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The Boys Season Four Is Going Nowhere Fast

This season finale can't come soon enough

Amazon

We've been watching The Boys, Amazon's superhero satire that feels increasingly like it's lost the plot. While Season 4 isn't quite over yet, we'd yelled at each other enough about our thoughts on it that we decided to just get together and hash things out in the blog.

Nathan: Hey Chris and Riley, we’ve all been watching the latest season of The Boys, a show I once ate up despite its flaws – and because of its simple though useful anticapitalism 101 approach to media and politics – but which now has let those flaws run rampant. Season four has been a corny, too-on-the-nose mess. It’s not really satirizing anything anymore so much as it’s ripping ideas from the headlines and changing some words around, and character beats are repeating ad nauseam. Feels like it should have wrapped up a season ago, but we’ve still got another one to go. I thought things might take a turn for the better after Gen V’s comparably solid showing, but nope.

What do y’all think? I gather from your posts online that you’re also pretty over this one.

Chris: The situation is dire. Really not good.

Corny is the thing I keep coming back to. I think people made a lot of hay of right wingers realizing they were the targets of satire, but unfortunately they're not entirely wrong here. The show is not as well written as it used to be, and it has this bizarre SNL/Colbert 3 years ago vibe on top of the usual generally vile stuff it does.

Riley: So I should be clear that I struggled to get into this show at all-- I don't really like superhero stuff, and I hoped that what I thought The Boys' take on that genre was might change my mind. I really struggled to stay invested through its seasons--I'll admit that in previous seasons, I had a tendency to fast-forward through some of the parts containing the titular "boys"--but I've been watching every minute of the show since Season 3, a dedication that Season 4 is making me regret.

Chris: A lot of the satire doesn't even make sense!

Nathan: You mean like Neuman referencing AOC when she IS that universe's AOC? That part threw me, lmao.

Chris: Forcing sex criminal Batman to donate to an Elizabeth Warren SuperPAC. C'mon man. 

Nathan: God, that part made me roll my eyes SO HARD.

Chris: Season 4 does make you regret liking Season 3 which is impressive!

Riley: To harken back to the comment above that right-wingers are mad because they just realized the show is making fun of them, like... OK, I'm not going to defend right-wingers, but the satire this season is just so one-note and over-the-top that I sort of don't blame them for being pissed? Like at least find the subject of your satire interesting enough to satirize it well? The prevailing note to me just seems to be "These people are stupid," which is maybe not untrue, but surely there's some more nuance there?

Chris: If your show is good enough generally people get over it. I think maybe they were tired of people making right wing Homelander memes. Not an excuse to make the show actively worse though!

All the Fox News stuff feels like it's from a time capsule. A Santorum joke? In this day and age? 

Nathan: The on-the-nose-ness doesn't even feel like it's by design for the purpose of clarifying the show's politics, either. It just feels like the real world caught up to the show, and the writers didn't know what to do with that. So in the absence of any better ideas, they decided to go as big and dumb as possible to generate online discussion and discourse, which is a terrible way to write anything.

Riley: I really cannot stress enough how frustrated I feel by how dumb the show is. Besides the juvenile sex jokes, which I will happily rail about at length, I feel like the show just sees everyone in its world beyond its main characters as hopelessly stupid. I was telling Luke this, but I think it suffers from a somewhat similar problem as the movie Don't Look Up: in exploring the relationship between the subjects of media and the people watching that media, it falls into seeing the masses as stupid in order to highlight the uniqueness of its cast. But, like, I, the audience, am the masses! And the show thinks I am some rube who can be swayed by flashing lights on TV or appeals to Jesus (a la the whole Firecracker rally scene, which please let me complain about). It's so tired and depressing and makes me feel like the show hates me for watching it, which makes me hate it back.

Chris: Honestly go off man. Outside of her original motivations (being slighted by Starlight as a teen, bad but serviceable), everything about that entire segment was bad. 

Riley: OK SO: Firecracker is giving her whole anti-Starlight/"save the children" rally, hitting all the right wing notes, and as part of that, it gets revealed that she had a relationship with someone under age. But instead of this being some reputation-ending thing, she pivots it on-stage into a "but I accepted Jesus, so it's cool" moment that totally wins the audience over. And that works well with what the scene intends to say about her and the situation the protagonists find themselves in, where Firecracker is so shameless that they can't get leverage on her.

But, while fully recognizing that all of this is clumsy satire, it felt like the... stupidest understanding of religion to me, someone who studies religion. Like, abuse is rampant in the evangelical churches I presume Firecracker is meant to come from, and a lot of it gets swept under the rug, but the reasons for that are complex and can't be boiled down to some surface-level appeal to Jesus. This abuse isn't allowed to fester just because religious people are stupid, right? I feel like as a piece of satire, this moment does a disservice to the realities of the thing it's criticizing, which I know I'm sensitive about. Abusive leaders or figures getting a pass in the church is way more complicated than that, and acting like it happens because people are just... faith-blind sheep made me really angry, even for a show that I know is just doing bad satire. 

Chris: Also we have pretty concrete examples of that stuff ending right wing media careers! They're not loyal, they love turning on their own.

Riley: Right! Like... how are we supposed to see these people as formidable foes when the show presents them as so pathetic?

Besides the juvenile sex jokes, which I will happily rail about at length, I feel like the show just sees everyone in its world beyond its main characters as hopelessly stupid.

Chris: The incoherence coupled with the mediocre writing is really what gets me.  Like tonally being that on the nose does not work. The Garth Ennis touch of the show always felt broadly tacky but in a kind of retro way you did not see any more, but mixed with really incoherent politics and plotting it just doesn't land for anyone.

You could see it coming a mile away, but everything involving Simon Pegg's character made me depressed. What a bad way to tell that story.

I think the Tek Knight episode really pushed a lot of people over the edge.

Nathan: Season 3 at least had interesting personal stakes, even if the politics were already getting pretty wonky. Everything involving Soldier Boy was fun, especially once it was revealed that he was essentially Homelander's father. But Season 4 doesn't even have that. I do not care about what these characters are going through, because they've already been through it before. The stuff with Frenchie, especially, is so dumb. Boo-hoo, he killed some people, he’s gonna lock himself in jail. That’s something a person who’s been living Frenchie’s life for, like, a year or two would do. It just doesn’t ring true at this stage of his life.

The only emotionally compelling thing that’s happened all season was the death of Hughie’s father, and even that was played for shock before it wound up anywhere remotely resonant. Props to Simon Pegg for acting the hell out of those scenes, but still. And then, the very next episode – right after Hughie had scattered his father’s ashes – the show’s writers decided to sexually torture him for… laughs? At least they had Hughie acknowledge that what he went through was horrific, but what purpose did shoving his head in an even deeper vat of misery serve?

Hughie had already demonstrated growth in his decision to sacrifice his father, to let somebody go for once because after a certain point, trying to save everybody becomes more about your own fear of loss than helping those you’re stubbornly clinging to. The sex dungeon scene was the show’s worst instincts on display – excess and shock for excess and shock’s sake. And it wasn’t even funny! It was just uncomfortable. It felt like yet another waste of time in a season that’s been spinning its wheels from the word “go.” 

Chris: The premise of "What If Batman Was A Sex Freak Who Profits Off Of Misery?" is not itself a premise that is completely without merit, but his entire conversation with A-Train, the way they decide to sexually traumatize one of the main characters, and all in the service of torturing him by having him donate to Democrats. It's like they designed this in a lab to make me  dislike them. 

He's not even an interesting pervert! I know that's petty, but c'mon.

Nathan: Honestly, it's a worthwhile point! In Season 3, they had a different pervert shrink down and crawl inside somebody's dick. That was at least entertaining! And then they try to top that with this vanilla shit?

Chris: They already had a guy clone himself to eat his own ass this season. Which wasn't even good!

Riley: The Tek Knight dungeon scene was the first time when watching this show that I thought, "If I wrote for this show, I would be embarrassed." I'm so frustrated by the show's incoherence around sex--everything is a sex joke, and everyone is a sex weirdo, and it's no longer clear to me what any of that is supposed to mean. I wrote about this in one of Aftermath's newsletters, actually, but I'll say here: like, it's revealed that one of the causes of conflict between Starlight and Firecracker is that Starlight called her a "slut" when they were young. But I felt like, held up against everything else the show does with sex, is that an honest motivation? Is that an insult in this world? A lot of the characters are motivated by trying to hide their freaky sex stuff from the world, but at this point, what does that even mean if everyone has a freaky sex thing?

Chris: I felt that with Sister Sage, a character I really like and think has a lot of potential but is written into a real corner here. 

Like, it's not a bad premise! You are so smart you become a nihilist and desperately seek mental self abuse to escape being that person for a brief second. But they have just not handled her character well and I really hated the entire backstory info dump this episode. 

Riley: I agree it could be so interesting, but half the time it--gasp--is played for dumb sex jokes?

I feel like I've yelled about both religion and sex and sound like a prude, lol.

Amazon

Nathan: That's the thing that really bums me out. A lot of the themes the show is trying to tackle this season COULD be interesting. It's clearly trying to be about death and mortality in a superpowered world. Every main character's arc ties back to this. Homelander is aging and realizing that even invincibility can't help him win the fight against Father Time. Hughie's father suffers from both a stroke and brain damage, and Hughie has to learn to cope with loss. Butcher is at death's door as the result of a brain tumor. Can he make up for a life of bitter regrets with one final, defining action? Frenchie has spent decades dealing death, and it's catching up to him.

On paper, a lot of this resonates with me, somebody whose grandmother died earlier this year after dementia caused her to decline precipitously. I feel like more skilled writers could pull this off, but they'd need to approach these subjects with care and compassion. A show this sloppy just doesn't have the tools. (edited) 

Chris: I don’t go to The Boys to learn about grief, I go to The Boys to see people explode very suddenly. I don’t need the two at the same time.

Also, pulling a Tyler Durden with Butcher made me groan. C’mon man. What’re we doing here? 

Nathan: EVERYBODY saw that coming. The least they could have done was make the reveal more interesting.

Chris: I thought there was gonna be more to it!

Riley: With two episodes left in the season, I can't imagine they're going to turn things around. We know they have another season coming, so I wonder: is it going to be more of this, or will they see the light and reverse course somehow?

Chris: Based on the last episode I think they’re going to give everyone Super Covid.

Nathan: Honestly, the high point of the entire season for me was how loudly that part made my partner groan. Just absolute, peak exasperation. 

Chris: Season 5: it’s all mask jokes.

Nathan: On the upside, this does mean there's a solid chance that many of the characters we know will die, and that's what needs to happen for this world to become interesting again. Like Riley said, there's still potential in it, but The Boys' main cast is completely tapped. Put them out of their -- and our -- misery.

Riley: I'm sort of fond of The Deep-- I think, more so than the other superheroes, we see him struggle with who to be and what kind of good or bad guy he is. But this season, he sucks, and not even in an interesting way, mostly in a--gasp--weird sex shit way again.

I just really, really cannot stand the sex shit this season. I feel bad about it a little bit! But it's making me feel like I'm losing my mind.

Chris: They gotta stop going back to the cephalopod bit. It’s rough.

And the breast milk thing! Get a new thing!

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