‘The Boys’ Boss Eric Kripke on the Season 2 Finale and What to Expect From Jensen Ackles in Season 3

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the second season of “The Boys,” now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

A major villain in the second season of “The Boys” has been neutralized, but a new one may have just been revealed.

At the end of the eight-episode season of Amazon Prime Video’s superhero and vigilante drama, Stormfront (Aya Cash), who had been revealed to be a member of the Nazi party now out to preach about white genocide in modern day, was burned to a crisp and had lost her limbs after Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) couldn’t control his powers and struck out when his mother was in peril. (Unfortunately, his lack of control meant his mother got hurt as well, and she ended up succumbing to her injuries.)

“That character is a legitimate Nazi who comes out of the Nazi party and who ages very slowly. And so that was the character I walked into the Season 2 writers’ room with. I felt, through that, we could say a lot of things I wanted to say about white nationalism and white supremacy, and really take aim,” creator and showrunner Eric Kripke tells Variety. “What we found was the modern face of hate — especially online and social media-driven hate — is actually quite attractive: It’s a lot of good-looking, young men and women who couch these really despicable notions in this branding of ‘We’re just free-thinkers’ and ‘We don’t fit in with the mainstream because we’re telling the truth.’ But it’s the same old s— that people have been pitching for thousands of years.”

In order to keep the appearance of control, Homelander (Antony Starr) gave a press conference in which he credited Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) for taking down Stormfront — who at first had been a welcome member of the elite superhero group known as the Seven before she was outed publicly as a Nazi.

Stormfront was obviously out of the Seven, which allowed A-Train (Jessie Usher) to finally be let back in, much to the Deep’s (Chace Crawford) disappointment, since there was only room for one. And the “attack on Washington,” during which members of Congress literally had their heads popped, was also blamed on Stormfront.

But in the final moments of the second season finale, the true perpetrator was revealed to be Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), who was a secret superhero.

Talk about blowing the audience’s mind! Or maybe not?

“We worked really hard on that character to really feel like she’s going to be an ally, but from the beginning we knew that she was the head-popper. Actually, if you watch Episode 1, they’re in the van after Raynor’s head pops, and they’re saying, “Who could do this?” and we cut to Victoria Neuman. So we’ve been dropping in clues from the beginning that it’s her,” Kripke says.

Here, Kripke talks with Variety about finding a way to finally take down Stormfront, Butcher’s (Karl Urban) reasoning behind how he handled Ryan, and what to expect from Soldier Boy in Season 3.

After revealing Victoria as the one decapitating people, how much of her ultimate plan do you already have set?

Having broken most of Season 3 I think we have a pretty good idea of where her story goes and why she’s doing what she’s doing. There are some reveals and twists and turns, and similarly to what we’ve done with a lot of other characters from the books, Vic Neuman was a man in the books and he ends up getting deeper and deeper into politics as the comics go on. It’s the frightening notion that there might be a supe heading deep into American politics, which is screwed up enough already. So we start to play Victoria in that way in Season 3.

There was a line in the finale mentioning she is basically going to be the czar of supes, keeping an eye on them, but she is one, so is she keeping an eye on them to see who might be an ally for her own plan?

We want people worrying about thinking about the danger Hughie is in: The poor guy is trying to fight the fight in a good way — in a legal way — and literally step one he finds himself working for a secret supe.

Season 3 will also introduce Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) to the show. Will he be the innocent of the comics or are you going to make him one of the more ruthless supes?

I think anyone expecting Jensen to show up and be a good guy, they will be disappointed. I’ll say that! [Laughs] In the comics he’s mostly just kind of bumbling and subservient to Homelander, I would say. As we’re writing him in this, we’re getting to really talk about the history of Vought because he’s like John Wayne: He’s one of these guys that’s been around for decades of Vought history. And he was Homelander before Homelander, so he’s from a different era, but he’s got the ego and the ambition — it just comes across in a different way because he’s from a different time.

Are you keeping his #MeToo story?

Oh with Homelander and him having sex?

Yes. My understanding was that he was tricked into it with Homelander in the comics, which is why I phrased that the way I did.

I don’t know — how about no comment.

It is still early, and it seems fair to expect secrets to be revealed about him as episodes go on next season. This year, Stormfront also had secrets revealed throughout the season — that she was a Nazi, but also that she was seemingly immortal as one of the first people to take Compound V. So how hard was it to come up with a way for characters to take her down?

It’s a slightly larger question because finales are really hard because you have to land the plane properly, and in this one especially there are so many storylines, and so figuring out exactly how we can weave these storylines together so they can all come together just when you need them to is a real discussion about weights and counter-weights and options — and still making sure we paid off all of the things we had to pay off. There were so many people in-line to want to kill Stormfront, so we had to explore all of them — Is it Kimiko? Is it Kimiko and Starlight; do they smash her so deep into the ground that she’s dead? What we kept coming back to was that we really needed to demonstrate how powerful Ryan was — and still have Starlight and Kimiko and Maeve get a certain visceral satisfaction with what they’re doing but have the final ending be really wrenching and emotional and personal. So we felt, going back to how we really opened the season, which was that it’s really about family and can they survive it? you just try things, and that felt like it really resonated the most.

Satisfying is a great way to describe the fight between Starlight, Kimiko and Maeve against Stormfront, but because the audience knew how powerful Stormfront was from watching bullets bounce off of her, many likely assumed they wouldn’t do real harm. What determined how long to let that scene go on, and was there anything left on the cutting room floor?

We used pretty much everything we shot. I think the bigger issues were more [about] it being the end of the season and we were running out of time [and] it was getting really cold in Toronto very, very fast. We were just scrambling to get things done, so at the end of the day I think we only had two days to shoot that fight — including blowing up the entire hut, the car rolling, all of the bits and pieces; it’s a lot to do in two days. So it was more like cramming 10 pounds of s— in a five pound bag.

There were also a lot of pieces — specifically emotional ones — to Butcher’s arc in the last episode. Walk us through his evolving-decision about what to do with Ryan, first making a deal with Stan (Giancarlo Esposito) to hand Ryan over to Vought, then admitting that to Becca (Shantel VanSanten), then giving Ryan to Grace (Laila Robins).

In our minds he really was going to turn the child over to Vought and separate him from Becca and use this arrangement to get rid of Ryan. He’s been so obsessed with Becca all year and he’s a rough character and he makes a lot of incredibly short-sighted and selfish decisions. And for us, there’s a big emotional arc of what we were building with him of, he realizes that his propensity towards violence proceeds Becca, and in Episode 7, it gives shape to the demon on his shoulder, which is his father and how so many of his bad habits came from this really traumatic childhood and this awful man. So now we know who is the angel and who is the devil on his shoulder: It’s Becca and his dad. And as you’re heading into Episode 8 and believing that all is lost because they blew up Congress, we mapped it out as the first half — or the majority — of that episode, he’s his father and he’s going to sell out this child to get the thing that he wants, which is his wife. And then the moment when they actually rescue the kid and he sees Becca holding Ryan, it’s like for the first moment he doesn’t see the child as much as Homelander’s kid as he does see him as Becca’s kid. And once that clicks into place for him, he’s able to turn his back on the man that his father was, and is actually trying to be a better man. He says to Becca, “You’ve got to leave because I can’t be the one raising this kid; he’s going to turn out like me” — which means he’s going to turn out like my father. And at the very end, after Becca dies, Butcher picks up that crowbar, and he was really thinking for a minute that he was going to kill that kid. But then Homelander comes, and [Butcher] ends up protecting the kid as was Becca’s last wish. So you see that at least for now — and even though it’s at great cost — humanity wins out for Butcher this season.

If he made the right decision, can the same be said about Maeve? After all, by staying silent about bad behavior can allow the abuser to continue; what is her obligation to the larger world that they’ve sworn to protect and did you draw from any real-world inspirations for this part of the story?

For us this is actually something that is inspired by the actual comics because in the comics the Boys actually end up getting some really damning blackmail material on Homelander — he’s killing a bunch of people, graphically, and for us, it’s the plane. But the notion was actually, frankly, a very practical one, which was we were just trying to create some kind of restriction on Homelander so we can create some kind of equilibrium so he doesn’t automatically kill everyone. Because that’s what he was about to do and you can’t write a season when you have an all-powerful character. We needed something that ties a hand behind his back, and this did it. Now, I don’t think it’s that easy, for the record, for Maeve to just release this so the world knows what a bad guy he is. He says in the moment, “If you do that I’ll destroy everything,” so it’s a very nuclear option of “I have this thing over you and if things get bad enough I’m going to release it and it will probably result in the death of thousands.” But we play a lot of that question in Season 3 of, “Are we really going to show the world this thing, with the consequences it might cause?” I think Maeve was reasonable; I think it’s pretty reckless to release that tape.

There are definitely moments in the finale that seem to directly respond to our world, from the PSA where teachers are armed to Homelander’s press conference of “We’re here to serve and protect you” when the audience knows the supes need reform the way the real world is calling for police reform. But is there a line you don’t want to cross or topics you don’t want to touch?

No. I think we’re living in an incredibly fraught time for a million reasons; I think we stumbled onto this show that happens to be a pretty apt metaphor for the exact moment we’re living in. I feel like it’s one of the best qualities of the show — that it can dive as deep as possible into whatever element of society that is really happening. Seth Rogen said something when we were shooting the pilot that I really took to heart, which was, “You can have all kinds of crazy and upsetting s—, as long as the audience knows that your heart is in the right place.” And so we spend a lot of time asking ourselves, for instance, “Are we punching up at authority figures and people who need to be knocked down a peg, or are we punching down at people who are already suffering?” And if it turns out we’re punching down, we don’t do it because we want to be a show that’s about questioning authority.

I think there’s a lot of hope in this show, but there’s a part of this show where, as the writers, we’re a little angry. I’m angry at the lack of action about school shootings! And we poured all that into the acidic dark humor of that opening. Or if you look at Stan Edgar’s whole season plan, which was revealed in this, and was like corporations who were willing to let loose Trump because it served their bottom line, ultimately. And so, you’re willing to unleash a really dangerous, divisive force in society because ultimately that will help your stock prices. The whole season mythology at the end of the day — the whole season plot — is founded on something that is all-too real.