The Boys Season 4 Episode 3 Review – “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here”

The Boys We'll Leave the Red Flag Here

Though the first three seasons of The Boys certainly were not light on plot, there’s been a distinct shift in season four to widen its narrative scope – and “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here” nearly buckles under all of that weight, an hour-long episode of television with nary a second to breathe in between its moments of exposition and character development. Chaotically scattered, “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here” is an impressive balancing act of the season’s many, many running stories – although it’s certainly not perfect, and gives the feeling this season may be biting off more than it can chew.

The most obvious culprit of these, of course, is Kimiko and Frenchie; where previous seasons alternated or intertwined their journeys towards a peaceful existence amidst their violent pasts, season four has offered up three plots between these two characters, all of which underwhelm in “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here”. Frenchie’s relapse into any drug he can get his hands on, all because he slept with a man whose family he killed, has an inherent cruelty The Boys has often avoided with the darker notes of his character – there’s not as much pathos in this story as The Boys thinks, and it certainly doesn’t have time to give enough attention to the story to let it develop any.

The Boys We'll Leave the Red Flag Here

At best, it works as a companion piece to the other stories on the show about their pasts catching up with them (see: Starlight and Firecracker, who reveals Starlight spread nasty rumors about her as kids on the pageant circuit) – but when shoved up alongside Kimiko’s “mysterious” pursuit of a girl in the Shining Light organization, it leaves space for neither, which makes moments like an inebriated Frenchie having hallucinations and dream sequences while Kimiko’s ripping out throats feel listless, two stories shoved together with their strange interpersonal dynamic (itself the third and most underwhelming part of the Frenchie/Kimiko material in season four) simply because there’s nowhere else for it to go.

There are certainly still parts of “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here” that are compelling, but without the thematic consistency of “Life Among the Septics” it largely feels like a lot of competing noise. There’s Singer and Neuman’s deteriorating professional relationship (while both make plots to try and kill each other), Homelander’s growing identity and fatherhood crisis, Butcher’s bleeding ears, Hughie’s mother talking about abandoning him because of her postpartum depression… and these are just the moments in between the larger plot mechanics of the season, which involve an election, A-Train dragging himself towards some semblance of redemption, the Homelanders vs. Starlighters riots, and Sister Sage, who fucks The Deep (himself dealing with octopus relationship issues) after self-lobotomizing herself so she can watch Transformers 2 and mow down on some Outback blooming onions in peace.

There’s just too much fucking shit going on in “We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here”, in ways that leave some of its most important moments undercooked. Perfect example: while I appreciate what The Boys is trying to do with Ryan’s identity crisis; while one father dies and another talks about “transcending humanity”, a kid whose voice hasn’t even dropped has already turned into a weapon of destruction – but outside of some whimpering and looking like he’s on the verge of an anxiety attack 24/7, Ryan continues to be nothing more than a high-pitched talking chess piece for Butcher and Homelander to throw between each other, an inherently boring plot that really needs to accelerate in the second half of this season.

The Boys We'll Leave the Red Flag Here

And this episode is teasing even more plots; Mother’s Milk trying to become a better ‘leader’ while his team falls apart around him, Butcher making deals with CIA Jeffrey Dean Morgan to drug his kid (then backing off of it dramatically), and Homelander’s lab-grown origin story are all given space in this episode; while I certainly appreciate a show with layers, The Boys struggles in this hour to find the connective tissue between its narratives, characters, and its societal satire in any consistent way, neutering its musings about “critical supe theory” and what it might actually mean in this world if a supe came out as president (Victoria doesn’t think it’ll go well, which… I’d have to agree with).

There are hints of its characters musing about their legacies again, but this feels more stagnant here than in the previous two episodes – as mostly a table-setting episode, this is to be expected, though it certainly lays the shortcomings of this extremely ambitious approach a bit bare. I certainly have faith The Boys is going to pull at least some of these disparate threads together (again, the narrative tracks were laid really well in the previous hour)- but when an entire figure skating organization accidentally murders each other and it’s just background noise, clearly there’s been a change in approach to storytelling, and this episode certainly bares the scars of a more fragmented series.

Grade: C

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Ashley’s arc is another begging for a bit more screen time; as her professional life continues to fall apart, it seems she’s taking a more… aggressive approach in her personal life, which is always entertaining.
  • RIP Anika, a woman far too sweet for the world of The Boys.
  • So Sister Sage shoves something into her brain to feel dumb for awhile? I’m sure that’s not going to become a thing.
  • Speaking of Sister Sage… what else does she have on Starlight? She’s very confident she can use Firecracker as a weapon to bludgeon Starlight (physically and emotionally), but Firecracker’s clear lack of intelligence hasn’t exactly been convincing, so there must be more to the story here.
  • Butcher finds Ryan by logging into a Mortal Kombat-style video game… an obvious nod to Homelander’s appearance as a guest character in Mortal Kombat 1.
  • Noir is narcaleptic, and begging for direction…. another subplot it feels this season doesn’t need right now.
  • Thanks Stewart’s Root Beer for the sponsorship money, I guess? Such a prominently placed logo in the Butcher/Ryan scene.
  • To be specific, Starlight told everyone Firecracker (then Sparkler) did an “assfuck gangbang with the judges”. I just really hope this plotline doesn’t end in a JoJo Siwa cameo.
  • “Let’s Put the Christ Back in Christmas” is a full-ass song that plays over the closing credits, and is perfectly The Boys.
  • Victoria is such a modern mother; her daughter won’t get off her phone, and has to be bribed with dessert to behave for ten minutes. Are they sure giving her V was a good idea?
  • Hughie’s mother giving his father V does not reappear here, just noting because there’s so much fucking shit going on, it would be easy to forget.
  • The Deep: “Shia wants me in Honey Boy 2… but the script’s just not there yet.”
  • the news notes there was a “fire” at the ice rink, a hilarious bit of irony to end the aforementioned Death by Skate Blade saga.
  • I love how “shut the fuck up, Noir” has just become a catchphrase.

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