ideas of their own. There is a lot to behold, but unfortunately, lesser to see. 

The Boys Season 4 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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