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Movies & TV

13th Jun 2024

One of the best and most timely shows on TV has finally returned to screens

Stephen Porzio

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The hit show’s blend of scabrous humour and hyper-violence returns with aplomb, as the series becomes sharper in its real-world critiques.

Prime Video’s satirical superhero series The Boys has been one of the most consistently entertaining and watchable shows of recent years ever since its premiere all the way back in 2019.

Yet, while the casting of beloved cult actor Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) in the lead role, the series’ scabrous humour and its stylish hyper-violence is probably what attracted audiences to the show initially, The Boys over its past three seasons has cemented itself as something deeper.

More than just a simple ‘what if Superman was evil’ story, the series has become a quite scathing critique of America, particularly the way it treats celebrities – with superheroes standing in for the latter.

For those not aware, the show is set in a world where people with super-powers exist, many of which are backed by big corporations – who support these super-powered individuals every need and make them look like heroes for the public to idolise.

Behind closed doors, however, many of these so-called heroes are corrupt and cruel and have contempt for humanity, often recklessly hurting and even killing innocent bystanders with their powers.

As such, a team of vigilantes known as ‘The Boys’ – led by the sweet Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) and the tough-as-nails Billy Butcher (Urban), whose lives were ruined by these ‘supes’ – work covertly to root out and take out the worst of the bunch.

Their biggest target: Homelander (Antony Starr), the most famous and beloved of the supes – who is secretly a sadistic mass murderer.

Having seen the first three episodes of the newly-released season four, JOE is happy to report that The Boys has lost none of its satirical edge and has in fact, become even more biting and sharp in its real-world critiques.

Season four begins where season three left off – with the titular team trying to come up with new ways to stop Homelander and his allies – most notably Victoria Neuman (an excellent Claudia Doumit), a politician with eyes on the White House who is also secretly a super-powered assassin.

Aiding The Boys is Annie January aka Starlight (Erin Moriarty), Campbell’s girlfriend and a retired superhero, who left the game after being teamed with Homelander and seeks to tarnish the Superman-like figure’s reputation through more open channels.

On top of this, Butcher’s life of hard-living and roguish ways have caught up with him – causing a rift between him and the rest of the vigilante team he created and leaving him with a terminal illness.

Homelander, meanwhile, is also facing a reckoning – now being on trial for the murder of the protester that he committed in broad daylight in the closing moments of season three as his followers cheered on.

the boys

The Boys season four’s new characters Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) and Firecracker (Valorie Curry)

To reveal anymore of season four’s plot would do it an injustice because much of the joy of The Boys comes from the surprising ways it intensifies and complicates the show’s central battle between the vigilantes and the supes. This is often through the shifting allegiances between the characters on Butcher and Campbell’s side, as well as on Homelander’s.

We will say though that the series’ rich storytelling in this respect – along with its raunchy humour and inventively staged ultra-violence – is back with aplomb. But even more pronounced this time around are the show’s real-life parallels.

Based on the first three episodes, season four is much more political, with a huge part of it focusing on the battle for public favour between Homelander and Starlight – with the two’s mass group of followers often butting heads in a way that feels similar to reports of right and left-wing protestors clashing in modern-day America.

The new season hits this comparison hard – featuring more of the show’s Tucker Carlson-esque news presenter (Matthew Edison), several jokes about wild conspiracy theories and the introduction of two fascinating new supe characters.

In terms of the latter, these are Firecracker (Valorie Curry), a sort-of alt-right version of Starlight with a devout following, and Sister Sage (Susan Heyward), the smartest person in the world and a Machiavellian schemer.

With both of them recruited by a nevermore unhinged Homelander to help him seize even more power, we’re curious to see how Butcher and The Boys can fight back – though they may have a new ally in the emergence of an old pal of Butcher’s (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Either way, we will be tuning in to find out what happens.

The first three episodes of The Boys season four are streaming on Prime Video now. The remaining five episodes will be released weekly.

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