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In this scene from The Boys’ season two finale, Ryan Butcher (played by Cameron Crovetti) unleashes his superpowers for the first time, and in the process accidentally deals a fatal blow to his mother, Becca Butcher (Shantel VanSanten). With her dying breath, Becca asks her estranged husband, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), to protect her son, who was fathered by Homelander (Antony Starr), who soon arrives to discover Ryan’s powers have also eviscerated Homelander’s romantic partner, Stormfront (Aya Cash).
The original script called for Stormfront to be silent here, but the image of the villain lying badly burned and with severed limbs felt gratuitous on its own. “That was the missing piece,” Sonnenshine says of the production deciding to have her speak German at that point. “It was grotesque, but it was also sad and beautiful in a weird way. Her being able to express something in that moment was heartbreaking.”
Sonnenshine wraps up one of her favorite arcs of the season with Becca’s dying wish. “We’ve always said in the writers room that Butcher considers Becca the only thing that made him a good person. She felt like that was too much pressure,” says Sonnenshine. Her request is an opportunity for Butcher to show any goodness he has can live independently of Becca. “She’s putting a lot of trust in him.”
“I hope you don’t know what Butcher is going to do. Are you going to beat this kid to death?” says Sonnenshine, who learned from writing for Urban in season one that he could accomplish a lot without words. “Karl plays it really well. Is he going to kill this kid? No, he’s not. He’s going to protect him, probably at the cost of his own life.”
“He has so many emotions to convey,” the writer says of Starr’s performance, which she says often plays against expectations. “He really did love Stormfront. So when he sees her, he’s kind of heartbroken. And then he sees his son, who did this, and he’s trying to be a parent in this moment too.”
This short scene pushes Butcher in a new direction as he decides to honor his promise to Becca. “In the end, he does the right thing. That’s huge for Butcher,” says Sonnenshine. The question going forward is whether his come-to-Jesus moment will stick in season three. “Can he carry that goodness,” she asks, or will he “just throw it all away once the kid is safe” and out of his sight?
Among the many character beats Sonnenshine had to hit in this scene was getting Homelander to a place where he would be willing to kill Butcher. “Homelander really likes having Butcher around. He could kill him at any time, but he needs him, in a way. It’s almost a tether to humanity or real life,” she says. “I think he would have killed him in that moment. We got him to that place.” Fortunately for Butcher, Queen Maeve intervenes later in the scene and saves his life.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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