A star rating of 4 out of 5.

The last season of The Boys was that most rare of things – a third outing for a genre piece, based on an acclaimed comic book series, which actually improved on its previous runs.


The Boys season 3 was an absolute triumph, with a slightly lacklustre finale but which otherwise hit the nail on the head of what this series could be, utilising its extreme tendencies as a thrilling background to compelling, character-driven storytelling.

With a new season approaching, the question is always going to be asked about whether this is the moment where the wheels will finally come off, where the quality dips and the story falters.

It was asked when spin-off series Gen V debuted – nope, that was another success, proving this world could carry a story with a whole new set of protagonists. Now, again with season 4 of the main series, the question returns.

Thankfully, after a shaky start which seemed worryingly directionless, The Boys regains its mojo and remains as thrilling, funny and diabolical as ever.

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Jim Beaver as Robert Singer and Claudia Doumit as Victoria Neuman in The Boys, stood on a campaign stage together raising their hands in the air together
Jim Beaver as Robert Singer and Claudia Doumit as Victoria Neuman in The Boys. Jan Thijs/Prime Video

This fourth season picks up shortly after the last, with Homelander trying to raise Ryan in his own image while also on trial for murder following that devastating season 3 cliffhanger, Victoria Neuman on the brink of becoming Vice President Elect and Butcher struggling to come to terms with the fact that he only has months left to live.

Gone is the Temp V – don't expect to see Butcher eye-lasering anyone anytime soon, or Hughie zipping around naked using his teleportation.

In truth, that's a good thing. While it made for an exciting switch-up last season, it was always clear that it couldn't last forever, as it would fundamentally change the power dynamic, and the key conflict at the centre of the show.

The Boys should be about a group of scrappy humans taking on the behemoths, and trying not to lose their souls in process. Giving the gang superpowers muddies the waters, making for an interesting one-season dilemma, but potentially shattering the format if extended beyond its natural end-point.

However, in the immediate aftermath of taking them away, the problem with the first few episodes this season is that the Boys themselves are all so downbeat. Butcher is dying and, in recognising this, has had his wings clipped. He's sombre in a way he hasn't been before, even after all the tragedy he's suffered.

Meanwhile, Annie is struggling to re-adjust to life away from her superhero alter-ego, Starlight, Mother's Milk is burdened with the responsibility of leading the group, and even Frenchie and Kimiko are dealing with personal quandaries which have left them subdued.

Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Laz Alonso as Mother's Milk and Tomer Capone as Frenchie in The Boys, stood under a banner which says Truthcon
Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Laz Alonso as Mother's Milk and Tomer Capone as Frenchie in The Boys. Jan Thijs/Prime Video

It makes for a frustrating start. The Boys is known for its tonal flexibility, but one thing it should never be is morose or gloomy – it doesn't suit the show's temperament or jibe with its ridiculous, often grotesque tendencies and it's not why fans tune in.

Thankfully, things are less downbeat over with the Seven, as they gain two new members – Sister Sage and Firecracker.

Susan Heyward's Sage is the smartest person in the world, a supe whose only power is her mind and her strategic abilities. A cynical and independently minded figure, she's a unique foil for Homelander and provides the propulsion for this season's central storyline.

There is a question over just how ingenious her plans are – in many ways, they just seem like a fairly obvious rehashing of the tried and tested populist playlist, just on a grander scale, meaning some suspension of disbelief may be required when we're told they're ingenious and revolutionary. However, it's not an insurmountable problem when Sage is otherwise such an interesting character.

Meanwhile, Valorie Curry's Firecracker is the complete opposite, a loud-mouthed, dim-witted shock-jock/conspiracy theorist with a limited power set, an overinflated sense of self and a personal hatred of Starlight.

Sage and Firecracker could not be two more different additions to the team, and not only does this make for an sparky, tense dynamic between the two of them, but it also helps to shake up the group as a whole.

Susan Heyward as Sister Sage and Valorie Curry as Firecracker in The Boys, in their supersuits talking to each other
Susan Heyward as Sister Sage and Valorie Curry as Firecracker in The Boys. Jasper Savage/Prime Video

The rest of the Seven – Homelander, A-Train, The Deep and Black Noir – remain as compulsively watchable as ever, with The Deep continuing to be the comedic MVP, and Noir getting a brilliant twist after his death last season.

It's in the scenes with the Seven that the season is at its best early on, with the Boys themselves feeling initially aimless, and the scale of the challenge ahead of them overwhelming.

It's always been a question with the set-up of the series – when you have two opposing forces, one of whom is so much more powerful than the other and both of which need to remain in play long-term, how do you keep the tension and stakes feeling real, while also advancing the plot?

This question has never felt more apt than in the first three episodes – however, thankfully, it's an issue which is soon rectified.

The remainder of the series returns the show to its diabolical best, as its plot-line for the season kicks into gear and it also leans into more episodic storytelling. This leads to some exhilarating escapades for our heroes and villains, including some truly horrific, typically graphic set-ups.

Susan Heyward as Sister Sage, Colby Minifie as Ashley Barrett and Chace Crawford as The Deep in The Boys
Susan Heyward as Sister Sage, Colby Minifie as Ashley Barrett and Chace Crawford as The Deep in The Boys. Jasper Savage/Prime Video

The show has frequently managed to capture the horror of what unfettered superpowers could unleash on the world, and it nails this multiple times here in spectacular style. A few sequences from upcoming episodes spring to mind as ones which will be talked about for a long time as chilling, traumatic, grotesque and, in some cases, surprisingly emotional.

By leaning into this, the show shifts away from its more morose character drama of the early episodes, and back towards full-throated, depraved superhero antics, while also continuing a politics-heavy through-line.

It's true that the show's political messaging and references are more on the nose than ever before here, and the season does, at times, become an admittedly-easy game of spotting the allusion to real-world events.

However, somehow The Boys continues to get away with this lack of subtlety in a way which few other shows could. In a heightened world, it's understandable that the satire should also be heightened, and the series' comedic bent and inclination towards absurdity helps to puncture any sense that it could become cloying or overly-sincere.

Erin Moriarty as Starlight in The Boys, hovering over a crowd of protestors
Erin Moriarty as Starlight in The Boys. Jan Thijs/Prime Video

Its also worth commenting on the show's Gen V crossover moments, many of which have already been publicised in trailers and other pre-release materials. These are slotted into the season effectively and efficiently, and are unlikely to prove distracting for viewers who haven't seen the sister show.

However, for fans who have, they will undoubtedly get a richer experience, as the series capitalises on the sense of a larger, more complicated world beyond our central characters, which that show helped to imbue.

Release schedules on streamers can sometimes appear arbitrary, but here The Boys will likely benefit from its tried and tested pattern more than in usual circumstances. The first three episodes are being released at once, meaning fans can binge them in one go and get the slightly shaky set-up out of the way, before moving on the real meat of the season in future weeks.

It may not be quite as exhilarating or propulsive as season 3, but that isn't exactly a damning statement – this is still a strong entry in the show's run to date, and will leave fans not only excited for more, but also reassured that there are no signs of The Boys losing flight anytime soon.

The Boys season 4 will arrive on Prime Video on Thursday 13th June. The Boys seasons 1-3 are available to watch now try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days. Plus, read our guides to the best Amazon Prime series and the best movies on Amazon Prime.


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