You can always count on boys to produce a splash or, in some cases, a sort of squelch. Amazon’s superhero show has become famous for its new take on blood and gore, whether it’s exploring what it means when a super-fast hero literally drives through someone or the physics of driving a speedboat at full speed through a beached sperm whale.
True to form, the third-season premiere of “The Reckoning” came with one of the show’s most iconic scenes. (There are spoilers for the episode following this sentence. You have been warned.) In it, a previously unknown B-tier superhero named Termite (Brett Geddes) falls in love with a partner at a party. As things start to heat up, Termite shrinks like Ant-Man to crawl inside his partner’s urethra to give him super-intense pleasure. (Apparently, Termite’s prostate massage really is next level.) Unfortunately, things don’t quite go according to plan. The termite sneezes and reverts to its original size, tearing its partner in half from the inside and leaving the mini-hero in a concussion state just as he is about to fight boysFrenchie (Tomer Capone), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), and Butcher (Karl Urban).
This is a gasp and gag worthy scene that there are spectators speaking, and the one we wanted to know more about. WIRED spoke with showrunner Eric Kripke about the physics of the penis, Tanus, and why he says he works in a “dream factory.”
WIRED: Where did the idea for the Termites scene come from and how did it come to fruition, so to speak?
Eric Kripke: Blame it on screenwriter Craig Rosenberg. He also brought you [Season 2’s big dead] whale and also dolphin [flying through the] windshield. So really Craig can take a lot of responsibility or blame for the greatest horror hits in our series.
It develops in the writers’ room, actually. It’s strange to say that this comes from an organic, rather logical process, but it’s true. It all started with the big idea that we need Frenchy and Kimiko to fight superheroes, so which superheroes should they fight? And what big superheroes haven’t we made on the show yet?
Someone said “Ant-Man” and then someone said “Oh my God, this meme is going around.”Why didn’t Ant-Man just crawl up to Thanos and blow him up?“So we thought, let’s give it to the public. Because Marvel can’t, but we can.
And then someone else raised their hand and said, “We’ve already done exploding ass in the first season, and we’ll do it again.” due to translucent“. So once you get the cigarette butts off the table, there aren’t really that many working holes left – I’d say two, and the mouth is boring. This is how you end up with the urethra.
How did it go with the bumps?
Amazon has been great at this. There wasn’t much response. They know who we are at the moment and encourage it.
How did you create this scene?
My favorite fact about the shoot is that despite being sweetened with visuals, it’s actually a real giant penis. We built this bastard. It is 11 feet high and 20 feet long and is indeed a urethral tunnel. We built it all at a great cost, and the fact that we did it is another reason why I love my job.
I know you built a big dead whale in Season 2, so I’m wondering what lessons you’ve learned from working with such a hands-on set.
It’s such a new adventure every time, even though the penis was built by the same people who built the whale. I don’t know if there was any particular lesson that was passed down from one to the other, other than this crazy confidence that we could pull it off. Maybe the point is that, with enough intelligence and attention, we can achieve any kind of madness. And that’s what we did.
When viewers first see a penis, we are really seeing, so to speak, with the head. How much of that is CGI, and how much is practical?
It’s probably 50/50. It’s really there and you really see the real one when Termite jumps into it and starts squeezing through the eye of the needle. It’s really happening and he’s really doing it in the room.
VFX has done a lot… strangely, sorry for the terminology, but it’s called “skinning” which layers more realistic pores and gives the skin a sheen due to the oils in our skin. All those tiny details make it look like a real penis, with blood vessels and stuff. They also move because it is an organic thing.
It’s just something you can’t practically do. So we make more of its gigantic shape and appearance, and VFX adds this layer that makes it look more like real skin.
Have you guys consulted with a doctor to see if Termite’s actions would actually be pleasurable? What is the extent of your research here?
Stefan Fleet, our visual effects coordinator, did an incredible amount of research. He went on to tell various visual effects agencies, “It’s not like you can’t find the image online.” Click online and there are 2 billion penis examples and close-ups of all kinds that you can use for reference.
There has been a lot of talk about the fact that because the penis is on the table, to be anatomically correct, the hole in the urethra is much higher than we say. That would be a lot higher than an actor could jump to where it’s natural. We had to argue, like, “Is he climbing her? What is he doing?” After all, I just said, as an order, bleed the hole. The audience won’t care. Lower him just enough so that he can jump up and grab him. So from the very beginning, we took certain liberties with anatomical precision.
End justifies the means.
We’re in a dream factory and it’s all an illusion.
Speaking of which, does your team have a proven formula for courage? How did you decide what looked real inside the walls of the urethra?
Most of the blood is computer graphics. In this particular case, like landing the torso on the bed and all the bile and mucus all over the bed with the intestines, it’s almost entirely CGI.
Why does a termite get bigger when it sneezes? What is the reason?
He just can’t control it. He sneezed and had an involuntary reaction. He doesn’t want to explode at this particular moment. He doesn’t want to, but he just couldn’t help it because he sneezed.
It was really inspired Annie HallWhere is Woody Allen’s character sneezes in front of a big pile of cocaine and it all goes everywhere. It’s just a notion that it’s caused by an involuntary reaction. [oversized] response.
Are you trying to outdo yourself season after season, or is it a trap? If this is just Season 3, where will you have to go in Season 7, for example?
There is certainly a catch in this, so we try not to do it. We literally never have conversations like, “Well, we did it, so we need to move on.” Literally never.
The only thing we do in terms of evolution between seasons is feel the pressure and the obligation to go deeper into the characters. What new facet, deeper facet or more hidden and hidden facet of this character have we not seen yet? We’re peeling these characters off the bulb, and every season it’s a different level. How do we make sure that the new level we explore will be deeper than the others, not parallel, not more superficial, but more important to who they are as a person and more painful for them to encounter and have with them business. It’s really difficult, because every season you have to think more and more into their psychology.
All the rest of the craziness in a show usually comes from what a particular character goes through and what the craziest way to dramatize that particular character moment is. I think it’s really necessary to look at the show that way, because it’s very important that it be outrageous without being exploitative and shocking without being frivolous. The writers have been struggling with this line for a long time. Usually the safest way to go on the right side is to stay grounded in character where there is more than just madness going on.
I wanted to say, without giving away anything, that the episode of “Herogasm” is shocking, but that’s exactly what you said. Everything is based on characters and development, or boys‘ the world as a whole.
I work in TV, so I do characters. My job is to make you love my characters and get addicted to them, that’s all. If I can do that, my show will work, and if I can’t do that, my show won’t work. All other things are icing or something that we can use in marketing because you have to be rowdy and have to cut through all the mess made by thousands of other shows. Our shock moments are very good at this, but in truth, it’s a Trojan horse. It’s a way to get people to talk. It’s a way to get attention… and it’s noisy! But really, what the show is really about is these characters, and it’s a satire of the current state of the country we’re in.
Have there been any technological developments since you started on the show that you are now thinking, “Wow, what I always wanted to do, I can do now” or “This looks so much better than in the first season. ?
Yes, several. Visual effects, like everything else in new media, is such a rapidly evolving technology that what we did in 2019 is really rudimentary in some ways compared to what we can do now.
Actually blood is a really good example. It was difficult for us even three years ago to make his liquidity feel right, and now it’s not a problem. The computer programs they use for liquids are getting better.
It’s the same with digital twins, where you have characters flying around that don’t really exist. They’re completely computer generated, so they had to be pretty far away in the first season for that to be believable, but with each season, you can get a little closer to where they are.
It’s funny to think about how this liquidity that you use for blood probably came from some development that someone did for, I don’t know Raya and the last dragon.
This is completely ridiculous, right? It’s like they’re using an algorithm that was created for Souland because of this, we can really increase our explosive gutting.
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