The Boys third season has featured exploding genitalia and the most terrifying version of Homelander yet. It’s also lost its soul to V24 and filmed the dumbest commercial ever made. But the explosive fifth episode added even more chaos and problems. It had unlikely partnerships, painful betrayals, racist attacks, super powered assassinations, and more. What does all that mayhem mean for our favorite group of supe-hunting vigilantes going forward? To find out we talked to The Boys‘ showrunner Eric Kripke about powerful men, addressing real world issues, The Legend’s inspiration, and why he thinks the series is actually hopeful.
And yes, we asked about that Seth Rogen…moment. Turns out he was literally the only person for the job.
Nerdist: Homelander’s realization he doesn’t want Stan Edgar’s job any more than he wants insincere sycophants sucking up to him felt very reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s famous episode “It’s a Good Life.” Was that an intentional reference? Or is he just so dangerous right now I can’t help but think about an all-powerful sociopath sending innocent people to a nebulous cornfield?
Eric Kripke: (laughter) We talked about him being a young Bill Mumy in that episode a lot, actually. Not just necessarily episode five, but overall, of how terrified people would be around this all-powerful toddler. His needs are so capricious and infantile. And yet Homelander, by a mile, is the weakest character on the show. But he has all of this physical strength that really threatens everybody. So I think it’s an understatement to say they walk on eggshells around him.
In the moment, Butcher and Maeve’s sex scene felt like it could have gone either way. He was very close to rejecting her, but what was it about both of them that made you decide their own self-loathing would overcome his contempt for her?
EK: It’s interesting, the notion of Butcher having sex with a Supe. If you look at Supes as their own race of people, Butcher’s racist and he just objects to their very existence. And I think what it shows is his own moral lines—which are absolute and too extreme and pretty awful actually—are blurring in terms of how he views himself. Because he’s taken V24 now and has had powers, and has, in his mind, degraded himself. So at that point it seems like he’s not on such a high horse when it comes to having sex with another Supe.
As the show often does, Blue Hawk’s unprovoked, racist attack takes on police brutality without any ambiguity. Why is it important to explicitly address these issues by name rather than with subtext or analogy?
EK: I think it might be a touch less elegant than previous seasons, but I would say society is too. And I give the rule in the writer’s room, “Let’s write what we’re angry about or frightened of and let’s address it.” I think just the super suits and the supefying adds a level of absurdity and distance. Obviously we’re hitting it pretty directly, but it’s with these super-powered characters and they’re being ridiculous and they’re acting in these absurd ways. I think that provides just enough separation that hopefully people can look at it in a different way.
There was a much less obvious moment of social critique at the end of the Blue Hawk sequence, when the news immediately reported out his lies as fact. Combined with Cameron Coleman’s role this season, is there any institution people in the world of The Boys can rely on?
EK: I think people can rely on each other. I think that in the show we tend to focus on VNN as a fill-in for Fox News just blasting propaganda 24/7. We do have another news channel that we consider our more objective one, NNC. I don’t know if it’s CNN or what it is, but it’s what we use whenever we need an outside perspective. So there are more balanced news organizations in our world. But people generally don’t listen to them because they’re not entertaining and aren’t making them furious and getting people addicted to feeling angry.
We’re just trying to reflect what’s really happening in the world. I would say how many trustworthy institutions are there in The Boys? About as many as there are in our world, which is to say not that many. No one’s coming to save us. We have to look out for each other and save ourselves.
Was Paul Riser’s delightful, scene-chewing Legend an ode to legendary producer Robert Evans?
EK: You hit the nail on the head. In the comics Garth (Ennis) very definitively based The Legend on Stan Lee, and that was because Garth was living in a comic book world. The comic books were the huge media in that universe, so it makes sense that Stan Lee was the head of that. But in our world, movies and television are the primary source of superhero media. When you think of a producer from the ‘70s and ‘80s you land on Robert Evans pretty quickly. Paul and I spoke about it and it was a very conscious tribute to Robert Evans.
Will we see more of The Legend?
EK: Yes we will. We’ll see more of him this season. I love that character. Talk about a character that is just a blast to write. He’s just so fun that I want more of The Legend.
Who, and feel free to name the guilty party, is responsible for making the world watch that Seth Rogan scene?
EK: (laughter) Me. I deserve the blame for that. There was “as scripted by Ellie Monahan”, so it’s her fault too. But “as scripted by Ellie Monahan,” we wanted Crimson Countess basically to have an OnlyFans page to sort of show how she’s continually falling on hard times after she lost her job, presumably, and bought land after blowing up the plushy Soldier Boy. So it was about that, and at first we weren’t going to hear anyone on the other side. Or we weren’t going to see anyone on the other side.
But then I started saying we should see someone and it should be a huge cameo, like the biggest we can get. We started looking and we kept going through this long list of very, very big names. And for some reason, no one wants to masturbate and orgasm on camera when they’re a big marquee star. I don’t know why (laughter), but we just got a lot of nos. And with each no we got, I kept emailing Seth saying, “You might have to suit up for this.”
He said, “Well, keep going through your list.” He had just jerked off in Pam & Tommy and wasn’t necessarily looking to do it again. Finally, I was like, “I got one more name and then I’m out, and then it’s you brother.” Sure enough, that name passed. So I sent him in another note, “You got to get off the bench. We need you in the game.” To his credit he suited up. We shot it in his offices in Los Angeles. It was the very last thing we shot for season three. It was shot months after we’d finished the other production and he f***ing rocked it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Seth Rogan’s pretty funny. His performance just blows me away. It’s just so funny.
With Hughie’s V-24 addiction destroying his soul and Butcher partnering with the original Homelander, Soldier Boy, the boys are coming apart. Can the group survive this schism, especially when MM and Starlight feel betrayed? Or was it always destined to blow up again?
EK: I think that’s a big question moving forward. Not just into this season, but in season four. Can that group come together again? Can they overcome their hurt? You know, can they forgive or let go of their anger? I don’t think it’s easy and I don’t think it’s quick, but I think it’ll be one of the concerns of this story moving forward.
The big musical number was not only fun, it followed this really beautiful moment for Kimiko. And yet, I had a pit in my stomach the whole time, because I was afraid someone would die at the end of it. I didn’t trust a moment of pure joy to last. Is it possible for anyone within this world, or even for us viewers, to feel happiness for more than a brief moment?
EK: Yeah, I think it’s very possible. It’s a long story and it’s not over yet.
It’s funny, clearly something’s wrong with me, because I look at the story and I see purity and almost old fashioned hope everywhere. And nobody else seems to see it. Garth sees it. He’s like, “It’s so hopeful.” And I’m like, “I know! Why doesn’t everyone see it?”
Well, in fairness, you did have Homelander brutally murder hope last week on a rooftop.
EK: Well, it’s all about where Starlight can rely for her power. All of these things are very carefully and morally laid out. It’s a very moral universe. It’s actually quite a clockwork universe they live in. You could actually run a math equation of when a character makes the right choice, something generally good happens to them. And when a character makes the wrong choice, they generally hit a dead end or an obstacle.
And for Starlight, she’s got to claim her own power. She can’t rely on other people, she has to rely on herself and she can’t rely on Stan Edgar and she can’t rely on Supersonic. And ultimately she can’t rely on Hughie. But once she finally accepts that it’s up to her and she has to define her own power on her own terms, you’ll see. She starts wrapping up win after win after win. And every character, when they start making the right or wrong decisions in this show, they start scoring wins or losses. So, believe it or not, it’s a carefully ordered moral universe where the right moral choices lead to positive outcomes.
Then the show is optimistic, because I’m not sure that always applies to our world.
EK: No, exactly right. Our world, unfortunately, isn’t clockwork created by a writer’s room. Sadly.
In this episode, Maeve tells Homelander she never loved him and always hated him. Crimson Countess does the same with Soldier Boy. Do you think it’s possible to have that much power and not have people hate you? Or are those two moments reflections on those men and those men alone?
EK: I think it’s possible to wield power in a conscious and productive way. I think both of those guys, and the similarity between those scenes, are intended to show they’re so blinded by their ego that they feel like any love they put out in the world should be reciprocated. Because it’s inherently selfish, not at all stopping to pay attention, to see how the other person might feel about it. And lots of people in power have that position. But it’s sort of like what Butcher says in episode five, which is really a load bearing theme for us, which is “power doesn’t change or corrupt you, it reveals the thing that you already are”.
If you’re already broken inside and already cruel and capricious, you just have never had the freedom to express it. That’s why so many people, once they get power, just become huge assholes. They were always assholes, it was just social structure did not allow them the freedom to act that way. Conversely, there are people who are always humble and sensitive and have empathy for other people. Then, when they’re given power, they can express something in a more positive way.
So it just depends. Power isn’t so much a thing that alters you as it gives you freedom to act the way you’ve always wanted to act.
Episode six is “Herogasm.” How would you describe what we’re going to see? Is it going to be the most absurd episode of The Boys yet?
EK: I don’t know how you get more absurd than an exploding penis in the first 11 minutes of your season. It’s a real ride is what I will say. It’s definitely sustained insanity once they arrive at Herogasm and you’re definitely going to see things you’ve never seen before. Probably for good reason.
But it’s also a really emotional episode, and it’s also huge plot moves and huge confrontations that we’ve been waiting for. In many ways, even though there are more episodes to go after, it has the feeling of that finale of forces crashing into each other. I felt like, “Look, if we’re going to do Herogasm, we can’t do Herogasm. We have to have Herogasm have so much weight to the story that it justifies us going to an orgy.”
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.