When television writer and producer Eric Kripke first took on adapting The Boys for Amazon Prime Video, for years he would get comments saying, "I dare you to do Herogasm." And while he always wanted to, "some trust had to be built" before he actually could.
The time finally came in the third season, and boy did he dare to do the story, but also, boy did building trust with the studio, his writers, his cast, and his crew come in handy! Because while it's one complicated thing to stock your set with half-naked actors simulating sex, it's quite another to have a stunt performer light his penis on fire for what is effectively a pass by.
Take another look at the episode again. After Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and M.M. (Laz Alonso) walk into the house, they're looking around and he says, "Poor Frenchie, he's always wanted to see this; he's going to be heartbroken." That's when the the performer walks by. And yes, "that's practical; that guy did that for real," Kripke revealed during a FYC conversation moderated by Metacritic.
"The gel is so good in terms of how it doesn't burn you that it was a stunt man, and I was like, 'Really? Are you sure that he's going to do that?' And our stunt coordinator John Koyama, who's also amazing, said, 'Oh yeah, no, it's going to be fine.' So he got one of his stunt guys to rub all of that fire gel all over his junk and lit it — take after take after take. I couldn't get over it."
That moment may be a prime example of the collaborative environment the set of The Boys is, but it is far from the only one.
During the FYC conversation, Kripke also pointed out how background superhero characters at the orgy were designed in the writers' minds to resemble well-known characters, such as having a Wonder Woman-esque type who uses her lasso for bondage. It was up to costume designer Michael Ground and his team to then build these very real, often crotchless, superhero costumes in a way that was visually striking, functional, and would not get the show sued.
"We had to pack the frame so that everywhere you looked, you could freeze frame and see 10 insane things," Kripke said.
As a comic, Herogasm is "one of the most insane comics I've ever read. It's one of those that you cannot read in public," Kripke said. So when it came time to bring his vision of a superhero orgy to the screen, because everyone's assumption was that it would be "perverted and crazy and insane...the most subversive thing we could do is make them feel something emotional and make them cry and make them feel the tragedy of the characters."
The episode, therefore, sets several important conversations on the backdrop of the orgy, including Hughie (Jack Quaid) finally having the confidence to confront A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) about killing his girlfriend. But it also delivers another key moment for which fans of The Boys had been waiting.
"The fight at the end with Soldier Boy and Homelander and Hughie, that was an insanely complicated, difficult fight, and honestly, that's the first time Homelander ever fights in the show 'cause he's always just lasering people," Kripke said.
There was a lot of detail put on each character's "power level" and how they relate to each other (i.e. how much destruction one would cause when punching a wall over another punching a wall). For three or four days of production, Kripke recalled, they had actors Jensen Ackles, Antony Starr, and Quaid on wires, being thrown against walls and trashing that set. And then it was many more days in VFX, lead by Stephan Fleet, to really make the fight soar, so to speak.
After all, "everyone had been waiting so long for Butcher and Homelander to fight," Kripke said. But really, that fight was just the start of a much more intense battle between the vigilante and the corrupt supe.
And the fight will continue on the fourth season of The Boys, which is in production now.
Looking for more coverage of The Boys Season 3? Metacritic talks to Jensen Ackles here and here, Tomer Capone here, and Nick Wechsler here. And don't miss our finale postmortem with Kripke, as well as our coverage of spin-off The Boys Presents: Diabolical.