SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Payback,” “The Only Man in the Sky” and “Barbary Coast,” the three episodes that are part of the June 3 launch of “The Boys” Season 3.
After hating all super-powered people throughout the first two seasons of “The Boys,” Butcher (Karl Urban) has now become the exact thing he’s despised — at least, for 24 hours at a time. Thanks to Temp V, a brand new Vought serum he’s gotten his hands on, Butcher can now withstand gunshots and shoot lasers from his eyes, which an NRA-obsessed supe named Gunpowder learns the hard way.
On his Season 3 mission to kill Homelander (Antony Starr), Butcher decides to level the playing field a bit by taking Temp V, which makes him super-strong and near-invincible. He and The Boys are also in search of Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), a powerful supe who’s been presumed dead for decades. Butcher tracks down Gunpowder, who used to be Solder Boy’s sidekick and punching bag on their superhero team Payback. After failing to blackmail Gunpowder in the men’s bathroom and getting shot at in a parking garage, Butcher takes his interrogation tactics to the next level with his Temp V powers. He confronts Gunpowder again, this time learning that Soldier Boy’s death was faked and that he and Payback were deployed in the Nicaraguan Revolution on behalf of Grace Mallory (Laila Robins) and the CIA.
After the successful interrogation, Butcher lasers Gunpowder’s face off in a very Homelander-esque move. As the two characters brace for an inevitable showdown, the parallels between Butcher’s and Homelander’s powers were intentional, according to “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke.
“All the powers on our show are ultimately metaphors,” Kripke told Variety. “When it came time to give Butcher powers, that still held. The discussion was, ‘What is going on inside Butcher and then how do we come up with a power that dramatizes that?’ For Butcher, he is turning into the thing he hates most in the world. He hates it and loves it, in equal measure. That was where we got to laser eyes, because laser eyes is a real Homelander thing. But if you notice, visually and in the way Karl performs it, it’s painful. It’s a different, self-punishing, self-flagellating power. The beams are really rough and they’re smoking because they’re burning his eyes as it’s happening. It’s a natural extension of his inner rage and his inner hatred, both toward Homelander and toward himself.”
Here, Urban explains to Variety how Butcher’s new abilities and how will affect him during the rest of “The Boys” Season 3.
How did it feel to finally get super powers?
It felt a little bit ridiculous, to tell you the truth. The reality is, you’re standing on set and you’re doing your best to give a laser stare, but there’s no lasers coming out, obviously. So you just hope the special effects department will come and save your ass, which they do. We’re so blessed, they did an amazing job on the special effects this season.
Did Antony Starr or anyone who plays a supe pass down any tips on how to pretend like you have powers?
No, nobody was forthcoming about that. I just remember having conversations about the nature of Butcher’s super abilities with Kripke. We wanted to do something that would differentiate his from others that we had seen. What we really stumbled upon was the fact that it would cause Butcher an immense amount of pain. To actually have lasers shooting out of your eyeballs, it was a double edged sword. It came at a high cost to use these super powers for Butcher. He pays a high price for it. I think that is very in line with Kripke’s motto of “You make the right choice, you get rewarded. You make the wrong choice and you get punished.”
Were there other ideas for Butcher’s powers that weren’t used?
No, I just really love the whole morale dilemma of Butcher having superpowers. He’s a character who absolutely despises supes and is forced to turn himself into the thing he despises the most in order to defeat that very thing. It examines the cost of that, not only to Butcher, but to all of those around him, and seeing how everybody has to make a choice, in terms of how far they’re willing to go.
What was it like shooting that heartbreaking scene where Ryan tells Butcher that he hates him?
I love working with Cameron [Crovetti], he’s an amazingly talented, fine young actor. I really enjoy all of my scenes with him of Butcher trying to be some sort of parental figure. He has a genuine bond with this kid and we see him struggling, trying to be a parent. We come to realize he’s ill equipped to actually be that and ultimately working through the tragedy of what occurred, which is as much Butcher realizing he is probably the worst thing that this kid could have in his life.
The Vought NRA scene with Gunpowder hit much closer to home after the recent shootings in the U.S. It doesn’t seem that far off from where we are currently.
That’s one of the things that Kripke and the writers are pretty adept at doing. This show does have an element of satire, and they have often managed to somehow tap into the zeitgeist of what is happening in current culture and pop culture. Certainly this is a look at the gun culture with that character. I had a lot of fun working with Sean Patrick Flannery. One of my favorite scenes of the season was Butcher’s attempt to bribe Gunpowder at the convention, primarily because Butcher gets to pretend he’s a rabid fan and then proceeds to try and blackmail him, which doesn’t work too well.
Jenny Maas contributed to this story.