‘The Boys’ Showrunner on Hughie’s Sticky Tek Knight Encounter, That Zendaya Reference and Firecracker’s Big-Hearted Gift to Homelander

SPOILER ALERTThis story contains spoilers from Episode 6 of “The Boys” Season 4, currently streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video.

This week on “The Boys”: Homelander (Antony Starr), Sage (Susan Heyward) and VP-elect Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) rally some Federalist Society one-percenters to fall in line with their plan for total supe supremacist domination and to create internment camps for any detractors — and somehow that was not the craziest part of the episode.

More from Variety

First up, there was the giant reveal that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character CIA agent Joe Kessler has been a hallucination of Butcher’s (Karl Urban) this whole time. You can read more about that here.

Second, Hughie (Jack Quaid) goes undercover as the supe Webweaver at the ultra elite alt-right party hosted by billionaire supe Tek Knight (Derek Wilson) to discuss Homelander’s plan — and ends up being Tek Knight and Ashley’s (Colby Minifie) plaything down in Tek Knight’s sex dungeon, all the while pretending he’s totally fine and can handle all this just after the death of his father Hugh Sr. (Simon Pegg).

“It was one of the most challenging and one of my favorite things that I’ve gotten to do in this crazy world of a show,” Minifie told Variety. “There was a lot of prep for that. There were like four fittings for that balloon of an outfit, which was designed by Michael Brown, and I loved being in that. But I really loved how the writers and Kripke found this new door for Ashley to explore — how she released her stress, and how all shit flows down. She receives all this stuff from Homelander, and then just uses it in a new way and gets off on it.”

The Boys Firecracker
Jasper Savage/Prime Video

Third, Firecracker (Valorie Curry) proves her undying fealty to Homelander by revealing she’s been taking prescription medication that causes her to lactate (and enlarges her heart), giving Homelander the chance actually to breastfeed from her. Which makes Homelander, the mommy-issue-addled leader of the Seven, very happy.

“I love how that scene played so much, because we both came to it with this utter vulnerability and full of sincerity — which just makes it so much fucking weirder,” Curry said. “But with Firecracker, despite her just insanity and the things that she spews, she has this uncanny ability to know what people need, whether it’s in a crowd or it’s one on one. And even Homelander, she can see the human inside that shell, and she can see what that human needs, even if it looks like a bizarre fetish on the outside. And she’s willing to give him that also, because she’s not afraid of him — she should be. But she truly believes her vision of who he is, so she feels like she has no reason to be afraid of him, and makes herself so vulnerable to his vulnerability. It’s so intimate.”

Curry said a significant amount of prep went into that scene from “The Boys'” costume department “just to build the architecture to make it possible” to depict Firecracker breastfeeding Homelander, adding: “The supersuit team should just patent the whole situation there.”

See below for Variety‘s Q&A with “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke diving deeper into the Firecracker breastfeeding scene, Tek Knight’s sex dungeon and Hughie’s torturous time spent pretending to be Webweaver.

Let’s start with the Tek Knight sex dungeon part. Where did the idea come for it? And why bring Hughie into this situation now — kicking him when he’s down by having him sexually assaulted by his childhood hero after his dad just died?

Well, that’s a dark way to look at it! We view it as hilarious. Obviously, Tek Knight is our version of Batman, and we wanted to really play around with that trope: Batman’s fascist underpinnings as a really wealthy dude who hunts poor people, and then profits of the incarceration. So that was one. Tek Knight was already set up to be a freak, so we were kind of already halfway there. Then the notion came up of, he should have a Batcave — but let’s be honest, the Batcave would be a sex dungeon. Like, even the real Batcave is just this side of being a sex dungeon. It’s really dark, and there’s rubber suits everywhere. It’s not that much of a push to add a couple dildos and then a weird urinal that turns into a face mask.

And in the comics, there’s a great storyline where Hughie goes undercover disguised as a superhero. That was a story that Jack had always asked us to do. So part of it is, always be careful what you ask the writers for. Then we finally had this Webweaver character and the idea of Spider-Man going down to be kink tickled in the Batcave is just too good to pass up. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t leave that on the table.

Were there any pieces of that scene, either in writing or when you got to filming it, that Amazon said “No, that’s too far”?

No, that was all pretty much as scripted. We had our poor writers’ assistant do a long list of real kinks, because we were looking for some. And I remember reading down the list and I’m like, “What’s cake farting?” And then they explained to me, and it’s a real thing — but don’t look it up. I just said, that’s incredible, we have to do that.

And then it seemed like it was a real natural tie-in to bring Ashley into it, because she does have dom/sub tendencies. I love that it’s just such a perfect setup that he doesn’t know his own safe word. It’s just like a beautiful comedy setup that he’s trying to find it the whole time.

Was the safe word always going to be “Zendaya” — with the hint that Tek Knight says it’s what Webweaver “loves the most” — as a nod to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man? Or did you work through any other potential safe word ideas?

No, it was Anslem Richardson, who is the brilliant writer of the episode — he just put that in the first draft. I don’t think we ever discussed it, and he just threw in that his safe word was “Zendaya,” and I just laughed my ass off about that.

It’s the thing Spider-Man loves most!

Yeah! It’s the thing Spider-Man loves most.

After going through all that, Hughie finally breaks down into tears with Annie at the end of the episode once they’re back at headquarters. Will we see more fallout from that in the final episodes? Because he’s been through a lot already with his dad’s death, and then that sex-dungeon trauma happened.

His story in this particular episode is the kind of denial and compartmentalization a lot of us have when we’re dealing with the death of a loved one. And if you look throughout the episode, he’s always just saying, “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m totally fine. I’m fine.” Which is what a lot of people do before you finally can sort of open the door to the pain you’re feeling. And I think that’s part of healing. So I think he’s going to go on and really try to absorb and learn what his dad and his mother taught him about forgiveness, and really try to take that into the season. Because he really does have the most mature and human arc out of all the characters this season.

Where did the idea for Firecracker breastfeeding Homelander come from? We know his milk fetish, we know his mommy fetish. But the choice actually to take it to this level on screen and get Antony Starr and Valorie Curry comfortable with that…

No, of course, Ant and Val were like, “Let’s do it!” I think I remember telling Val on Day 1 of seeing her in Toronto, “Just so we’re clear, Firecracker is going to be breastfeeding him.” And I believe her response was something to the effect of like, “Well, of course she is.” When you take that character and how slavishly devoted she is to Homelander, and how she would do anything for him — as she’s made abundantly clear by saying it like seven times in a row to him — that giving him the thing he wants most in the world becomes logical, in a bananas sort of way.

As we were saying in the room, because she’s also jockeying to get in a better position as a way to sell out Sage, they’re now competing for Homelander’s attention. So the conversation in the room came up that Sage is great at what people might need intellectually, but Firecracker is really amazing at what people need emotionally. And we said, “Well, what is the thing Homelander needs most in the world that no one else could give them?” And it’s a hop, skip and a jump to, “Well, he would need a woman who’s actually willing to let him breastfeed.” And I remember distinctly, Ellie Monahan in the room said, “If we’re doing that, that’s the craziest thing we’ve ever done.” And it’s close, man.

That scene, first of all, getting the milk squirted into his face, and Ant’s shock and total delight is such a beautiful moment. But any other sane show would cut away at that point. And by the way, not that sane — but that’s when you cut away, you know what’s gonna happen.

The fact that we cut to the actual breastfeeding scene makes me cover my mouth every time. It’s just so stunning, and wow. Just what it means to the characters — the actors’ balls in pulling that off. I mean, it’s just my chef’s kiss to all of them.

And the medicine that does that only enlarges her heart a little bit!

Just a tiny little bit.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.