Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Joe Kessler and Jack Quaid as Web Weaver in The Boys
(Prime Video)

The Highs and Lows of ‘The Boys’ ‘Dirty Business’ Gave Me Whiplash

The Boys season 4 jolts back into shape, but at what cost?

When they named The Boys season 4 episode 6 “Dirty Business,” they really meant it, huh? Because it’s clearly on its way to becoming the most debated episode of, well, at least this season. And not for the right reasons.

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Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

This season of The Boys hasn’t been “The Boys-ing” like the other three seasons did. Things were starting to look up with episode 5, when they brought Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) back in to the game. There were Compound V-ed up killer sheep flying around, and Homelander (Antony Starr) called upon the Seven to be “wrathful Gods.” They even hit us in the feels with the storyline about Hughie’s dad, and it’s hard to see Simon Pegg cry, isn’ it?

But then, episode 6, “Dirty Business” happened. And now, I and a lot of other fans of the show don’t quite know how to feel. Should we be glad that, in this episode, things finally get diabolical? Or should we squirm uncomfortably at what we just saw Hughie go through? It’s giving whiplash from all these conflicted feelings!

Spoilers ahead for The Boys 4 x 6!

What happens in The Boys season 4 episode 6 “Dirty Business”?

What doesn’t happen in this episode? Hughie (Jack Quaid) gets sexually assaulted, Tek Knight (Derek Wilson) dies, The Seven and Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) plan a coup to oust the new president, MM (Laz Alonso) has a heart attack, Butcher (Karl Urban) finally finds out his noggin is off the rocker, and Firecracker (Valorie Curry) is Homelander’s new source of his favorite beverage! Phew!

As many highs as this episode has, giving us moments that truly make you think, “Oh, The Boys is back!” the lows are just as low. And shuttling between the two is giving me whiplash.

The Highs

A-Train’s Moment

The scene where A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) ignores every fiber of self-preservation in his body to bring MM to the hospital after the latter has a heart attack at Tek Knight’s party made all of mush! As he’s dropping off MM on a stretcher outside the hospital, a kid sees him do it, and smiles at the supe for saving a life. A-Train smiles back as it sinks in for the first time what it feels to actually save lives and do some good, and be a hero.

A-Train’s character arc has been one of the best on the show, but this is The Boys, and in this show, it rarely works out well for the good guys. A-Train has been running on the redemption track for some time now, but it has been a marathon, not a sprint. And him helping the Boys and making peace with Hughie seems like he’s nearing the finish line.

And that’s how you know … Yeah, so A-Train’s probably going to die, right?

Victoria Neuman and Sister Sage’s new friendship

I love it when girls understand each other’s purposes and collaborate, even if it is to stir up mayhem and unleash hell—which, in this case, might be quite literal. Victoria Neuman feels out of place exposing her true loyalties at Tek Knight’s alt-right party. In a scene that most women would relate to, she zones out to a vision of popping her own head when one of the guests tries to mansplain the abortion rights of rape victims to her.

But Sister Sage (Susan Heyward), who has been playing a manipulative long game, convinces Vicky that this is the only way to seize the power they want. And their conversation is one of the highlights of the episode.

But after Sister Sage discovers The Boys and MM shoots her in the head, the supe is lobotomized and starts acting like a little kid. When Homelander assembles the billionaires and tells them about the coup he is planning, Sage is of no help to him, and it leaves Homelander a tad tongue-tied and lost when faced with procedural questions. Luckily, Victoria, pumped from her chat with Sage, steps in and gives a badass, even if terrifying, speech.

The Joe Kessler reveal

We’ve all been suspecting that Butcher’s buddy Joe Kessler (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a figment of his V-damaged brain. But the way that the show tackled the reveal and Butcher’s realization? 10/10 no notes! 

After Dr. Sameer (Omid Abtahi) tells Butcher that if they make the virus strong enough to kill Homelander, it would become airborne and kill every single person with Compound V in their system, including Ryan and Kimiko, Butcher’s mind is doing the angel vs. devil debate. There’s Becca (Shantel VanSanten), the angel telling Butcher he is not this guy who’d murder thousands to get revenge, and then there’s Kessler, the devil telling Butcher this is what they have wanted all along. 

When Becca starts winning, Kessler screams at her to shut up, and that’s when Butcher realizes that if Kessler can see Becca, who he knows is dead and a figment of his imagination, that means Kessler is not real either. Kessler then reveals that Butcher blocked the memory of leaving Kessler to die at the Panjshir Valley where they did their last mission together, and the Kessler he has been seeing is just a manifestation of his darkest thoughts!

If you’ve noticed that squiggly worm moving around in Butcher’s brain, you might’ve guessed what’s coming. And this just set it up to be super interesting!

All of the above scenes really made this episode appear on par with the usual standard of The Boys. However, the lows just as sharply pulled it down.

The Lows

The Frenchie and Kimiko slow burn

Frenchie (Tomer Capone) has tuned himself in. He won’t let Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) visit him. His arc seems to be going in some direction we can’t see even midway through the season. As for Kimiko, she keeps putting off work on her speech therapy. The scene where she searches an entire library to find books with the right title to convey to A-Train what she wants to say feels so ridiculous. It’s time that we bring some development to her character and let her speak!

Homelander Has a new mommy. Yay.

Right, so … that Firecracker reveal, while shocking in true The Boys style, wore off its novelty faster than any could say, “Milk.” If the scene of Firecracker breastfeeding Homelander were merely symbolic for how America is being fed fake news and dangerous lies, great. But if this is just going to be Homelander’s third mommy issue after Stillwell and Stormfront, then it won’t be much fun, will it?

Been there, milked that.

Hughie’s sexual assault

Barely any time has passed since his father’s passing, and Hughie had to impersonate Webweaver to gain entry into a party hosted by his childhood hero, Tek Knight. The logic of why Hughie had to do this, considering rhe Boys’ newly turned mole A-Train is already present at the party, is utterly lost on me.

Tek Knight, assuming Hughie is Webweaver, takes him down to his Tek Cave, a sex dungeon. There, he first asks him to sit, bare-bottomed, on a German chocolate cake with a rough texture. Then, Ashley arrives, and Webweaver Hughie is tied down, tickled with a feather, then masturbated to, and smudged with bodily fluids over his mask. Hughie is unable to protest and has to pretend to enjoy it, to not blow his cover.

It’s a while before Tek Knight discovers that it’s Hughie underneath the mask. He’s about to torture him when Annie and Kimiko barge in to save him. At the end of the episode, Hughie has a breakdown before Annie, but he says the reason he’s not okay is that he misses his father.

The Boys is inappropriate most of the time, and it’s usually in sync with what the show’s source material is. But with this whole Hughie plot played for gags, it was difficult to echo the same emotion. I kept wondering as this scene was playing, and even after the episode ended, if they’d pushed this too far, whether the tonality was wrong, and whether they needed to go to this extent to explore Tek Knight’s kinks. My answers did not come up not in favor of this episode. What’s more, reading about the showrunner’s thoughts about Hughie’s scenes plunged me further into doubt and erased all the good stuff that this episode brought us.

Outrageous is The Boys‘ USP, but perhaps, it needs to revisit how it used to marry outrageous with purpose in its previous seasons.

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.