Four Seasons Into its Run, The Boys Has Finally Moved Beyond Shock Value

Let’s get serious.

A man and a woman face each other with intense expressions at a crowded protest rally with yellow si...
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The Boys is infamous for going over the top. Exploding penises, orgies, and out-of-the-blue musical numbers are all just another day at the office. Now, in its penultimate season, Amazon’s superhero hit is looking for ways to top itself. With its three-episode Season 4 premiere in the books, The Boys has tried to keep its action enthralling by balancing its on-brand fight scenes with its trademark shocks. But what’s most impressive at this point in its run is that it’s also tried to confront some of the touchiest subjects imaginable. And, remarkably, it’s done so rather well.

Episode 4 of Season 4 finds Hughie torn between his duties to his friends and girlfriend in the ongoing fight against Homelander, and his duty to his father, who’s now comatose after a stroke. We soon learn that Hugh Sr.’s condition qualifies as brain death, and since he signed a DNR order, his wishes are to have his feeding tube removed so he can pass peacefully.

Hughie faces the possibility of losing his father and goes to great lengths to avoid it.

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Hughie, who’s already dealing with enough paternal loss given Butcher’s deteriorating health, refuses to see his dad die so suddenly. He instead decides to go to extreme lengths and plead with A-Train for Compound V to save his dad instead of letting him go like Kimiko suggests he should.

It’s a surprisingly dark turn for a show that juxtaposes Hughie’s struggles with Homelander forcing his childhood abusers to stuff themselves with ice cream cake and pleasure themselves in front of him. But later, the episode gets even darker.

Firecracker premieres the new version of her show Truthbomb on VNN, and targets Starlight (now known as Annie January) after the false flag “deaths” of some of Homelander’s biggest supporters. Firecracker is the darling of the alt-right evangelical crowd, so she reveals a secret about Starlight she claims is “so much worse than you could possibly imagine.”

Firecracker takes a shot at Starlight.

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That secret? Starlight had an abortion. It’s abhorrent to Firecracker’s fans and an obscene broach of Annie’s medical privacy, which is enough to make her attack Firecracker... and that’s exactly what Sister Sage and Homelander want. In revealing this deeply personal secret, the Vought crew gets Annie to play right into their hands.

In a show all about powers, The Boys Season 4 Episode 4 manages to tackle some of the biggest powers of all: the power to give and take life. Annie made her choice six months ago and is now thrust onto the national stage to defend it, while Hughie chooses to go against his father’s wishes and inject him with Compound V.

In arguably the least nuanced show airing today, two sensitive topics were posed for the viewer to weigh in on. We’ll have to wait to see the consequences of these actions, but in a show mostly about nudity and exploding heads, all this emotional vulnerability has proved the most revealing of all.

The Boys is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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