The Boys recap: what to know as season four comes out

 (Amazon Studios, Prime Video)
(Amazon Studios, Prime Video)

Superheroes have never been as nasty as they are in The Boys, Prime Video’s foul-mouthed new ode to comic books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and all things cape-wearing.

Forget saving the universe. Led by Homelander – The Boys’ twisted version of Superman – these guys are more likely to blow it up and shower bystanders in gore. And this June, they’re back for another season, in which Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his team of anti-supe agents are trying once more to track them down and stop them. Violently.

With more than a year having passed since season three came out (and a spin-off, Gen V, having aired in the meantime), here’s our handy catch-up of who’s been doing what, and who they’ve been killing. You’re welcome.

The premise

The Boys is set in an alternate universe where superheroes are referred to as “supes” and presided over by The Seven, an elite crime-fighting team like the Avengers or Justice League.

Unlike them, The Seven is owned and run by Vought International, a massively powerful corporation that markets and monetises superheroes. And aside from their public personas, The Seven are actually corrupt, cruel and self-serving people who end up killing more people than they save.

The main characters

 (Amazon Studios, Prime Video)
(Amazon Studios, Prime Video)

Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) – the leader of The Boys, a vigilante group of non-powered people seeking revenge on superheroes for various misdeeds. Foul-mouthed and prone to violence.

Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) – just your average guy, until his girlfriend is killed by a superhero and he joins The Boys to seek justice. Mild mannered, with a sense of morality that gets increasingly greyer as the series goes on.

Homelander (Antony Starr) – the unhinged leader of The Seven. Born and raised in a lab, he has no sense of empathy and an increasingly loose grip on sanity. Basically Superman, he can fly, shoot lasers and has super-strength.

Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) – Homelander’s deputy in season one. She also has superhuman strength, but becomes disillusioned and burned out by working for Vought.

A-Train (Jessie T Usher) – the super-speedy member of The Seven who begins the series addicted to Compound V, a chemical manufactured by Vought that increases superhero powers).

Starlight (Erin Moriarty) – a new addition to The Seven, with light-based powers. Initially idealistic, she rapidly turns traitor and begins working on exposing Vought’s various misdeeds.

Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) – a member of The Boys, who has a bone to pick with superheroes: one of them killed his whole family when he was young.

Frenchie (Tomer Capone) – an international arms trafficker turned member of The Boys.

Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) – a mute supe who becomes part of The Boys in season one.

The Deep (Chace Crawford) – a superhero who is kicked out of The Boys after being exposed as a sexual abuser on live television. He finds a path to redemption by joining a religious cult in season two.

 (Amazon Prime/YouTube)
(Amazon Prime/YouTube)

Ashley Barrett (Colby Minifie) – the perma-stressed Vought executive tasked with managing all The Seven’s many PR disasters.

Victoria Neumann (Claudia Doumit) – a congresswoman who opposes Vought but is secretly a supe with the power to make peoples’ heads explode.

Season One

The season which kicked everything off. Hughie first runs into The Boys when his fiancée Robin is killed in front of him by the speeding superhero A-Train. In pursuit of vengeance, he teams up with them in a bid to take down The Seven, the group to which A-Train belongs.

The leader of The Boys, Butcher, has his own beef with the group. As we find out, Homelander, the leader of The Seven, raped and killed Butcher’s wife, Becca, years back, and he still hasn’t found her body.

And the Seven have their own problems. Homelander is a deranged tyrant and sadist. Not only does he have an unhealthy relationship with his handler, Madelyn Stillwell, he isn’t above things like crashing a passenger jet in order to save compromising footage of himself being released.

 (Amazon Studios, Prime Video)
(Amazon Studios, Prime Video)

Plus, there’s newcomer Starlight, who is full of idealism – which quickly gets scotched when she’s sexually assaulted by another member, The Deep (who she then outs as a predator). Disillusioned, Starlight ends up teaming up with Hughie to find out what Compound V is all about.

What is it? Turns out, superheroes aren’t born with special powers. They’re dosed up with a special compound (manufactured by Vought, of course) at birth, which gives them superpowers – and worse, supes like A-Train are using it as a drug to enhance those powers even more. No wonder Homelander wants to sell it to the military to make super-soldiers.

Things come to a head at the end of the season, when Butcher tries to confront Homelander and ends up making himself a wanted terrorist in the process.

And then we find out that Becca, Butcher’s wife, isn’t actually dead: she’s been hiding away in a Vought safe house, raising Homelander’s son, Ryan, in secret. Surprise!

Season Two

With all that going on, season two starts with The Boys in hiding from the law. Homelander’s plan to equip the military with drugs is going swimmingly, and things get even better for him when a new superhero arrives in The Seven.

This is Stormfront (Aya Cash), who has lightning powers and proves to be something of an romantic interest/ enabler for Homelander, encouraging him to embrace his worst instincts (ie. his passion for indiscriminate slaughter).

 (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Plus, having realised he’s a father, he’s now trying to forge a relationship with his son in the worst way possible – kidnapping him and pushing him off buildings to activate his superpowers, to the understandable horror of his mother.

To make things weirder, there’s an epidemic of head-popping going around. Yes, you read that right: congressmen, lawyers and superheroes are literally having their heads explode, and nobody knows why.

And Starlight is still leading a double life in The Seven, trying to dig up some of Vought’s dirty secrets while maintaining her cover – and A-Train is suspicious of her. She does eventually leak the truth about superheroes (that they’re made, rather than born) to the press, though this doesn’t stop Vought.

As things continue, The Boys discover that Stormfront is in fact a Nazi – a non-aging superhero who got her start in 1940s Germany. And she’s running a secret military compound aimed at giving white supremacists superpowers; eventually, they manage to out her on national television.

The season’s end comes when The Boys attempt to recapture Ryan from Homelander, which leads to Becca being killed and Butcher promising to raise him away from Vought. But as we all know, he’s very bad at keeping promises.

Oh, and the head-popping? Turns out, that’s Victoria Neuman: a congresswoman who’s claiming to be fighting supes the “right way”. Only, it turns out she’s a superhero herself. What’s she up to? Nobody knows.

 (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Season Three

Things only get worse from there. Season three opens with Hughie on Cloud Nine – he’s been hired by Neuman to work at the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs and is dating Starlight, which means red carpets galore. Of course things don’t last, as he then learns Neuman is a supe, and as it turns out, she’s also the adopted daughter of Vought president Stan Edgar.

As Homelander’s ratings have plummeted after the reveal of his girlfriend being a Nazi, Starlight herself has been promoted to co-captain of The Seven.

Meanwhile, Butcher is hunting for the impossible – a way to take down Homelander for good. That leads him to track down Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), the legendary leader of former superhero squad Payback, who went missing after a mission went wrong.

In his search for answers, he’s also handed a few vials of V-24, an experimental drug that gives regular people superpowers for a short period of time – and which he uses to beat the truth out of Soldier Boy’s former comrades.

 (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Naturally, Butcher and Hughie are soon powered up and shooting lasers all over the place. In no time at all, they find Soldier Boy – who was betrayed and sold to the Russians by his former teammates. Turns out, he can create energy blasts that also nullify superpowers, making him the perfect weapon against Homelander’s terrifying set of powers.

Butcher and Hughie join forces with Soldier Boy to hunt down his former teammates in exchange for help in killing Homelander. However, he proves to be a loose cannon, killing superheroes indiscriminately and attacking Ryan when he attempts to defend his father – leading to Soldier Boy being taken into custody and Homelander escaping yet again.

Later, we find out that Soldier Boy is actually Homelander’s biological father. And just like his father and grandfather, it seems like Ryan is turning into a pocket psychopath too, choosing to stay with Homelander despite being told he’s evil.

By the end of the series,, Butcher is left terminally ill from all the doses of V-24 he’s been taking, and Neuman continues her rise to power when she is nominated to be the running mate of Singer, a politician who is running for president. Whew.

Gen V

Jaz Sinclair (Marie Moreau) (Brooke Palmer/Prime Video)
Jaz Sinclair (Marie Moreau) (Brooke Palmer/Prime Video)

This fun little spinoff series takes place at Godolkin University (unsubtly nicknamed ‘God U’), a place where wannabe superheroes are trained. Our hero is Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), a woman with the power to manipulate blood, who finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy when fellow students start going missing.

Though we can expect to see more of Marie in season four, the main thing to take away here is that we find out that Neuman is involved in a secret project to create a superhero-destroying virus... which will no doubt factor into season four’s plot.

The Boys season four will air on Prime Video from June 13