Here’s a riddle for all “The Boys” fans eagerly anticipating Friday’s drop of the third season: What’s bigger than a whale? Whatever craziness happens in the opening quarter-hour of the Season 3 premiere of the Emmy-nominated Amazon Prime Video superhero series.
“There’s something that, conservatively speaking, is a thousand times crazier than the whale. And that’s just science,” “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke tells Variety. “It’s in the first 15 minutes of the first episode, so we open with a real bang.”
To refresh the memories of/re-traumatize “The Boys” viewers, the third episode of Season 2, which was released as part of the premiere batch of episodes on Sept. 4, 2020, featured Butcher (Karl Urban) smashing a motorboat filled with Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) into a whale. Because no sea creatures were harmed in the making of the show, Kripke and co. resorted to building a 50-foot-long, 11-foot-tall whale, which was anatomically accurate for authenticity’s sake. And that is somehow tamer than whatever “The Boys” has coming at you in its third season debut.
“It’s a pretty in-your-face kind of moment,” Urban said. “It’s going to be pretty difficult for you to miss, and once you’ve seen, you will never be able to unsee it.”
Kripke calls it “not just the craziest thing” that “The Boys,” which received six Emmy nominations for its second season, including best drama series and a writing nod, has done, but “the craziest thing anyone’s done.” “And for as much as I’m overselling it right now, every person who has been oversold on it, watches it and says, ‘Oh, my God, you were right,’ with sort of a thousand-yard stare. So I think it’s going to be pretty crazy. And that’s even before we get to ‘Herogasm.’”
The raunchy episode Kripke is referencing is based on the limited-run comic of the same name from the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson-created “The Boys” comic book series, which features the Boys crashing an annual party for Vought-sponsored superheroes during which supes like Homelander (Antony Starr) do some truly depraved things. More depraved than what we’ve already seen them do on “The Boys,” according to Kripke.
“The storyline is a massive superhero orgy, so if you can’t do it right, don’t do it. And I feel like we really, really did it right,” he said.
When asked if there was anything that was shot on the “Herogasm” episode that is something an intimacy coordinator has never seen before, Kripke said: “I would say all of it? Every single thing.”
“The poor crew who had to film that, it was like a five or six-day sequence, they would come out of that house smoking cigarettes like they’re Martin Sheen in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ like they’ve just seen some shit,” he added. “I think the audience will reap the benefits of all of that insanity.”
And that’s far from all the crazy you’re going to get in the third season of “The Boys,” which will see Butcher, who is reeling from the bloody death of his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) at the well-meaning hands her supe son Ryan, born of Becca’s rape by Homelander. Promo materials have shown Butcher’s eyes glowing in the supe fashion, teashing him becoming what he and his Boys have spent seasons fighting in a shot at revenge against Homelander and Vought.
“The story poses the moral dilemma, how far are you willing to go to achieve what you want to achieve?” Urban said. “Are you willing to become the monster, in order to defeat the monster? And every character gets faced with that choice this season. And that leads to some unlikely partnerships, some conflict between friends and family. And ultimately, sends the season off on a funny, shocking rollercoaster ride.”
Among the season’s strange dynamics will be the one between Hughie and Annie/Starlight (Erin Moriarty) as they try to balance being a full-fledged couple with her trying to take down Vought from the inside, and him trying to take down Vought from the outside by working for Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), whom unbeknownst to them is secretly a supe herself. Starlight will have to play the Vought game she’s more deeply embedded in than ever before by judging “American Hero,” a competition series that is set to find the next member of the Supes of the Seven team.
“She sees it as one part of playing the game of being part of the Seven, and she is continuing to do that at this point because she’s trying to do the best she can from working within Vought,” Moriarty said. “I think she’s looking at it as an opportunity to shake things up in the Seven and add some diversity and make the unconventional choice that hasn’t been done before and highlight the fact that, actually, within Vought there is systemic racism, and she tries to uproot that in her choice. But of course, she’s overpowered, as she often is.”
On the Boys side of “The Boys,” Alonso says Mother’s Milk is going to be dealing with the consequences of Butcher’s attempt at revenge and this will lead to an episode revealing MM’s origin story and “how his OCD and mental health issues rise to the surface when his past comes back to haunt him.”
“I always give props to Kripke and his writing team, and I know it can sound like an actor praising his boss, but being one of 13 cast members and having your character’s backstory being told with everything else that’s going on, I just give those guys props, because they have learned how to balance entertainment value with good storytelling,” Alonso said.
“The Boys” writers have also managed to carve out time for a big Hollywood-musical-style song-and-dance number between Frenchie and Kimiko this season, as well as a parody of Kendall Jenner’s controversial Pepsi ad with a TV spot featuring newly “socially conscious” A-Train (Jessie Usher) fighting police brutality with the help of a soda, which Kripke calls “equally as tone deaf” as its source material. And then there’s the eagerly anticipated introduction of Jensen Ackles’ classic Vought superhero Soldier Boy, which marks a reunion between the “Supernatural” alum and Kripke, who created the long-running CW series starring Ackles and Jared Padalecki.
Kripke says he has snuck “little ‘Supernatural’ Easter eggs into a bunch of Jensen’s scenes” as a tribute to that series, which has a wildly different tone from “The Boys,” just in terms of what broadcast standards allowed the creator to do. Ackles finds this particularly amusing to go from a show targeted a much younger demo and constrained by censors to, well, the least-censored thing Kripke, who also created NBC’s “Timeless” and “Revolution,” has ever done.
“It’s everything that Kripke wanted to do on his network shows that he was unable to do,” Ackles said. “It’s Kripke unleashed, is what it is. Knowing him as well as I do and as I have, I knew what that meant, and that meant just over-the-top, sheer entertainment for the people that like those kinds of sickening things. And I guess I happen to fall into that category.”
Amazon also falls squarely into that group, having given Kripke not just three seasons – so far – of “The Boys” to work with, but also animated anthology “The Boys Presents: Diabolical” and an upcoming untitled spinoff set at a superhero college from writers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas.
“It’s a lot, and I could use a nap,” Kripke said. “I’m not the first showrunner to say this, I think it was Greg Berlanti, but it’s like a pie-eating contest and first prize is more pie. But I genuinely am so in love with this universe and the characters and material that this universe inspires. It brings in really brilliant people, like Butters and Fazekas, and [‘Diabolical’ showrunner] Simon Racioppa and all the artists who contributed to ‘Diabolical,’ and their energies and passions and weirdness to this universe, while it still has our completely bananas tone. And it’s a lot easier to work hard on bringing this whole world to people because I’ll never have another job where they let us do the shit that we do.”