The new season is very brutal

At the end of season 4 of “The Boys,” there is a relatively minor moment that carries major weight. A hero (better not to say who) brings an injured person to the hospital. As they turn to leave, they see a little boy watching them nearby. At first, the child is stunned. You can almost hear him thinking, “Wow, a real superhero!” Right in front of me!” Then, as he realizes that the hero may have just saved someone’s life, he smiles. And the hero smiles back. That’s it. That’s the scene – so classic that it could have been lifted from any number of comic book adaptations over the past half-century, and so ironically sweet that “The Boys” may have been one of the last super-stories left to guess.

The Prime Video series from showrunner Eric Kripke is not averse to seriousness. After all, a hero’s journey begins with the heartbreaking loss of his girlfriend. But the action-satire also spends the majority of its time skewering the vapid but treacherous nature of Hollywood’s masked crusaders, whether emphasizing the profits reaped from Disney’s infantilization of adults, or colorfully depict what superpowers could actually do. do to the bodies (and minds) of ordinary human beings. If our reality is dominated by on-screen superheroes, then why not lend our on-screen superheroes the sharpest edges of reality?

So, amidst all the buckets of blood and everything that entails (like entrails), a heartfelt exchange between a child and his new favorite hero stands out. Not only is it a moment of calm amidst the chaos, a sudden dose of purity between tainted characters and their corrupted ideals, but their shared moment of awe also speaks to the larger theme of season 4: what’s next stage ? If we all agree that our political and cultural climates are pretty screwed – and if we can’t go that far, then it’s obvious that things are leaning that way – what’s stopping kind people to abandon the high road and take the highway to the Wasteland if that’s the quickest way to eradicate everything that threatens our personal and artistic freedoms?

For “The Boys,” the answer is the little boy – both the one inspired to do the right thing and the one who has been so demoralized that he might lead the world to Valhalla.

The second kid in question, of course, is Ryan Butcher (Cameron Crovetti), the son of Homelander (Anthony Starr), whose burgeoning abilities can tip the balance of power in or out of Dad’s favor. Ignoring his father’s sadistic tendencies, although growing more suspicious by the day, Ryan begins season 4 under the care of Homelander – the “chosen one” in training – and the Vought marketing machine is working overtime to warm it up to the masses. There was, after all, a minor snafu at the end of Season 3, when an outspoken citizen called Homelander a fascist and threw an empty bottle at him, which missed and hit Ryan instead. In reckless retaliation, Homelander has driven the man into oblivion and must now stand trial for murder.

Never mind. Much like the infallible criminal he so often resembles, Homelander can do no wrong in the eyes of his fans. When he killed the innocent bottle-throwing bystander in cold blood, there were cheers – cheers that baffled but tickled Homelander, as he considered what to do with his new freedom from the public control. For years he hid his fury and contempt for John Q. Public Since John Q. Audience. But if he can be himself, uncensored, and still be worshiped as the god he believes himself to be, then… what else can he do? What more can he control? What else does he want?

Starr’s infamous turn remains a highlight of “The Boys,” as his evil bully lashes out in a mid-life crisis, while absentmindedly keeping Ryan in check. But season 4 is full of intrigue. Hughie (Jack Quaid) is torn between his assignments with The Boys and caring for his ailing father (which is made all the more complicated with the arrival of his long-absent mother). With her heroic alter ego tainted by her time on The Seven, Annie (Erin Moriarty) attempts to become an icon in her own right, leading a group of activists by day and accompanying The Boys by night. Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) try to do the friend thing while dealing with revelations from their past. MM (Laz Alonso) takes on a new leadership role, now that Butcher (Karl Urban) has betrayed the team one time too many – oh, and besides, he only has a few months to live.

And that only covers the good guys. Season 4 also delves into thornier (but funny) issues with The Deep (Chace Crawford), plenty of political machinations with Vice President (and hidden superhuman) Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), and introduces two new members of the ‘team. Vought: Firecracker (Valorie Curry) and Sister Sage (Susan Heyward). The former is a right-wing podcast star (a la Alex Jones) with extreme loyalty to Homelander in particular, while Sister Sage would rather you drop the “Sister” and just call her Sage. As the smartest person in the world, she is very aware of Vought’s efforts to blacken its image (wooing the African-American population while using a catchy nickname to let all white people know there is a black woman in the room).

Susan Heyward and Valorie Curry in “The Boys”Jasper Savage/Prime Video

What’s less clear is why she’s so willing to accept him. “The Boys” gives a quick nod to Sage’s motivations, but his curiosity-prickling character is the most notable casualty of Season 4’s crowded conditions. Frenchie suffers too, as do Ryan and a few others. Even Homelander feels a little wronged, but it’s not for lack of care. He begins to face the same sort of plausibility questions that plague his inverse inspiration, Superman, to the extent that it’s difficult to understand why he doesn’t solve more problems himself.

Yet it’s mostly impressive how deftly the drama of “The Boys” balances its many arcs, while the wild inventiveness of the dark comedy helps distract from lingering shortcomings. Recounting them would spoil the weekly joy of discovering each bizarre development, but rest assured: my notes on season 4 are littered with “oh my god” and “hoo boy”, all of which denote a particularly gnarly setting or a horrible marvel of creature. design. Far less stupendous, though still present, are the universe-expanding Easter eggs for those who watched last year’s spinoff, “Gen V.” Kripke & Co. seem to realize that their core show continues to grow, keeping the connections either plot-related enough or extraneous enough to not get in the way of casual enjoyment. (In other words, the series designed to destroy the MCU doesn’t fall into the same traps.)

“The Boys” always aims to move forward with current events, and season 4 is no exception. From Homelander’s opening trial to the presidential election certification thread, it’s impossible not to see our turbulent present and looming future between bursts of laser vision and super-speeds. Fittingly, this makes for a dark season, and just as rightly, there are no easy solutions to be expected in the finale. The Avengers are not going back in time. Batman is not going to fly the bomb out of Gotham City. There is no single hero to save us. Instead, there is an ideal – an ideal that may fade quickly, but will always be vital to a functioning society. An ideal “The Boys” finds a way to live on, even when things get really nasty. You have to be able to spot it through the chaos. You have to hold on as it slides in and out of your reach, and then you have to find a way to pass it on.

Something good. Something pure. Something truly… heroic.

Grade: B+

Season 4 of “The Boys” will premiere on Thursday, June 13 on Amazon Prime Video with three episodes. New episodes will air weekly until the finale on July 18.