Prime Video’s The Boys Changes Pace, Becomes the Best Version of Itself


It’s impossible to think about “The Boys” without also thinking about the dying genre in which it finds itself. While the 2010s saw superhero films soaring to heights that not even a telepath could imagine, the 2020s ushered in a new era of theatrical viewing, as well as a new era of superhero film. From the DC universe crumbling under the weight of a mismatched universe to the MCU failing unexpectedly, it’s undeniable that the genre that appeared to be saving movie theaters is now at a standstill.

However, last year with the release of “Gen V,” a spinoff of “The Boys,” it became clear that it may not just be the genre at fault, but the people behind these projects. The spinoff series injected a fresh new buzz into the superhero genre in its own way, and “The Boys” continues the rich world-building of arguably the only franchise in super-department that matters. The key is the deliberate, confident pace of this season. While the writing is as sharp as ever, this season takes a slower approach than all its predecessors, and it’s all the better for it.

Picking up right where Season 3 left off, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is reeling after being given a few months to live after taking Compound V. His mortality weighs down any chance of existing in a world where Homelander (Antony Starr) and The Seven are taken down, but it’s clear he would rather die trying than sit idle. But he has something that may finally do the trick: a virus–introduced in “Gen V” that has been created to specifically kill off Supes. 

Despite taking a slower pace, have no fear, the show isn’t devoid of the shock factor that garnered this series a huge following. Instead of feeling like the show doesn’t know where to go, each of the shock moments feels integral to showcasing just how quickly this universe is unraveling. The world of “The Boys” is on the brink of destruction, and its characters are just as uncharacteristically vulnerable as the country they live in. Perhaps the most vulnerable of them all is the series’ main villain, Homelander.

When we’re first re-introduced to him this season, it’s with a close-up shot of his face, mouth turned down in a frown while his forehead strains under the weight of not only his anger but what seems to be fear. When the camera pans down and comes into focus, we can see he is staring at a gray hair he holds between his fingertips. As the season progresses, when he isn’t trying to stage a government coup, Homelander is staring at every reflective surface he passes, reckoning with his aging, and his childhood trauma. 

It’s captivating to watch one of the most terrifying villains of the modern age become despondent to the life he’s living, while simultaneously setting events in place to make sure he can never leave the prison he’s built around himself. “Your need for love is so deep,” Homelander is told halfway through the season, and it’s these early episodes where this is shatteringly apparent. Starr continues to portray the character with a frightening vigor, yes, but in the writers seem to also be giving the Supe some grace this season. He’s not going to make the switch from villain to anti-hero any time soon, but Starr’s performance allows the character to feel fleshed out in a way that allows for more sympathy than before.

It’s not just Homelander who has reached a tipping point; each and every character arc is what makes this season a standout. “The Boys” are going through their own singular transitions: Hughie (Jack Quaid) gets news of a family illness; Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and Kimiko (Karen Kukuhara) are both forced to confront their pasts; Annie (Erin Moriarty) is trying to find her place in a world where she is no longer a member of The Seven. Along with the good guys, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) seems to have become disillusioned with Vaught and his life as a Supe and Ashley (Colby Minifie) is questioning her own morals and those of the people around her. 

Steadfast through it all is sharp writing and culture commentary that even with its slowest episodes, will never disappear from the show, but can sometimes take a backseat for some stunning performances. With the season taking a slower pace, the characters are given room to breathe, and so is the show’s plot. The change in pace makes the experience of watching “The Boys” more enjoyable than it was in the last two seasons when shock factor trumped plot. 

Everyone, from the good guys to the bad guys are unraveling under the different pressures that come with living in a world with Supes. It’s an interesting way for this season to go, and beyond the gross-out moments and fun fight scenes, it feels like the series is finally growing up, without losing its urgency or build-up to a phenomenal season finale. If anything, the languid pace aids in multiple points of no return, and it’s clear that once this season is over, the universe “The Boys” exists in will forever be changed. 

By allowing the story and its characters to take a warranted deep breath, Eric Kripke and crew prove that they’ve still got it. While “The Boys” began with a slo-mo smattering of blood upon Hughie’s cheek, what really captivated viewers was the series’ dynamic and fascinating group of characters. After a second and third season that felt like the writers were constantly trying to one-up their commentary and shock factor, Season 4 washes the gore away and lets these characters take center stage once again.

All episodes were screened for review.

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