The Boys season 4 review: "Wildly entertaining but the cracks are starting to show"

The Boys season 4
(Image: © Prime Video)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Although the cracks are really starting to emerge, The Boys head back into town with somewhat of a bang effectively delivering the show’s trademark mix of wicked humor and fascinating complex characters.

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After five years of wild herogasms, love sausages, eating live octopuses (RIP to a real one Timothy), and more torn-off limbs than you can shake a super-powered fist at, hit Amazon Prime Video series The Boys still maintains its power to shock. Returning for a new season, numerous scenes will once again leave your jaw on the floor, even if on the whole the show is starting to lose its biting edge. Thankfully though, it’s far from being bloody diabolical.

Now in its fourth season, you fully know the drill – it’s Butcher (Karl Urban) vs. Homelander (Antony Starr), the Boys vs. the corrupt Supes, with plenty of blood and guts spilled along the way. The world is on fire and our beloved group of misfits need to overcome their issues to come together to save it. Of course, some spanners are thrown into the works – Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) is edging ever closer to the Oval Office, Billy only has months to live, and the battle for Ryan’s (Cameron Crovetti) soul has never been more intense as he becomes further exposed to Homelander’s corrupting influence. Still, the basics are the same as ever, as showrunner Eric Kripke clearly abides by the rule, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. 

New sparks

the boys season 4

(Image credit: Prime Video)

However, that’s both the show’s fault and credit as they methodically work their way through a Boys bingo card with varying degrees of success. The first box it ticks off is social commentary, with this season being the most political yet. Over the eight episode run, it deals with not only an election, but rising tensions amongst the American people following Homelander’s public display of violence at the end of season 3. Of course, it’s all very timely, channeling the likes of Donald Trump’s trial, the US presidential race, and the January 6 riots into its story. The Boys has always been good at that, reflecting the state of America with an irreverent tone, and it undoubtedly still is. However, the problem is, aside from stating the obvious, what further point is it trying to make? Despite all the escalation, this season struggles to say anything new, which isn’t helped by the fact the key political players, primarily Neuman, are regularly sidelined. Instead, the smarter satire this season comes not from the politics, but more cultural parodies – Vought presenting their upcoming cinematic slate à la Kevin Feige is certainly a highlight.

Although the politicians themselves are forgettable, one shining star does strongly emerge from the political battlefield: Erin Moriarty’s Annie, formerly known as Starlight. While we have seen her really go through the wringer before, Annie’s struggles have never been tougher or more personal as she grapples with her identity. Desperate to free herself from her superhero alter-ego, Annie wants to firmly establish herself as, well, Annie – but Starlight keeps coming back to haunt her, in various ways. Moriarty rises to the challenge delivering an incredible performance, becoming the beating heart of the show this season. Her continuing confrontation with new Supe Firecracker (Valorie Curry) particularly sets things ablaze.

In fact, Firecracker adds a much-needed spark throughout, thanks to Curry’s gleefully outrageous and electric performance as the loud-mouthed, short-tempered Supe. It’s the other new member of The Seven though who steals the spotlight, Susan Heyward’s Sister Sage – the smartest woman on Earth, sorry, “person” on Earth. With her brain as her weapon, Sage brings in a different energy, remaining calm and confident as she enacts her master plan: manipulating events at will, always being a step ahead of the rest. It’s truly unnerving and quite frankly terrifying – and yet, there’s just something about her that lures you in.

It’s testament to Heyward’s acting ability that she can hold her own against Starr’s Homelander, who continues to be one of the show’s best characters. Since we first met him, Vought’s poster boy has become increasingly unhinged, which Starr clearly relishes, leaning further into the mania. This is really unleashed by Sage, with the pair evolving into quite the terrifying and incredibly powerful double act. It’s a testament to both actors that despite their characters being total assholes, they do find a touch of humanity there too which allows us to connect with them – and the same can be said for the rest of the members of The Seven and The Boys.

The end is nigh

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Karl Urban in The Boys season 4

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Whilst this season is packed with terrors, the series sure hasn’t forgotten about its silly side too. This time around this really comes out within the walls of Vought Tower, where The Deep is facing fishy relationship issues and Black Noir has been resurrected in a surprising way. A running joke about his return from the dead really does deliver the laughs.

However, this is The Boys, where the laughter is interrupted by horrific violence – and the more bizarre, the better. With every season of the show there’s plenty of chat about how it’s going to outdo the previous ones when it comes to this, after all, how can you possibly top ‘Herogasm’? The issue is that whilst there are moments for the fucked up history books, there are also times where it feels like it’s only there for the sake of trying to push our buttons – it’s a shame that desperation to add shock value is starting to show through.

One scene in particular though serves as a reminder of how brilliantly wacky and wild these moments can be, and trust us, you won’t be forgetting The Boys’ battle against some V-ed up farm animals for a while. The absurdity here is pitched perfectly but one of the reasons this bizarre confrontation works so well is that it finally brings the characters together. A significant issue this season faces is that everyone is following their own path – Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) is facing her past, Billy’s reuniting with an old pal (Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s new addition), Frenchie (Tomer Capone) is discovering a new connection, and Hughie (Jack Quaid) is having some serious family drama. And that’s just the start of it. It’s great that each of the show’s many, many characters is given an individual storyline but it’s too scattershot and we miss the ensemble being together. This means that the playful dynamic between both The Boys and The Seven is at times severely lacking. Furthermore, with so many sub-plots unravelling, inevitably some work better than others.

Ultimately, the wheels are starting to spin, which is even more of a concern given that the show’s creator Kripke has recently stated that it could continue beyond its recent season 5 renewal. But we just can’t keep watching The Boys almost kill Homelander than fail, over and over again. Having Butcher only have months to live really puts a deadline on things too as we wait to see whether he lives or dies.

The Boys may be back in town but the cracks are beginning to show – surely season 5 has to be the last? As we await news on whether the end is in sight, at least there’s plenty here to enjoy from this wildly entertaining latest chapter.

The Boys season 4 begins on Amazon Prime Video on June 13 with a triple-bill premiere. Stay up to date with our release schedule.

For more, check out our guide to all the best shows on Amazon Prime Video.

Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.