The Boys Season 4 May Feature A Connection To A Real-Life CIA Controversy

Oi! Did you hear that the fourth season of "The Boys" is officially in production? If not, then congratulations; everyone's favorite anti-superhero television show will be back for a new season, and it could come sooner than you think. With production on both the main series and its college-based spinoff, "Gen V," underway, "Boys" showrunner Eric Kripke revealed the title for the fourth season premiere in a Twitter post.

Simply captioned "Day One," the tweet revealed that the premiere is being handled by two mainstays of the series; it was written by season 3 writer and producer David Reed, while also being directed by "The Only Man in the Sky" helmer Phil Sgriccia. However, what many fans might find intriguing is the season 4 premiere's title, "Department of Dirty Tricks." If you think you've heard that name before, it's probably because you know a thing or two about government conspiracies. That title could be a nod to one of the U.S. government's dirtiest secrets, something we know "The Boys" loves to skewer.

The original Dirty Tricks explained

If you want to research this part of the history of the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, then prepare to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole. However, we'll do our best to keep things as simple as possible.

The term "dirty tricks" can often be attributed to less-than-ideal tactics used by the CIA to ensure the outcomes the organization wanted. This term and its affiliation with the CIA can be traced back to World War II, when the CIA was known as the Office of Strategic Services. During the days of the OSS, a small group of scientists headed up by Stanley Lovell were tasked with inventing numerous different weapons, big and small, that could help incapacitate Axis forces in any way. According to The Atlantic, these dirty tricks included "shoes and buttons and batteries with secret cavities to conceal documents" and "a vial of caustic liquid" that "would evaporate, turning into mustard gas and frying...corneas" within 20 minutes of dispensing.

However, perhaps the most infamous experiment conducted by the OSS centered around whether they could extract critical information through drugs. According to the Science History Institute, the OSS tested a combination of an odorless extract called TD and marijuana to see if they could create "a truth drug to interrogate prisoners of war." While these experiments would prove unsuccessful, they planted the seeds for one of the most controversial CIA experiments ever declassified.

An important debriefing

If the idea of a truth drug made by American scientists sounds familiar to you, it's because that's what the infamous MK-Ultra experiments entailed. For the uninitiated, MK-Ultra, which was headed by CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb, was the codename given to experiments that toyed with the idea that the newly-formed CIA could achieve mind control.

Former Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner said in a 1977 statement that the organization acknowledged the existence of these programs, but that "drugs and hypnosis" were the worst of the abuses. However, it has since been revealed that the experiments, which involved both volunteers and unwilling participants, often involved much more severe abuse from the hands of Gottlieb and his subordinates.

"[He] was allowed to requisition human subjects across the United States and around the world and subject them to any kind of abuse that he wanted, even up to the level of it being fatal," journalist Stephen Kinzer told NPR in an interview, "yet nobody looked over his shoulder."

While these experiments were considered by Kinzer to be a spiritual successor to the OSS' truth drug experiments during World War II, they were not the only experiments that influenced MKUltra. In his NPR interview, Kinzer also cited Nazi concentration camps and their experiments with mescaline as an important inspiration for the CIA. Further solidifying these inspirations was the fact that the CIA secretly recruited Nazi scientists after World War II via Operation Paperclip

The ultimate fallout

Unfortunately for Gottlieb and the CIA, MKUltra did not produce the results that they were looking for. Mind control was not possible, and instead of owning up to the trail of carnage these experiments caused, everyone involved just moved on with their lives. In 1973, DCI Richard Helms ordered all documents proving MKUltra's existence to be officially destroyed. If this decision was anything to go by, then Helms was far from a reluctant participant in the CIA's dirtier tricks – The Atlantic reports that his legacy includes plotting the assassinations of political enemies such as Fidel Castro.

While Gottlieb transitioned into a weapons inventor for the CIA, 1973 did not mark the end of MKUltra's existence. According to Turner during a Joint Hearing from 1977, around 20,000 pages of the original documents survived Helms' purge. The surviving pages were primarily financial information, but they did shed light on the idea that MKUltra was far more sinister than people were led to believe. In fact, they spread across numerous American institutions, and that those conducting the experiments were not qualified to do so.

"Over 30 universities and institutions were involved in an 'extensive testing and experimentation' program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens 'at all social levels,'" said Senator Ted Kennedy at the 1977 hearing. "Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to 'unwitting subjects in social situations.'"

MKUltra in pop culture, and how it could influence The Boys

It's unlikely that the true damage caused by MKUltra will ever be revealed. However, its legacy persists as a dark reminder of the lengths government institutions can go to achieve their goals. Perhaps the shadiness and the lack of actual information regarding the abuses endured by subjects is why it has continued to be affiliated with popular media. News of its uncovering saw comparisons to the 1962 film "The Manchurian Candidate," with the 2004 remake leaning more specifically into ideas affiliated with the experiments. "Stranger Things" also uses MKUltra as a pivotal plot point, as it is the reason why main character Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has supernatural abilities.

As far as "The Boys" is concerned, it wouldn't be surprising if the show utilizes MKUltra in some way, as skewering the U.S. government and all of its faults is the show's bread and butter. Perhaps now that Homelander ally Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) is vying for the vice presidency, more experiments with Compound V will be completely funded by the government. Will these create new, more dangerous types of supes? Is this a new strain of Compound V that has psychological effects? This probably won't be clear until season 4 of "The Boys" premieres, which likely won't be until sometime in 2023.