‘The Boys’ Showrunner on That Tragic Goodbye, Butcher’s ‘Bunny Foreshadowing,’ ‘Gen V’ Cameos and Poking Extra Fun at Marvel With Vought’s D23 Spoof

This story contains spoilers from Episode 5 of “The Boys” Season 4, currently streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video.

While Homelander (Antony Starr) and the supes were away at Vought’s V52 fan event (not to be at all confused with Disney’s 23) on this week’s episode of “The Boys,” Butcher (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and company played with a group of crazy, vicious farm animals on a journey to find a supe-killing virus.

More from Variety

Amid those two wild plot points was a graver storyline: Hughie (Jack Quaid) and his recently returned mother Daphne (Rosemarie Dewitt) saying goodbye to Hugh Sr. (Simon Pegg), when Hughie agrees to give his dad a pain-free death to put him out of his new misery. During the episode, Hugh Sr. struggled to control the destructive phasing super power he’d acquired after Daphne gave him Compound V in order to bring him out of a coma. Hugh Sr. ended up accidentally killing multiple people in the hospital, while in a dazed state.

Here, “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke breaks down Episode 5 of Season 4 of “The Boys,” titled “Beware of the Jabberwock, My Son” — including those “Gen V” cameos.

Let’s start off with the flying, bloody Compound V’d-up farm animals scenes, while The Boys are looking for the supe virus lab on Stan Edgar’s (Giancarlo Esposito) estate. How much of that was practical, if at all, and how much of it was visual effects?

Very, very little was practical. The bull was real, although Stephan Fleet and his VFX department made it look angrier — it was actually a very, very sweet animal. The chickens were mostly real, except when they were bursting through people’s chests. And the sheep, outside of that one shot where the barn door opens and the two sheep walk in — I think that’s the only time there were real sheep in that sequence at all. Huge amounts of credit to our brilliant VFX team, because it’s not easy to create a credible looking animal from scratch, and have it be an entirely new monster. It was Stephan’s idea to give it baboon teeth — it’s got the jaws of a baboon, and that’s what gives it its fangs and its menacing appearance.

Butcher has a special connection to the bunny, because he was being experimented on with Temp V — the thing that’s led to Butcher’s fatal prognosis — and sets him free. Then he stomps on him to kill him later when he sees tentacles spring forth from the bunny’s belly. We know he was taking the same thing as Butcher, so what can you tease about what that means for Butcher, and why Butcher had such a visceral reaction to that?

It doesn’t mean anything good. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think Butcher is really starting to wonder what’s happening to him, and wonder how he was able to kill Ezekiel. And this is a little bit of bunny foreshadowing.

Antony Starr (Homelander), Cameron Crovetti (Ryan)
Antony Starr (Homelander), Cameron Crovetti (Ryan)

Shortly after that, Butcher cuts off the leg of Vought scientist Sameer — great to meet Victoria Neuman’s paramour, and the father of Zoe, by the way — and kidnaps him with Kessler. How much of that drastic decision made by Butcher, in order to keep Sameer working on more supe virus, was based on the fate of the bunny — and happened to be juxtaposed with Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) moving further toward the Dark Side with Homelander this episode?

That’s a really insightful point. The story for him in this episode is trying to stay on the straight and narrow, trying to be loyal to his team. But then the bunny and what’s happening to it — and maybe what’s happening to him — just really, really rattles him, and makes him feel a lot more desperate. Hence, he brings Kessler into the equation, and chops off a guy’s leg just to cover his tracks, which is not amazingly rational behavior. I think he’s really rattled, and scared by what could be happening to him.

Hughie’s dad’s super power — there’s always significance to how you all decide what a character’s power is going to be. What was the choice here for what Hugh Sr. would get when dosed with V in the hospital?

We really like when powers can sort of mirror their psychological state, or some of their deep-seated subconscious. I think it was like a lesson we learned on “Gen V” that really served us well. So we got really interested in this idea of he, based on his relationship with his estranged wife, that he felt really slight. He has that line, “You would look right through me, like I was invisible to you.” So giving him a power that made that metaphor concrete was something we were really interested in.

It’s super subtle, but it says something about the Campbell DNA that Hughie’s power is a teleporting power and dad’s power is sort of like a phasing power — but both are cousins in a way. It was in the same ballpark. In our minds, the power you get is some combo of V and your DNA. And so if he has similar DNA with his dad, it stands to reason that maybe his dad would have a similar power.

Jack Quaid (Hughie Campbell)
Jack Quaid (Hughie Campbell)

Moving to very upsetting stuff with Hughie and his dad: I’m going to call it the euthanasia scene. How did you arrive at the choice for Hughie to do that, and work with Jack Quaid and Simon Pegg on the significance of that scene?

From the very beginning, we wanted to do a version of that scene. Hughie is really growing up this year, and and really learning to take ownership or leadership of the family is a thing that a lot of kids go through — like that moment when their parents are taking care of them to, inevitably, they’re taking care of their parents. Everyone’s going to go through it, and it’s a really universal, painful experience. And it’s the moment that so many people say, “Oh yeah, that was when I really grew up, when I became my parent’s parent.” I thought that was a really universal thing for Hughie to go through, and difficult.

The thing about Hughie, when we talk about this season, we’re dealing with everyone’s core trauma, and his biggest problem is his inability to let anyone go. And he’s really learning this season by forgiving A-Train and by forgiving his mom and really letting go of his dad, he’s really learning how to mature. They start the episode with his dad saying, “You’re still that same kid that couldn’t let go of the cat.” And we end the episode with Hughie stepping up and making the difficult decisions that the other older family members are unable to make. So it just shows him growing into true adulthood.

You bring “Gen V” characters Cate Dunlap (Maddie Phillips) and Sam Riordan (Asa Germann) over for cameos in this episode. Why did you pick now during “The Boys” Season 4 to cross over? And what should their appearances indicate to us about what’s going on in the current timeline at Godolkin University — and where the other “Gen V” characters might be right now?

Now made sense because of the V52 story, and that Homelander would use V52 as a cover to bring different superheroes close to him as he’s starting to put together this army. And it made sense that Cate, who is also a supe supremacist, would want to sign up for that. I think Sam is a little more reluctant, but he also doesn’t really speak up with his own opinions — he sort of needs to evolve into that still as a character.

But in terms of what it means, as typical in the Vought universe, the characters who were really the villains of that day, Cate and Sam, are packaged by Vought to be the heroes, and are given a movie and given new levels of fame, whereas the true heroes of that day are locked up in some undisclosed location that’ll be revealed for “Gen V” Season 2. Just our similar message that being a hero is usually an unsung, thankless thing, and when you’re held up in front of everyone as a hero, you’re usually anything but.

Related to V52 — which is clearly completely unrelated to any real-life event that a company does — have you heard from anyone at Marvel, either complimentary or otherwise, at this point about jokes within the show?

I heard very casually and in passing that Marvel executives watch and like the show. But I haven’t been given any names or anyone — just someone mentioned it to me in passing. I think it’s done in good fun. Like I’ve said, I watch all the Marvel movies. I dig them. It’s just the sheer amount of content is worth having a little fun with.

During V52, they laid out the projects in Phases 7-19 of the Vought Cinematic Universe. How many of those titles are going to be Vought+ exclusives, and how many are going to theaters?

Well, let’s be honest, at least half of them will be canceled for the write-off, and and then a bunch will go on Vought+, and then a very few will hit the theater. It just seems to be how the business is these days.

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.