Warning: contains spoilers for The Boys Seasons 1- 3.
We love The Boys, which is an outrageously gross and often hilarious take-down of celebrity culture, social media politics and even, occasionally, superhero stories. But we have one request for The Boys season 4 – let the female characters be as flawed as the boys!
Of course, every character in The Boys is flawed in some way, because it’s just that kind of world. And thanks to a number of male characters from the comic book series who have been gender-flipped for the show, the TV version does have a decent roster of flawed or outright villainous female characters. But in season 4, we’d love to see just a little more in the way of character flaws for the two central comics-origin female characters: Annie and Kimiko
Queen Maeve, Annie and Kimiko
There are three main female characters in The Boys – Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), one of the world’s most famous team of superheroes, the Seven; Starlight/Annie (Erin Moriarty), who starts Season 1 as the newest addition to the Seven, and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), a former child soldier who was turned into a superhero against her will by a group of terrorists. Kimiko was initially known as The Female, but thankfully the TV-original character Mesmer revealed her name partway through the first season; there are plenty of nicknames floating around the superhero world, and Frenchie’s birth name was only revealed in Season 3, but it’s still nice not to have a character identified solely by their gender.
All three characters, despite their physical powers, have frequently been placed in the role of victim and their story arcs have often been about recovering their agency. The writers have done a really good job of portraying Annie as a survivor and someone who is taking control of her story, culminating in her leaving the Seven and joining the Boys at the end of Season 3, but she’s still had to be sexually assaulted, intimidated, and humiliated before she could get there.
Kimiko similarly took control in Season 3. She was a victim of child trafficking and her body was violated when she was injected with Compound-V against her will, which is why she resented her powers so much. Choosing to regain her superpowers after losing them, she explained to Annie how important it was that this time, it was her choice. And Queen Maeve, the most sympathetic of the Seven next to Starlight (not counting the short-lived Supersonic, RIP), also managed to escape what was becoming a pattern of victimisation by Homelander, who wanted to harvest her eggs by nearly sacrificing her life, which enabled her to fake her own death.
Parodying ‘Girl Power’
It’s great to see these female characters taking control in the story. This is story-telling that is genuinely interested in these characters, not just a visual attempt at a forced “girl power” moment like The Boys’ fantastic parodic in-universe “Girls Get It Done” sequence (which rightfully mocked the MCU’s cringe-inducing attempt to make up for 20 movies starring men followed by one starring a woman by trying to squeeze every surviving female character into one shot in Endgame). But Starlight and Kimiko are still a bit lacking in one core respect – they’re not flawed enough.
Sure, Kimiko worries about her violent nature and resists being used as Butcher’s “gun”, and Starlight maybe should have done a bit more to try to stop her friend Alex from joining the Seven. But where Frenchie gets mixed up in addiction and old grudges, Mother’s Milk struggles with his temper and tries to maintain good relationships with his ex and his daughter, Hughie abuses Compound-V because he feels emasculated by his relationship with Annie, and Butcher will go to nearly any extreme to get what he wants while fighting the temptation to behave like his abusive father, Kimiko and Annie are just too nice and too sensible. They are often the boys’ conscience, their heart (Frenchie literally calls Kimiko “my heart”, “mon coeur”) and their voice of reason. Even Queen Maeve, who is much more flawed as a character, is ten times more moral and well-intentioned than A-Train, The Deep, or Black Noir.
Compare them to the roster of characters who were male in the comics series but have been gender-flipped for the TV show. Now here, we see some fascinating and incredibly flawed female characters. Villains Stormfront and Victoria (originally Victor) Neuman are selfish, arrogant, and ruthless. On the heroic side, Grace (originally Greg) Mallory is much more on the side of the broadly-defined “good” but she is also a person who keeps secrets, and who can be angry and resentful. And the show’s interpretation of Madelyn (originally James) Stillwell is fascinating, her hold over Homelander becoming specifically gendered as she plays up to his breastmilk fetish while she herself seems to alternate between controlling Homelander and fearing him. Compared to this lot, Annie, Kimiko and even Maeve look like angels of light.
Stories From Their Own Shortcomings
Now don’t get us wrong: we love Kimiko and Frenchie together, we’re rooting for Annie and Hughie too. And Queen Maeve deserves to be left in peace in her well-earned retirement (though we doubt she will be).
But what we’d love to see in Season 4 is character arcs for Annie and Kimiko that stem from their own shortcomings, just like the ones the Boys who are literally boys get. It’s been awesome seeing them overcome external adversity and come into their own, but let’s see them overcome some internal adversity as well. Let’s see Kimiko struggle with trust issues, or perhaps a story where she wants to forget her past but it becomes key to solving a problem. Let’s see what issues Annie has in her relationship with Hughie that stem from her own behaviour, not his – does she resent him for persuading her to stay in the Seven for so long and indirectly getting Alex killed? Does being one of The Boys make her miss her more feminine role as Starlight from her teens? Is she ever tempted to go jump on Soldier Boy until he explodes all the powers out of her?
Obviously, the show is called The Boys and the “boys” are the focus. But we think it would be really exciting to see the group’s female members explored as deeply flawed, often misguided people like their male counterparts, and not have them perpetually in the role of victims, survivors, or voices of the boys’ conscience.