According to Eric Kripke, showrunner of Prime Video’s stylish superhero satire The Boys, the show’s writing staff never goes into a given episode or season with the intention of upping the violent ante.
“We genuinely don’t have conversations about trying to top ourselves,” Kripke tells Den of Geek during the show’s appearance at SXSW 2022. “I think it’s dangerous because if you’re working to go bigger and bigger it’s an unsustainable pattern. Eighty percent of the conversation in the room is ‘how do we go deeper with the characters and how do we put them through existential crises?.’”
There’s no reason to doubt Kripke and the writers’ room sincerity. Commitment to character development plays a role in any show’s appeal, but particularly The Boys. Adapted from an equally violent comic of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, The Boys is one of Prime Video’s biggest success stories. Through two seasons the stories of the Vought Corporation’s “supes” and the underground faction known as “The Boys” who keeps them in check has been a major cultural and critical hit.
Still…even though Kripke is adamant that character comes first, he can’t help but reveal that for the show’s upcoming third season, set to premiere on June 3, there is plenty of madness to be had as well.
“The very first 15 minutes of episode 1 is by far the craziest thing we’ve ever done…like, by a mile. It’s a weird almost James Bond kind of opening. It’s its own adventure before you start the season. The hard stuff is figuring out the arcs. The fun stuff is figuring out the exploding bodies.”
Simply put: viewers crave exploding bodies and blood. And The Boys season 3 is going to be more than happy to provide all that gore…if it can keep up with the demand. An anecdote from Mother’s Milk actor Laz Alonso illustrates a peculiar supply chain problem.
“I do remember during episode 3 hearing the head of the makeup department talking to one of her girlfriends about ordering more blood. (She said) that they had already gone through more blood by episode 3 than they had through the entire season 2.”
In some ways, escalation is baked into The Boys’ very DNA. Though the comic first premiered in October 2006, the adapted TV version is an intensely modern product. No series right now understands the relationship between consumers and the superhero properties they demand to consume better than The Boys. The show’s world, as depicted throughout the first two seasons and several ingenious augmented reality marketing efforts from Amazon, is distinctly familiar. The public’s love for its pseudo-fascist crimefighters is mostly the same, it’s just that in The Boys’ universe, the supes aren’t confined to our screens.
Just as our superhero landscape must constantly grow bigger with new team-up movies, ponderous TV side projects, and all manner of merchandising, so too must The Boys’ world. The Boys season 2 delved into the past of superhero history with the introduction of Stormfront (Aya Cash). Now season 3 is set to dig even further back by presenting the show’s very first supe: Soldier Boy.
As played by Jensen Ackles (who previously collaborated with Kripke on Supernatural), Soldier Boy is sort of The Boys’ answer to Captain America – an image of an archaic patriot suddenly brought back to an unfamiliar modern world.
“He’s kind of the original superhero in this world,” Ackles says. “We did get to see a little glimpse into that past. Bringing in someone who has experienced that world into the modern age – you can only imagine. It was really fun to play an old man. The beard was tough though.”
Ackles will be joined in the cast by Soldier Boy’s fellow 1940s “Payback” team members Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden) and Gunpowder (Sean Patrick Flanery). Before the show can further delve into the story of Payback, however, there are some lingering issues from its core cast to address early on.
Hughie (Jack Quaid) is now working with Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), who unbeknownst to Hughie is a secret brain-splattering supe. Fellow Boys teammates Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) and Frenchie (Tomer Capon) are still working through their sweet courtship, with Frenchie finally getting a full handle on American Sign Language to better communicate with his silent superpowered friend. There will also be some dancing much to Fukuhara’s surprise.
“I’m most excited for everyone to see Kimiko’s dance sequence with Frenchie,” she says. “There was a tiny bit of it in the trailer. You know I never expected to be able to do something like that ever in life. And I got to do it in a show playing a character that doesn’t speak.”
On The Seven side of things, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) will have to recover from their titanic battle against Homelander and Stormfront. The Deep (Chace Crawford) is still stuck in his Church of the Collective purgatory, while A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) is on his way back into the Seven good graces. Homelander (Antony Starr), for his part, will likely be more adrift than ever, having lost what he seemed to perversely see as his family, with his “wife” Becca dead and their son Ryan set to call Billy Butcher papa. As for how that might go, Butcher actor Karl Urban is cautiously optimistic about Butcher’s parenting chops.
“At the end of the season he made a promise to Becca that he would look out for Ryan. He finds himself torn between two worlds. One to fulfill that promise. The other, trying to get justice/revenge for her death and what happened to her. It’s that moral, inner turmoil battle that he struggles with. It’s a lot of fun.”
Of course, in a universe where all that separates superheroes from normal civilians is a pharmaceutical compound, the divide between the two factions can grow quite thin. We see as much in the revealing teaser for season 3 that features Butcher shooting lasers out of his eyes and throwing people across the room (and puking too, but who knows if that’s a superpower). In the original comic series, The Boys were known to consume some Compound V every once in a while to better take down a supe. It would appear that Butcher has done the same here.
“We decided to go full Bill Bixby. Great Incredible Hulk moment,” Urban says of a powered-up Butcher. “To me the interesting character element about that is ‘how far are you willing to go to achieve your goal?’ To destroy the thing you hate the most are you willing to become that thing? To me that’s a very interesting existential question. All of the characters in the Boys have choices to make.”
Not only does every character on The Boys have a choice to make but so do the folks behind the scenes as well. For, while honoring the characters is the first priority for Kripke and company, they also did inherit some truly wild moments from their source material. One of which, the iconic and disgusting “Herogasm” arc, has been confirmed to take place in the back half of season 3.
“We definitely did it as a dare,” Kripke says. “From the moment people heard we were making The Boys, people would say over and over again ‘but you’re not gonna do Herogasm. I dare you to do Herogasm.’ Part of it was that we were in season 3, we were a hit, Amazon could say ‘no’ to us less and less. So finally we were like ‘Alright, let’s do it. Let’s fucking do it.’”
But don’t think for a moment that even a superhero orgy is an indulgence.
“It all comes from this very logical place of ‘if there really was a superhero orgy what would it look like?’ How would you depict it in the most honest way possible,” Kripke says. “Because we’re all about integrity here. We’re just telling the truth, man.”
The first three episodes of The Boys season 3 premieres June 3 on Prime Video.