The Boys S4, Prime review: Trump-like villain is the Starr

The dark superhero spoof The Boys continues to play with politics, power fantasies and villains you can't stop watching.
Antony Starr as Homelander in The Boys season 4. Image: Prime Video.

You wouldn’t want to say superheroes are inherently political – at least, not where Disney can hear – but in a world where Marvel’s worked hard to sand off anything approaching a rough edge on their heroes, Amazon’s superhero spoof The Boys has gleefully run hard in the opposite direction.

Initially the series was built on bad behaviour and body horror, with the political subtext kept as, well, subtext (the original comic had a surprising amount to say about corporate influence on the US military in the wake of 9/11). But across three seasons, the political side of the superhero story has come to the fore. Now it’s an election year, and with superpowered psycho Homelander (Antony Starr) all but on the ballot, it’s time to be afraid.

Read: The Boys – Season 4: streaming preview

Season four begins with Homelander on trial for murdering (with his eye lasers) a rowdy protestor – an action that’s done extremely little to dent his support with a certain segment of the American population. There’s a new President (Jim Beaver) who won on an anti-superhero platform (wonder how that’ll go down with Homelander’s fans), while progressive politician with a side-line in psychically exploding heads Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) continues to manipulate things to her own ends as the new Vice President.

On the caped crusader front, Homelander’s team The Seven – which was down a few members by the end of last season – has some new recruits. Firecracker (Valorie Curry) brings the conspiracy theory angle, while Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) is the most intelligent person alive. Her brains and Homelander’s powers could be a powerful combination … if Homelander ever gets his act together.

As for The Boys, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is retired thanks to overdosing on super-serum last season and getting brain cancer for his troubles. MM (Laz Alonso) has stepped up as leader – and doing a good job at it – but does anyone really think Butcher is going to take a back seat for long now that he only has months to live?

There’s a lot more going on across the season’s eight episodes, and that’s before you factor in the excessively bloody fight scenes and extremely gratuitous nudity. By now the cast is stuffed to breaking point, and many of the once-central figures – remember Hughie (Jack Quaid)? – are struggling to grab our attention. A fifth and final season’s already been announced, but it’s not hard to imagine yet more spin-offs (there’s already the super-college series Gen V) giving some of the supporting cast a second chance at the spotlight.

Playing up Homelander as a Trump-esque figure

The big selling point with The Boys has always been doing the things mainstream superhero stories won’t, whether it’s violence and gore or pointing out that superheroes themselves are a pretty fascist concept. But the more the series plays up Homelander as a Trump-esque figure – in a negative way, let’s be clear – the more obvious it becomes that the series is also happily tapping into what makes Trump so popular.

The series might be called The Boys, but it’s Starr’s star turn as Homelander that people come to see. Initially he was the antagonist; now he’s the lead in all but name, struggling to deal with fatherhood now that his son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) is living with him at Vought Tower.

Superheroes have always been a power fantasy, and Homelander (much like Trump) is a very effective one. As a blowhard bad guy audiences love to hate, he’s not so much a satire of Trump as a version where the quiet parts are said out loud by the series he’s on – and thanks to Starr’s winning performance as a super-powered loser, he’s easily the most interesting part of the series.

Which makes for an increasingly odd dichotomy. This is a series is full of fairly blunt satire aimed directly at corporate America and the right-wing side of politics; you’d have to work pretty hard to see the series as being on Homelander’s side in any way. And yet he’s the best thing about the show, the most compelling character on a series that’s opposed to everything he stands for. And the worse they make him, the more popular he gets.

Maybe all this is leading up to some grand finale that strips him of everything that makes him a fan favourite. Though considering recent trends in US culture and politics (and The Boys has always been very clear-eyed there), any attempt to take him down will just be seen by some fans as a betrayal to rail against. Media critics have repeatedly pointed out that while Trump might be bad for America, he’s good for pulling in an audience. He’s the bad guy you love to hate no matter what he gets up to, and the media is going to keep him on stage as long as possible.

At least he’s not laser-frying the heads off anyone who displeases him. Yet.

The Boys – Season 4 is available to stream on Prime Video from 13 June.


4 out of 5 stars

The Boys Season 4


Antony Starr, Karl Urban, Jack Quaid


Showrunner: Eric Kripke

Format: TV Series

Country: USA

Release: 13 June 2024

Available on:

Amazon Prime

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.