‘The Boys’ Tasteless ‘Dirty Business’ Sex Scene Just Ruined the Show

One of The Boys’ biggest claims to fame is just how sick and twisted it’s willing to be, especially when it comes to sex. In Season 1, a female supe accidentally exploded a dude’s head with her vagina while he was going down 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 dialed things up even further by having an Ant-Man-inspired supe crawl inside his lover’s urethra, only to accidentally expand to normal size while he was up in there. (The result was horrifying.)

It’s understandable why the show keeps doing stuff like this; each time it does, it is rewarded with a wave of mostly positive (if bewildered) headlines. There’s also the novelty that comes with taking advantage of the show’s adult rating. The family-oriented MCU is not allowed to explore how someone like Ant-Man would use his powers in the bedroom, so The Boys is able to fill that gap.

But there’s always the risk of having too much of a gross thing, and Season 4 has finally taken The Boys into that territory. This week’s episode, “Dirty Business,” features a storyline where main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) is tied down and sexually tortured for what must’ve been at least 30 minutes. The episode mercifully cuts away from the worst of it, but we see and hear enough to know that both his tormentors—the returning Tek Knight (Derek Wilson) and Vought CEO Ashley (Colby Minifie)—come on him at some point, and Hughie doesn’t enjoy any of it.

The sequence is not technically an extended rape joke, as Hughie is in disguise. His tormenters think he’s a consenting BDSM-loving supe, someone with an agreed-upon safeword he could use at any moment. But in terms of how it plays out, with the humor resting so much on Hughie’s terror and his obvious discomfort, it’s basically still a rape joke. It fits comfortably along the ongoing pop culture list of male characters being sexually assaulted for the laughs, the sort of cheap, lazy approach to comedy you’d certainly hope The Boys would be above.

Why would the writers do this? What would possess them to dedicate so much of the episode to such an unpleasant, dragged-out sequence? The obvious answer is that they were attempting to do a follow-up to “Herogasm,” the Season 3 episode that revolved around a literal supe orgy. That episode was pretty shocking even by The Boys’ standards, with giant stretched-out penises, flying dildos, octopus sex, and with the germaphobic MM being splashed with a bucketload of semen. It was a nasty, headline-grabbing episode, and also the most critically acclaimed installment of the season; it makes sense that The Boys would want to market this latest episode as its spiritual successor.

Laz Alonso.

But the real appeal of “Herogasm” was how the marketing served as a fun misdirection. The ads promised a bunch of over-the-top sexcapades, but the episode was really all about giving us some of the most important moments in the entire show. A-Train apologized to Hughie, then killed Blue Hawk. Annie quit the Seven and went public about Soldier Boy and Homelander. Hughie and Annie seemingly broke up. A suped-up Butcher fought Homelander directly for the first time ever, and he nearly won. This was one of the most jam-packed, exciting episodes in the entire show, and it managed to be a surprise because of all the sexual bait and switch.

“Dirty Business,” meanwhile, has no such trick up its sleeve. There are a few fun plot developments throughout the rest of the episode, like Sister Sage’s ill-timed brain damage or A-Train’s continued alliance with The Boys, but it’s not much. There’s nothing exciting enough to wash out the bad taste that’s left from poor Hughie being forced to sit bare-ass on a chocolate cake. The episode echoes a lot of the gross-out moments from “Herogasm,” including MM once again being hit in the face by a supe’s bodily fluids, but this time there’s nothing of substance surrounding the storyline.

The Boys has always been gross for grossness’ sake, but we’ve reached a point where the joke is getting old. The spark is gone, and all that’s left is the realization of how childish this type of humor really is. Even worse is the growing suspicion that The Boys is an oddly sex-negative show, one that has intrinsically linked every non-vanilla sex act to utter depravity. Just once it’d be nice to see a supe have kinky sex in a way that doesn’t ruin someone’s life, or which isn’t used as visual shorthand to establish the supe as evil.

Most disappointing, however, is the way “Dirty Business” establishes how aimless the show’s been with Hughie’s material this season. Hughie was once the show’s main character, someone with a satisfying, straightforward arc of going from a meek young man to a hardened badass. Season 3 tried to switch things up with a storyline about Hughie trying to be too hard, too powerful at the expense 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 is to simply torture Hughie as much as possible. Just one episode after Hughie watched his father succumb to dementia and need to be euthanized, “Dirty Business” has Hughie tied down in a sexual torture chamber. At this rate, I don’t even want to know what the next episode’s gonna do to 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 predicament, as so many lesser shows would have them do. They treat Hughie’s pain seriously, going out of their way to torment Tek Knight afterward, allegedly to obtain information but at least partly out of a desire for some karmic comeuppance. Tek Knight, whose powers of deduction imply that he figured out at some point (or at least suspected) that Hughie was not a consenting sexual partner, is punished just as severely by the narrative as most of the other rapists in The Boys or Gen V. Watching Tek Knight end the episode being strangled by his servant isn’t enough to justify the whole storyline, but we’ll take what we can get.

“Dirty Business” should be a wake-up call to the show that something needs to change. You can only throw in so many gross-out sex scenes before the joke finally gets old, just as you can only torture Hughie for so long before fans wonder if you don’t know what to do with him. As The Boys heads into its fifth and final season, hopefully it knows we’ve gotten our fill of “Herogasm”-style episodes. Please, for the love of god, don’t give us a round three.

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