The Boys Season 4, Episode 4 Spoiler Review: Past Secrets Explode with a Vengeance

Homelander and Starlight

Victories are few and far between for anyone on The Boys. Usually, either the Boys or the Supes can hope for is survival or the odd lucky break. Whether it’s the titular Supe hunters or Vought and their costumed products who come out on top, the status quo is equal parts upended and maintained. This is why the fourth episode, “Wisdom of the Ages,” might be the first time audiences see, to quote The A-Team, “a plan come together.” As Homelander indulges in his homicidal narcissism in this episode, Sage delivers a massive victory for the “home team.”

For all the costumes and superpowers, The Boys doesn’t give audiences many true heroes to root for. Hughie Campbell, originally described as Billy Butcher’s “canary” (of the coal mine variety) because of his moral compass, almost fully descended to his mentor’s level in Season 3. Though he was pulled back from the brink just in time, Hughie didn’t make it all the way back. Marvin “Mother’s” Milk is also a fairly “good” character, though he also chooses his mission of revenge over his family more than once. Annie January was pushed into becoming Starlight by her mother with a nice mélange of religious determinism, and she has some dark secrets that are about to come out at the worst possible time. As Firecracker revealed in Episode 3, the fear of God didn’t stop Annie’s truly awful mean girl behavior. Even Kimiko, who in the last episode took down a cell of the terrorist group that kidnapped her, is revealed to have done the same thing to someone else. In brief, anyone with aspirations of being heroic had a very bad day in The Boys Season 4, Episode 4.

The Boys Suffer Big Losses Because of Their Past Sins

Frenchie and Kimiko Discover Their Unconditional Love Is Rare

Colin and Frenchie stare at each other from The Boys

As relationships go in The Boys, Frenchie and Kimiko are special because they’ve loved each other unconditionally from the moment they met. For them, going from platonic to romantic is just a spectrum, because the love they have for each other is given freely and without judgment. For example, Frenchie tried to kiss her after her brother Kenji died in Season 2, because sex and physical intimacy has a place in his grieving process. Later, Kimiko tried to kiss him in Season 3 after losing her powers, but then Little Nina almost killed him, her and Frenchie’s former partner, Cherie. “Wisdom of the Ages” reminds viewers how rare their special bond is. This episode continues to show why Frenchie and Kimiko are one of the best pairings in The Boys, and arguably in the current superhero landscape. However, it also does this by exposing their darkest secrets.

In Episode 2’s drunken trip to Truthcon, Kimiko pushed Frenchie towards Colin because she wants him to be happy. Her declaration that their romance “will never happen” isn’t Kimiko stating her truth. She doesn’t even consider that pushing him towards Colin will only cause them both pain. After being beaten up by Ezekiel, Starlight’s stretchy pastor from Season 1, Frenchie wakes up to see Colin tending to his wounds. Frenchie chooses that moment to angrily confess he killed Colin’s family on Nina’s orders. Since he was a boy, Colin had nightmares about his distinctive ankle scars. Frenchie accepts it as his penance when Colin beats and tries to kill him.

It’s ironic seeing the scars on Frenchie’s ankle are what causes Colin to attack him because, in Season 1, they were his connection to Kimiko. When the Boys first met Kimiko, Frenchie showed his wounded ankles to the feed but terrified girl to let her know that he understood her pain and that she was safe with him. He also revealed that his father would take him for a walk, tell the boy he loved them and then extinguish his lit cigarette on his legs. Kimiko reciprocated this later when she willingly chose to take Compound V in Season 3, so she could use her powers to protect Frenchie and the rest of her found family. But while backing up Hughie in this episode, she also encounters a person with a scar who causes her to all-but give up on her redemptive journey.

Kimiko Tries to Atone for Her Past, but Learns That Some Things Can Never Be Forgiven

Hughie Campbell Is Becoming More Like Butcher, and Not Because He Killed a Guy

A bloody Kimiko gets angry during a fight in The Boys

With both the Boys and the Shining Light Liberation Army (who made her a child soldier), Kimiko literally killed a lot of people with her bare hands. In Season 3’s infamous sixth episode, “Herogasm,” she was reminded that it wasn’t the Compound V that made her a killer. Rather, this bloodlust was something that was possibly lurking in her heart all this time, and just waiting for its moment to strike. However, even one of the moral heroes of the series, Hughie, is a killer. He killed Translucent, and he killed people while taking Temp V with Butcher. After all these years, it seems that Butcher really has started to corrupt his canary. Butcher’s influence is so inescapable that even when he’s been exiled form the team, he casts a dark shadow over Hughie and the rest of the team. Whether they wanted to or not, Hughie and Kimiko violently fought a group of Shining Light members because of some truly diabolical business.

After promising to be better than Butcher, Hughie gets his hands bloody and starts to use questionable tactics to get what he selfishly wants. For example, he asked A-Train to get him some Compound V, thinking it would heal his father and wake him from his coma. This, despite Hughie having personal experience with the substance, and knowing full well its negative effects and dangers. Throughout the series, Hughie was mostly annoyed by his father. It wasn’t until after the Temp V situation that he truly appreciated him. Though he may seem spineless, Hugh Campbell, Sr. is a kind and honest man who loved his son. He provided Hughie with everything he needed, all while dealing with his wife suddenly leaving him.

Since the woman who abandoned Hughie is now the one making medical decisions for his comatose father, there is no line Hughie won’t cross to reassert what he believes is his right. This includes asking help from the man who killed his first girlfriend, Robin. Later, Hughie fights for his life with nothing but a weak shield and box cutter, perhaps for the first time in the show when there was no one who could save him. Hughie wins but only through murder, perhaps because he’s finally ready to stop being “wee” Hughie. Or it could be because Butcher’s influence turned him into the kind of man who wants to win no matter how brutal or final he has to be.

Meanwhile, Kimiko, the former “monster,” silently offers to rescue the Shining Light girl with the scar. However, the Shining Light girl reveals Kimiko was the one who kidnapped her in the first place. Kimiko spared that girl’s life because she’d already ruined it, and this possibly came at the price of her shattered belief in redemption and self-confidence. The way Hughie and Kimiko basically traded moral alignments and places was an unexpected but welcome development. It’s painfully ironic to see someone who was once only referred to as “The Female” gain humanity just as the team’s most grounded and morally upright member slowly devolves into the monster he swore to never be.

Leaking Annie January’s Medical Records Was Revenge on Multiple Levels

Sage’s Ploy for Firecracker and Starlight Hints at Her Personal Agenda

As far as Supes go, Starlight is the only one who comes closest to resembling a traditional comic book superhero. She genuinely wants to save people and improve the world, all the while sticking to her morals. But just as Butcher’s negative influence bled over into Hughie, so perhaps did the negative influence of all the awful Supes who Annie had to live and work with. Annie may not have been as depraved as the rest of the Seven, but this didn’t mean that she had her own skeletons hidden in a closet. As such, Sage personally selected Firecracker to take down Annie because of her grudge against her from their teenage pageant days. Butcher and Frenchie tried to neutralize Firecracker with a scandal from her past, but she just made it public. The sort of church-going folks The Boys satirizes love a redemption story from the “right” people, no matter how awful the sin, and so Firecracker was easily redeemed.

Conversely, Annie turned violent after Firecracker publicly exposed that she had an abortion. This, unsurprisingly but scarily, led to the good-natured Starlight to almost killing the Seven’s newest member on live TV. That being said, there could be more at play than just Firecracker’s vendetta. Annie losing it on national television and violently beating up Firecracker could be part of Sage’s double-dose of revenge. Previously, Firecracker mockingly called Sage “uppity” with a dose of passive-aggressive racism that the smartest person in the world caught right away. Additionally, the assault was an integral part of turning Annie from “America’s Sweetheart” into a political and social pariah. As a public figure for the supposedly liberal President-Elect Robert Singer, Annie could’ve politically survived the public violation of her medical privacy had she chosen to take the high road. Instead, the press surrounding the attack got so bad that even Annie’s own mother wouldn’t return her calls. Seeing Annie go berserk may have been cathartic at the moment, but it was also a terrifying and unexpected turn for the worse that ramped up Season 4’s stakes and unpredictability even more.

What game Sage is playing remains a mystery. Her only scene in “Wisdom of the Ages” reveals that she indeed routinely lobotomizes herself so that she can enjoy simple, base pleasures as a form of recreation. As of now, Homelander wants her to use her intelligence to engineer a “Supe coup” of the United States. Why she willingly joined the egotistical and unreliable Homelander’s self-destructive plan to remake America in his image is still up in the air, but her real motivations can’t be good. If Sage isn’t playing her own secret angle, engineering Starlight’s destruction by putting Firecracker at risk means she doesn’t care if even her own allies are hurt, as long as her plan is fulfilled. Whatever Sage’s true intentions may be, the episode did a good job of showing her plans in motion and how terrifying a mastermind she is.

Homelander’s Homecoming Is One of The Boys’ Most Disturbing Sequences Yet

From a Comics Callback to the “Bad Room,” Viewers Almost Feel Sorry for Him

The first time Homelander ever had one of his disturbing conversations with his own reflection, the mirror told the Supe that he got them through someplace called “The Bad Room.” As it turns out, the heavy metal door seen in Homelander’s violent flashbacks in the Season 4 premiere was that room. It’s finally in this episode that audiences get to see what the Bad Room really was, while Homelander revisits it in a twisted homecoming. Showing up at the lab with a Fudgie the Whale cake from Carvel, Homelander has murder in his heart. When he burns Frank, one of the faces he remembers, alive, it’s over something that the sadistic Vought scientist doesn’t even remember. Yet, even the monstrous Vought superhero can’t forget or forgive his tormentors.

Then there’s Marty, who Homelander said was nice to him, save for calling him “Squirt” as an affectionate (if annoying) nickname. While this is not an uncommon thing to call a kid, it’s just another subtle example of the dehumanizing cruelty John suffered growing up. He wasn’t really a child in these people’s eyes; he was either a lab subject or a pet. Lest viewers start to empathize with him, though, Homelander punishes Marty in such a horrific way that it has to be the “thousand-yard stare” scene that the showrunner warned about. Killing everyone in that lab, save for Barbara the director, is just Homelander acting out. What’s more, it was revealed that Homelander wasn’t just some defenseless infant or toddler; he killed four people during his birth. In fact, Barbara describes it in the exact same way Becca Butcher died in the comics.

Yet, Barbara reveals that Homelander’s deep-seated need to be loved was her team’s “greatest success” in shaping who he is today. The way the Vought scientists treated Homelander, then just called John, was evil. It’s still not an excuse for Homelander, either. Besides cementing how iredeemable Homelander is, these revelations also showed how brave and special the series’ version of Becca was in how she raised their son. In the comics, Becca was just a plot device who existed to justify Butcher’s murder spree and hatred of Supes. Butcher also killed their Supe son moments after it burst out of Becca’s body and killed her. But in the show, she openly defied Butcher and Vought by raising Ryan as lovingly as she could. This led to Ryan avenging her murder by killing Stormfront, Season 2’s Nazi villain, thus reinforcing his humanity. Conversely, Homelander avenging himself by killing those who raised him was, at least according to his own reflection, the only way he’d be free of his human “weakness.”

Besides being a good and gory examination of its own take on the debate between nurture and nature, “Wisdom of the Ages” continues to show just why Homelander is The Boys’ best characterSome viewers are right to consider him to be the story’s unsung protagonist. Anthony Starr’s performance as this very human monster is just as compelling and menacing as ever, and Season 4 boasts some of his best work yet. One moment, Homelander is surprisingly sympathetic and tragic, but the next, he’s the ruthless personification of evil and all that’s wrong with America. Prime Video’s hit superhero series improved upon the comics in countless ways, but the way Homelander’s character was deepened and improved is undeniably the stand-out.

The Boys debuts new episodes Thursdays on Prime Video.

 

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