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Herogasm Wasn’t as Bad as We Thought, and That’s Why it Worked

Yes, yes, before you say it, ‘Herogasm’ was last week and there’s already a new episode of The Boys out, but that hardly means to highly anticipated episode is old news. Far from it. While it’s hardly cut from the same cloth as Game of Thrones’ ‘The Rains of Castamere’, Breaking Bad’s ‘Ozymandias’, or The Sopranos’ ‘Pine Barrens’, ‘Herogasm’ is certainly an episode from The Boys to remember, though for a show already filled with enough violence and gore to make Quentin Tarntino blush, it wasn’t actually as shocking as it’s source material or the overblown media build-up from the cast and crew would have had you believe. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

An occasional criticism of The Boys’ earlier episodes this season is that it has opted for more shock value than actual satirical substance. While I don’t exactly agree with this gripe, especially considering season 3, if anything, has shown as much bite as ever, it’s an interesting perspective to consider when discussing ‘Herogasm’. The Boys likes to make some kind of social commentary in much of its episodes, and ‘Herogasm’ is certainly no different, but going too far with its explicit elements, even by the show’s own delightfully twisted standards, would have distracted from the surprising human elements in the episode. Yet, somehow Kripke and his crew managed to strike the perfect balance between that, hyped-up explicit content, and social critiques while using the shockingly hedonistic backdrop as another layer of their commentary. There’s a lot more going on here than you might initially think.

This being said, make no mistake, ‘Herogasm’ is the show’s most risqué installment yet. There’s more nudity show here than the rest of the series combined, with its makers acknowledging as much in the uncharacteristic opening warning text that is reminiscent of South Park or Jackass, even having to note that no animals were harmed during the shoot, which is as reassuring as it is troubling.

As it happens, it was this one scene that involved The Deep and an octopus (and I’ll leave it at that) that actually gave Amazon pause, but given that they surely know what The Boys is all about by now it’s odd to think that of all things this is what that they most object to, company policy or not. Kripke himself thought this was ridiculous considering it would be done by CGI anyway and the scene is so absurd and funny that it’s not meant to be taken seriously, with the intention always being “it’s so absurd [that] it wouldn’t be out of place in a Farrelly brothers movie.”

Regardless, the show’s creatives fought to keep it in the episode and for the better, as ‘Herogasm’ culminated in one of the show’s biggest supe face-offs so far, but at no point did they sacrifice its satirical integrity or the subtextual shock value in the build-up to it, nor did they boil the showdown to a complete CGI-fest, though liberties were of course taken. Kripke has previously acknowledged that ever since he began adapting The Boys, others had challenged him to specifically adapt the Herogasm storyline in the comics, a feat he managed in only the third season.

Adaptation means working the source material into the medium with which you are working, not staying true to a fault. It’s an incredibly delicate balance, but the people behind The Boys somehow manage to pull it off on a consistent basis, and when it comes down to the trickiest of them, they practically knock it out of the park.

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