Warning: This article contains major spoilers for season 1 of Amazon’s The Boys.
Karl Urban using a baby superhero with laser vision to pop enemies like exploding pimples isn’t the most outrageous thing that happens on The Boys, the live-action series adaptation of the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comics from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. This saga of sociopathic superheroes and the blue-collar vigilantes who keep them in line was Kripke at his most unrestrained, and he delivered with a superhero sex club, dolphin dirty talk, and a literal mind-blowing hook-up, all sprinkled on top of a story that tackled the seedy intersection of celebrity and politics.
Kripke spoke with EW after the show’s July 26 premiere to break down some of the biggest moments from season 1 (surprise cameos and cliffhangers included), while offering clues as to what fans can expect heading into season 2. (Yes, new episodes are already in the works.)
First things first: What happened to Terror?
In the comics, Billy Butcher (played in the show by Urban) is almost never without his trusty animal companion, a ferocious bulldog trained to pull off one uniquely perverted trick: sexually violate just about anything on command. In the Amazon series, Terror appears ever so briefly in the background of a flashback scene involving Billy with his wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanten), and that’s all the Terror fan service in season 1.
“The reason Terror doesn’t have a larger role this season is the most boring and practical one, which is it’s so f—ing hard to work with animals,” Kripke says. “We have such an unbelievably challenging show anyway that I was just too intimidated by the idea of having an animal who doesn’t listen to directors and doesn’t care about your stunt or pyrotechnic and your CG or your green screen, just doesn’t give a sh— about any of it.”
But there’s good news, Terror stans. EW can exclusively confirm that Terror will star in an episode alongside Billy in season 2.
“We felt, as the writers, the fans need him,” the showrunner adds. “We had to bite the bullet and have one f—ing pain-in-the-ass episode to shoot with the dog, and then at the end the dog will return to the safe and comfortable place it’s been. But it does come out of retirement for one more mission with Butcher, and so we can at least put Butcher with Terror for one big episode.”
A relatively small component of The Boys comics, Compound V informed the entire season 1 arc on the show, becoming a “James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential mystery.” As we learn, Compound V is a substance that, when administered, develops superpowers in humans. Vought wants the world to think its heroes in the Seven were all chosen by God, but they were actually dosed with Compound V as infants in a lab experiment — the same as all other superheroes.
“If it’s a secret, if it’s nothing the world knows about yet, then it becomes a secret that everyone will kill for, and it gives you an object that everybody wants, and it does all the great things a McGuffin does,” Kripke says. This detail became even more useful as it allowed the writers to overhaul the origin story for the Female (Karen Fukuhara) as another V-juiced victim and further explore the idea of the military-industrial complex (a topic that looms large in the source material). Thanks to a Compound V delivery from Homelander (Antony Starr), terrorists in Syria are now turning themselves into superhumans, forcing America’s hand to bring the Seven into its own armed forces.
“To me, all the best science fiction, fantasy is 90 percent reality. That’s a Rod Serling,” Kripke notes. “I always say the only magic that you’re allowed in the show is this vaccine called Compound V and it happens to give people unpredictable superheroes, and that’s all you get…. Anything that comes out of this drug is viable, and anything that doesn’t we’re not allowed to do, and that’s a good way to maintain a certain amount of discipline.”
That’s also why Jack from Jupiter, a member of the Seven in the comics as a play on Martian Manhunter, was swapped for Translucent on the show. “No gods from mythology, no aliens from other planets,” Kripke says. “It’s only humans who suddenly found themselves with these extraordinary abilities.”
The good news? “We’re aiming to have a sort of cameo from him in a Jack from Jupiter porno in season 2, but we’ll see if that comes together.”
About that ending
Compound V also allowed for Homelander’s big reveal in the season 1 finale. Billy’s rage toward the supe always stemmed from his wife, who disappeared and was presumed dead after she was raped by Homelander. The leader of the Seven did a little digging and was told Becca conceived his child as a result of the assault, but she and the laser-beam baby both died during childbirth. A little more digging revealed that was a lie and Homelander, being the sociopath he truly is, dropped Billy at Becca’s doorstep to show that they are alive. Adding salt to the festering wound, Homelander is now claiming Becca and their child as his new family.
In the comics, Ennis and Robertson saw Becca dying in front of Billy, forcing him to kill Homelander’s newborn when the infant attacked with laser vision. For Kripke, this child was too juicy to kill off: “You have this kid who’s half human and half monster; half the person Butcher loves most in the world and half the person Butcher hates most in the world. That’s just too perfect a character to not keep alive.”
Kripke wanted to also avoid “fridging,” which sees women being killed off as motivation for male heroes. “I acknowledge that it’s a cliché, but I have certain elements of my story that I’m locked into,” he says. “It always nudged us a little in the writers’ room.”
Then there’s the Hughie (Jack Quaid) of it all. He and Billy gravitate to one another because they share the same backstory: Superheroes killed their loved ones. With this cliffhanger for Becca and her son, Kripke wondered, “Is there a way that we can still honor the comic but then pull the rug out to say they don’t have the same backstory at all, they just thought they did? And if we could throw a left hook like that, we could really shock readers of the comic but also present this notion of, though these characters have so much in common, suddenly they find themselves in two different spaces. What does that do to them heading into season 2?”
In a spoof of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rogen appears as the latest addition to join the Vought Cinematic Universe for Black Noir: Insurrection, a new blockbuster starring Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) from the Seven. In fact, all the superheroes have their own movies. (The Deep’s is called The Rising Tide.) This was a little nugget planted in season 1 that Kripke hopes to expand next year.
“In season 2, we’re filming a movie within a [show] called Dawn of the Seven, and we’re all talking about wouldn’t it be great if Seth was one of the main characters of that movie, he was like the Agent Coulson of the group? If his schedule is clear, we’ll do that.”
Another big surprise is Mr. Edgar, the elusive head of Vought who presides above Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue). He finally appears in the eighth episode, played by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Giancarlo Esposito, someone from Kripke’s past on NBC’s Revolution. Esposito happened to be working on Cinemax’s Jett out of the same studio where Kripke was shooting The Boys, which made things easy when Kripke bumped into him and asked if he was available.
With Stillwell now dead after making the fatal mistake of lying to Homelander one too many times, Esposito will have a larger role to play in season 2.
“Sure enough, in season 2, that becomes a really important character,” Kripke confirms. “So I had to call him and go, ‘Hey, remember that cameo you did for me as a favor in season 1?… Now I need you for four to five more episodes.’ To his credit, thank God, he’s available and enthusiastic.”
By the way, Kripke admits he “didn’t totally get” the character’s Breaking Bad Belize reference: “It’s very possible Rebecca Sonnenshine and Anne Cofell Saunders, who wrote the script, slipped that one right by me.”
Starlight, star bright
Kripke had numerous conversations with his staff about how to handle Starlight (Erin Moriarty), the Seven’s new recruit. She’s introduced in the comics and then promptly sexually assaulted by Homelander, A Train, and Black Noir. Kripke didn’t even know if they should include the moment at all, but the room ultimately decided to do “a serious and scary version of that story.” He clarifies, “This was my female writers and producers saying, ‘This is something that happens, we think it’s important to talk about.’”
The story they came up with was one focused on Starlight and the Deep (Chace Crawford) through an allegory for an actress facing a toxic masculine environment in Hollywood. Then, in October 2017, The New York Times published a story on Harvey Weinstein and the decades of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him. The show changed again.
“Originally, Starlight was going to deal with this assault and then she really had no recourse except to take on the Deep directly,” Kripke recalls. “She was going to stand up and go after him because we weren’t living in a society where women were being believed when they speak out.” When the Weinstein scandal broke, the room saw “society change in real time.”
“Suddenly,” Kripke says, “you could speak, and you could actually bring a really powerful motherf— down. Instead of a story happening behind closed doors like everything had been, suddenly it was a story [Starlight] was speaking out about and [the Deep] was suffering publicly as a result.”
Kripke wants to make one thing clear: He doesn’t actually condone shooting live dolphins out of car windshields. “I’m an environmentalist!” he exclaims. That scene in which the Deep tries to rescue a dolphin from Oceanland, only to hit the brakes too hard and have the animal shoot straight out of the getaway truck to its death, was meant to show what a “f—ing idiot” the Deep actually is.
The dolphin’s name is Fresh Meat. Well, not officially. If Kripke had to name the mechanical dolphin used for the Deep’s daring rescue mission and subsequent dolphin erotica conversation, that would be it. And, yes, a mechanical dolphin exists.
“I think we leased it from a guy who has robot dolphins for movies, and then the one that got shot out of the windshield was a green styrofoam dolphin that got shot out of this specially created dolphin canon for the show,” Kripke says. “[Visual effects supervisor] Stephan Fleet painted over realistic-looking living skin and that look of dumbfounded shock that the dolphin gives as he flies past the Deep.”
Coming up next on The Boys…
You might not believe some of the items written on the whiteboard in the writers’ room for The Boys. “Laser babies” was one, and sure enough season 1 saw Billy using an infant superhero with laser vision as a weapon. One on Kripke’s wish list for the sex club scene was “an ice man having sex with a woman doggy-style when she’s wearing a fur coat.” That, believe it or not, didn’t get rejected because anyone clutched their pearls. “It was rejected because it was logistically too difficult to mount on our budget,” the showrunner says. But now he’s writing that down as something to hopefully take on in season 2.
Aside from the previously mentioned returning players, Aya Cash of You’re the Worst is now joining the roster as Stormfront, another character gender-swapped from the comics, as a mash-up between Marvel’s Thor and DC’s Shazam. “I’m not ready to answer that question,” Kripke says when asked if he can tease anything of her role. What he can tease is what we already gather after watching the finale.
“Once you end up on that season 1 cliffhanger, you know that’s going to be a big part of season 2, you know that Stillwell’s death is going to be a big part of season 2, and superheroes being in the military,” he says. “I always try to write the season finale as a pilot for the following season and make sure that whatever we’re talking about in that finale are issues we’re going to be interested in exploring next year. So far, we’ve been doing that and it’s been turning out well. We have this real quirk of the show that it keeps reflecting reality. Now people are scared of people coming over the border and people are feeling like we might have to go to war, and suddenly the world is so much more of an intense place than it used to be — and so is our season 2.”
The Boys season 1 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.