Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The Boys Season 4 Review: Prime Video's Blunt Superhero Satire Is Losing Its Punch

The bloody drama's new season doesn't offer many surprises

Lyvie Scott
Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti, The Boys

Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti, The Boys 

Jasper Savage/Prime Video

There was a time when The Boys had a finger on the pulse. In 2019, when Marvel's earnest cinematic universe was essentially the new normal, Amazon's blockbuster series actually had something to subvert. Adapting the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson was a gamble that proved lucrative, and The Boys wound up defining a new era of nihilism. Its early seasons were pretty good, if you could get past the endless waves of blood, guts, and various bodily secretions. The idea of an untouchable conglomerate building a monopoly on the backs of superheroes — and creating an alt-universe brand of fascism in the process — was one that audiences seemed hungry for. That the world's only hope came in the form of a scruffy group of normal people brought a subversive slant to the age-old David-Goliath struggle. 

But such a formula, however novel, does have a limited shelf life. The Boys has tested the limits of that argument for the past few years, and now it's in desperate need of a paradigm shift. Its fourth season doesn't offer much in the form of novelty. The minutiae may change and the set pieces may push narrative boundaries, but the series is running out of reasons to keep going — and not even its salacious shock value can keep it from spinning its wheels. 

This season of "What if Superman were also Donald Trump?" is largely the same as all the others. All that really matters going into Season 4 is this: The Boys' last attempt to defeat Homelander (Antony Starr), the mass-murdering leader of The Seven, saw Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) embracing the advantages of Compound V. That's the substance that grants every "supe" their unique powers, but its temporary variant comes with some unsavory side effects. After copious use, Butcher now has less than a year to live. And he's got some unfinished business to attend to before he goes gently into that good night: Homelander's influence remains unchecked, and his son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) — who was briefly raised by Butcher before Butcher, well... butchered it — is more susceptible to it than ever. 

With The Boys licking their wounds, Butcher ostracized by the team (...again), and Homelander still untouchable, the conflict of Season 4 is... exactly the same as Season 3, just with a few surface-level switch-ups. Laz Alonso's Marvin (aka Mother's Milk) steps up as The Boys' new liaison to the CIA. The team's new target is Kamala Harris — err, Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit). The secret supe is officially vice president-elect, and soon-to-be-president Robert Singer (Jim Beaver) is the only thing standing between her and the highest office in the land. What threatens our heroes is clearly a boon to Homelander, though. His sudden interest in political supremacy, and in Neuman especially, sets the stage for a timely supe coup — and one too many nods to another recent insurrection.


The Boys


  • Cast remains at the top of their game
  • Tight pacing and efficient writing


  • The central conflict feels like more of the same
  • Ultraviolence feels needlessly cruel

Homelander's ascension actually takes precedence over molding Ryan in his psychopathic image. That gives an ailing Butcher, with the help of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's mysterious new G-man, another chance to win him back to his side. Otherwise, The Boys feel pretty rudderless. Each is lost in their own emotional side quest: Annie January (Erin Moriarty) is officially retired as Starlight and now grappling with her new role as a political activist; Hughie (Jack Quaid) is blindsided by a family tragedy and the reappearance of his estranged mom; Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) finds herself dueling with the darkest chapters of her past; while Frenchie (Tomer Capone) explores a risky new romance. (Stay strong, Kimchie shippers.)

All those spinning plates could have brought some much-needed emotional nuance to the series, had any of it gotten the space to breathe. But The Boys' storylines have always competed with the goings-on at Vought Tower, and Season 4 feels more tangled than its predecessors. The loss of dissenters like Starlight and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) removes a lot of the friction within the Seven. Only yes-men like the Deep (Chace Crawford) and Vought CEO Ashley (an always-dialed-in Colby Minifie) remain, while newcomers like Valerie Curry's Firecracker replace other departed (and more formidable) characters. The supes from Gen V are likewise trotted out to pledge a cult-like allegiance to Homelander, which only serves as a reminder of the spin-off's rushed finale.

The only supe who doesn't feel completely stuck in neutral is A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who finally, finally gets to seize the redemption arc that's eluded his character for ages. That his disillusion is spurred on by a constant barrage of racism is less of a relief. Season 4 lays the debasement on thick — and sure, some developments (like a brief parody of The Blind Side) invoke the series' original brilliance. Others, though — like A-Train's encounters with Tek Knight (Derek Wilson), who's basically just Batman with a slavery fetish — spring from the series' worst instincts.

In the end, Season 4 doesn't offer many real surprises. The set dressing changes, but the mind-numbing brutality remains the same. Ditto for The Boys' trademark vulgarity — this season doesn't quite reach the depraved depths of "Herogasm," but it certainly tries. And let's not forget the smug satire: It's back with a vengeance and remarkably heavy handed. The Boys is turning its attention from the cinematic universes that inspired it, instead leaning hard into its take on the Trump administration. Nothing is off limits, but at this stage, nothing feels all that innovative, either. 

Claudia Doumit and Karl Urban, The Boys

Claudia Doumit and Karl Urban, The Boys

Jan Thijs/Prime Video

The Boys just doesn't seem all that interested in evolution. It's not that the franchise has run out of compelling ideas: Each season is self-aware enough to bestow a new lesson for its heroes to learn, a new means of potentially saving the world. This season's moral is one of forgiveness — and these eight episodes feel the most realized when both heroes and antagonists embrace the possibility. "If we're ever gonna win against monsters," says Hughie, "I think we've gotta start acting human." It might be the smartest thing anyone in this series will ever say, especially after the "if we can't beat 'em" attitude that drove Hughie's arc in Season 3. It suggests that the central conflict could finally move beyond cycles of mind-numbing trauma and low-hanging satirical fruit. But based on The Boys' tedious track record (and the fact that the series has already been renewed for another season), it might not be wise to hold out hope for something to actually change.

The good news is that our cast is still making the most of it, especially on Team Vought. Usher embraces the softer side of A-Train and gets great opportunities to connect with new allies. Chace Crawford, meanwhile, has always gone all in as the Deep, and that doesn't change in Season 4, even if his f-boy routine is starting to grow stale. His reduced role does pave the way for newcomers like Susan Heyward, who steals every scene as Sister Sage. As the smartest person in the Boys-verse, she's essentially Candace Owens by way of Lex Luthor — and by far Homelander's most surprising ally.

You've also got to give credit to the writers: It takes real skill to take what is essentially the same story and disguise it as a fresh idea. That gambit has served The Boys well before, but Season 4 may be the weakest so far. Jagged stakes have been softened from season after season of repetition; the series has now been completely overwhelmed by its nihilist themes. If Homelander will always be an unstoppable force, and Butcher (despite his fatal diagnosis) an immovable object, how will it ever end? How many lines can the "good guys" cross before a moral code means nothing at all? How many times can the worst people in the world get away with abject, unthinkable cruelty? 

If The Boys actually has the answer, it's not yet ready to share it. The series is having far too much fun skewering the morally corrupt and finding new ways to make our true reality feel even darker. Our heroes do remain unflinchingly optimistic, which has to count for something. But you know what they say about insanity: The Boys can only embrace the same tactics, and actually expect to win, for so long before they become the series' new punchline.

Premieres: The first three episodes of Season 4 premiere Thursday, June 13 on Prime Video, followed by new episodes weekly
Who's in it: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, Laz Alonso, Antony Starr, Colby Minifie, Jessie T. Usher, Claudia Doumit, Karen Fukuhara, Tomer Capone, Susan Heyward, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Who's behind it: Eric Kripke (showrunner), Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (executive producers)
For fans of: The Boys Seasons 1-3
How many episodes we watched: 8 of 8