‘The Boys’: Hughie’s Family “Side Plot” Is The Key To Understanding Season 4

hughie campbell the boys season 4 episode 5

While scrolling through Threads, as one does, I saw a post touching on something with The Boys Season 4 that I’ve seen crop up a lot: Hughie’s (Jack Quaid) story with his family, which came to a crest in “Beware The Jabberwock, My Son,” is a “side plot.” Well, I’m here to tell you that Hughie’s family story is not a side plot. In fact, it’s the key to understanding the whole season.

Spoilers past this point, obviously.

In the episode, Hughie’s dad Hughie Sr. (Simon Pegg) has been miraculously brought back to life thanks to an injection of Compound V. The dose was administered semi-accidentally by Hughie’s returned mom Daphne (Rosemarie DeWitt), and at first everything seems fine. It’s not fine, of course… Hughie Sr. suffered brain death thanks to a stroke, and the V only brought back a shell of who he once was.

Over the course of the episode, he develops powers specifically inspired by his feelings towards Daphne: she made him feel like he wasn’t even there, so he gets intangibility powers. She ripped his heart out when she walked out on their family, decades earlier, so he starts pulling people’s hearts out. All that middle-of-the-road nice guy nature Hughie Sr. had been exhibiting was just sublimated rage, which comes out in the final moments.

That’s all well and good, but this is far more about Hughie. When the son asks his father why he put Daphne on the “do not resuscitate” order, Hughie Sr. explains that Hughie Jr. can’t let go of things. He tells the story of their cat, Jar-Jar, who essentially exploded from an infection because Hughie wouldn’t let his dad put the cat to sleep. Ultimately, by the episode’s end, he does do that with his dad. He tells him he loves him, he’s his hero, and then lets him die with his mind momentarily clear. It’s a gutting scene that I’ve seen some call torture. But I’d argue this is actually crucial to understanding what’s happening in Season 4 to every character, not just Hughie.

This season is all about whether you can let go of the past, to put it simply. And Hughie, thus far, is the only character who has successfully accomplished this. We’ll see how successful in next week’s episode and the subsequent episodes. But for now, Hughie made what was the tough, but right choice first to let his Mom off the hook a few episodes back, and now to let his father go even though it hurt to do so.

The Boys Season 4 Episode 5 hughie campbell

Every Character Is Trying — And Failing — To Let Go Of Their Past

Take a look at what’s happening with the other characters this season. Frenchie (Tomer Capone) has been wrestling with all the murders he committed. He came clean — sort of — to his boyfriend about killing his family, but immediately fell back to drug use. Frenchie then gave himself up to the cops at the end of this week’s episode, but I’d argue that’s further avoidance — he needs to talk to Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) — rather than putting his past behind him. He’s wallowing in it.

Speaking of Kimiko, similarly, she had a complicated relationship with that scarred woman she encountered from the Shining Light terrorist organization. But rather than facing that, or her trauma through speech therapy, she’s been trying to punch her way out of her problems.

Annie (Erin Moriarty) is also trying to put her superhero identity as Starlight behind her, but every time she thinks she has something crops up from her past — bullying Firecracker (Valorie Curry), her abortion, etc. She too is avoiding anything that’s too difficult to deal with, and in classic superhero fashion, her powers are fritzing as a result.

Hey, what about Butcher (Karl Urban)? He’s literally trapped by his past, between his tumor-fueled visions of Becca (Shantel VanSanten), and his old CIA buddy Joe Kessler (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Who, of note may be a hallucination himself, per recent internet speculation.

Even Homelander (Antony Starr) is wrestling with this theme. He went back “home” to Project Odessa to cut ties with his past and start clean by, you know, killing everyone in the facility. But as of this week’s episode, he’s having painful flashes of what he did. This isn’t remorse or redemption, by any means. But it is Homelander learning that perhaps his solution — destroy his past, instead of dealing with what he means for him in the present — may not have been the right path to take.

So yeah, Hughie’s plotline is very much part and parcel with what The Boys is trying to get across this season. Sure, it might not have to do with the virus from Gen V, Sage’s (Susan Heyward) plan to take over America, or any of the other capital P “Plot” moves. But a TV show, or at least a good one like The Boys, is built thematically and emotionally first, with the events that move the “story” forward around it. If the characters don’t grow and change, all the animal attacks and Sauna Scenes don’t matter.

Emotional character growth isn’t the side plot… It is the plot. It’s the engine that keeps the train going. And if you understand that Hughie is the only character in the past five episodes who has grown, you’ll understand how the rest of them need to get to his level, and quickly — or they’re all doomed.

The Boys Season 4 Premiere Dates And Episode Guide:

The Boys season 4 will officially premiere on Prime Video on Thursday, June 13 at 3 am ET / 12 am PT. The season will be eight episodes long, with three dropping on premiere day.

Here’s the full list of episodes in The Boys Season 4, with expected premiere dates:

  • Thursday, June 13, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 1 – “Department of Dirty Tricks”
  • Thursday, June 13, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 2 – “Life Among the Septics”
  • Thursday, June 13, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 3 – “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here”
  • Thursday, June 20, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 4 – “Wisdom of the Ages”
  • Thursday, June 27, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 5 – “Beware the Jabberwock, My Son”
  • Thursday, July 4, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 6 – “Dirty Business”
  • Thursday, July 11, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 7 – “The Insider”
  • Thursday, July 18, 2024: The Boys, Season 4, Episode 8 – “Assassination Run” *Season Finale*

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