Battling Bigotry: How ‘The Boys’ Pulled Off That Season 2 Finale Fight With Stormfront
“The Boys” creator and showrunner Eric Kripke has said he wanted to use the second season of his Amazon Prime Video superhero-vigilante drama to address the white supremacy he was seeing play out on social media. Enter Stormfront (Aya Cash), a seemingly indestructible new member of the Seven who, at first, is loved for her kick-ass female energy but is soon exposed as a Nazi. In the finale episode, “What I Know,” the other women finally get a chance to express their justified anger (and provide a bit of wish fulfillment for the audience) by taking her on.
What starts as a moment for Maeve (Dominique McElligott), who previously expressed concern that nothing ever changes, to take some power back becomes the ultimate team-up between her, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara). Although they can’t defeat Stormfront, who eventually flies out of harm’s way, there is catharsis and victory simply in standing up to such bigotry.
“I had storyboarded, ‘She zaps her, she gets thrown aside.’ But you see the characters come out of getting zapped and they’re angrier or more determined, and it’s almost like ‘Rocky’ where the more they get punched, the more intent they are of bringing her down. And whether you want to call it ‘Rocky’ or the invasion of Normandy, they just wouldn’t give up, and that was a really fun thing to depict amongst modern-day American characters. The idea is that Aya takes off before they’re really done. Because as gratuitous as it was meant to be in the storytelling that they really went after her, she gets out of it because she’s a force to be reckoned with too. And so, jumping out of it when it’s at its mid-peak was more exciting, but it’s also scary because just when you’re like, ‘They’re really going to win this fight,’ it’s over.”
“It was important to be in closer on each of them finally getting an opportunity to exact revenge on Stormfront. We really wanted the audience to be in on that emotion with them. Much of this sequence was shot hand held with operators in with the action, often shooting ‘dirty’ over other characters in the foreground. For a fight like this you generally want to use longer lenses to keep the operators away from actors possibly hitting the camera. Instead, we tried to find a balance where we could keep everyone safe, but also be on the slightly wider lenses closer to the action. We used a crane for the overhead shot of Stormfront getting kicked. But we had a drone for the explosion of the Quonset hut.”
“The fight choreography was designed to showcase all [the Supes’] powers but was also kept simple and raw because this fight was about the culmination and release of a season’s worth of emotional buildup. For the final stomping action of Stormfront at the end of the fight, we used a combination of our Stormfront actor [Cash], our Stormfront stunt double [Christine Ebadi] and a pile of grip sandbags. The actors were coached on how to pull their kicks on the angles that included Stormfront or her stunt double and were then given the sandbags as a safe target to stomp on for the angles above Stormfront so they could go all out on their intensity.”
“We didn’t want [Stormfront’s suit] to be black; we wanted there to be a relationship to the other suits in having there be a color that she owned but not anybody else owned. So we went with gray and that red that is almost hard to even pinpoint what the color is because part of what we really were invested in with that red was that it felt like it had a lot of battle action that it had seen. The color itself actually started quite vibrant and metallic and then we gave it a good patina and really messed it up and inherently built a lot of age and wear and distress in it, which also tips us off to, when we get to know the character, that she’s actually been around for a minute. A lot of the iconography we baked into her design has a relationship to fascist symbolism [too].”
Stormfront “is doing what we call a ‘fast fly.’ I have the actor jump up, like they’re about to fly, and then they get out of the way and we shoot a quick clean plate — still hand-held; we don’t use green screen — and then it’s a blend of the real person into a CG digital double of them. And one thing we did do for this scene, you see a lot of shots where people are getting punched and there’s blood flying everywhere, and that was all CG, added in post. Just to amplify the intensity of the scene — the violence of the scene — [and] because it’s the style of the scene where it’s a lot of quick cuts and action, it lends itself well to digital blood Credit work.”
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