The tasteless sex scene from ‘The Boys’ ‘Dirty Business’ ruined the show

One of the The boys The show’s biggest claim to fame is how sick and twisted it’s willing to be, especially when it comes to sex. In Season 1, a female Supe accidentally exploded a guy’s head with her vagina while he was performing oral sex on her; in Season 2, we watched in horror as Homelander crushed another guy’s head while having public sex with a Nazi. The Season 3 premiere took things even further by having an Ant-Man-inspired Supe crawl up his lover’s urethra, only to accidentally expand to full size while inside. (The results were horrifying.)

It’s understandable why the show keeps doing this sort of thing; every time it does, it’s rewarded with a wave of mostly positive (if bewildering) headlines. There’s also the novelty that comes with capitalizing on the show’s mature rating. The family-oriented MCU doesn’t get to explore how someone like Ant-Man would use his powers in the bedroom, so The boys can fill that gap.

But there’s always the risk of too much of something nasty happening, and season 4 has finally begun The boys in that area. This week’s episode, “Dirty Business,” features a storyline in which lead character Hughie (Jack Quaid) is tied up and sexually tortured for what must have been a good 30 minutes. The episode thankfully cuts away from the worst of it, but we see and hear enough to know that both of his tormentors — the returning Tek Knight (Derek Wilson) and Vought CEO Ashley (Colby Minifie) — are going to come at him at some point, and Hughie is not enjoying it.

The order is not technically an extended rape joke, since Hughie is in disguise. His tormentors think he’s a consenting BDSM-loving supe, someone with a pre-arranged safe word that he can use at any time. But in terms of how it ends, with the humor resting so much on Hughie’s fear and obvious discomfort, it’s still very much a rape joke. It fits easily into the ongoing pop culture trope of male characters being sexually assaulted for laughs, the kind of cheap, lazy approach to comedy you’d certainly hope for The boys would be above.

Why would the writers do this? What possessed them to devote so much of the episode to such an obnoxious, drawn-out sequence? The obvious answer is that they were trying to make a sequel to “Herogasm,” the Season 3 episode that featured a literal super orgy. That episode was pretty shocking, even by The boys standards, with giant stretched penises, flying dildos, octopus sex, and the germ-phobic MM getting splattered with a bucket of cum. It was a filthy, headline-grabbing episode, and also the most critically acclaimed of the season; it makes sense that The boys would like to market this final episode as a spiritual successor.

Laz Alonso.

But the real appeal of “Herogasm” was how the marketing functioned as a fun misdirection. The ads promised a bunch of over-the-top sexcapades, but the episode really only served to deliver some of the biggest moments of the entire show. A-Train apologized to Hughie and then killed Blue Hawk. Annie left the Seven and spoke out publicly about Soldier Boy and Homelander. Hughie and Annie seemed to have broken up. A revved-up Butcher fought Homelander directly for the first time, and he almost won. This was one of the most jam-packed, exciting episodes of the entire show, and it managed to be a surprise because of all the sexual bait and switch.

“Dirty Business,” meanwhile, doesn’t have a trick up its sleeve. There are a few nice plot developments in the rest of the episode, like Sister Sage’s ill-timed brain damage or A-Train’s continued alliance with The Boys, but it doesn’t amount to much. There’s nothing exciting enough to wash away the bad taste left over from poor Hughie being forced to sit bare-assed on a chocolate cake. The episode recalls many of the disgusting moments from “Herogasm,” including MM getting hit in the face with a supe’s bodily fluids once again, but this time around there’s nothing of substance surrounding the storyline.

The boys has always been crude for its own sake, but we’ve reached a point where the joke is starting to get old. The spark is gone, and all that’s left is the realization of how childish this kind of humor really is. Even worse is the growing suspicion that The boys is a strangely sex-negative show, one that intrinsically links every non-vanilla sexual act to utter depravity. It would be nice to see someone super kinky having sex in a way that does not do ruin someone’s life, or whatever is used as visual shorthand to portray the superior as evil.

Most disappointing, though, is the way “Dirty Business” shows just how aimless the show has been with Hughie’s material this season. Hughie was once the show’s main character, one with a satisfyingly straightforward arc from humble young man to hardened badass. Season 3 tried to turn things around with a storyline about Hughie trying to at difficult, at powerful at the cost of his humanity. It was messy and poorly handled, but at least it was something. It was a step up from Season 4’s approach, which was to just torture Hughie as much as possible. Just one episode after Hughie watched his father succumb to dementia and be euthanized, “Dirty Business” strapped Hughie into a sexual torture chamber. At this point, I don’t even want to know what the next episode is going to do with him.

Erin Moriarty.

The saving grace of “Dirty Business” is that Annie (Erin Moriarty) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) don’t laugh when they discover Hughie’s plight, as so many lesser shows would have them do. They take Hughie’s pain seriously and do everything they can to torment Tek Knight afterward, ostensibly to extract information but at least partly out of a desire for karmic payback. Tek Knight, whose deductive powers imply that he at one point (or at least suspected) that Hughie was not a consenting sexual partner, is punished by the story as severely as most of the other rapists in The boys or Generation V. Seeing Tek Knight close out the episode with a stranglehold on his servant’s hands isn’t enough to justify the entire story, but we’ll take what we can get.

“Dirty Business” should be a wake-up call for the show that something needs to change. You can only throw in so many disgusting sex scenes before the joke gets old, just like you can only torture Hughie for so long before fans wonder if you don’t know what to do with him. Like The boys is entering its fifth and final season, hopefully knowing we’ve had our fill of “Herogasm”-style episodes. Please don’t give us round three.

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