Warning: SPOILERS for The Boys season 4, episode 7!


  • The Boys
    season 4, episode 7 is titled “The Insider”, which can refer to several characters and incidents.
  • Director Catriona McKenzie balances character beats with action sequences in
    The Boys
    , and is sure to do the same when she returns for
    Gen V
    season 2, episode 6.
  • McKenzie gives her nuanced interpretation of important scenes in the episode for Annie, Butcher, The Deep, A-Train, and Ashley.

The Boys season 4, episode 7 is titled “The Insider” — a word that works on multiple levels throughout the episode. A-Train has been acting as a spy on behalf of Hughie and Mother’s Milk throughout the season, finally revealing his cards when he stops The Deep and Noir from killing Butcher and Annie. Meanwhile, Annie herself has been replaced by an “insider” in the form of a shapeshifter hired by Sage. But perhaps most frightening of all is Kessler’s voice inside Butcher’s head, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, telling him a super genocide is a better option than any possible compromise.

“The Insider” is directed by Catriona McKenzie, whose current work on The Boys is far from her sole television credit. Since her celebrated independent movie Satellite Boy in 2012, which she wrote and directed, she has helmed episodes of several popular TV series. Her genre abilities have been well-established in episodes of Echo and The Walking Dead, and she’s certain to expand on that with Outer Range season 2, but she’s also showcased her deft understanding of character development in projects such as Shining Vale and Alaska Daily. The Boys season 4, episode 7 has its share fair of internal exploration — potentially best captured in The Deep’s violent and tragic act against Ambrosius.


The Boys Season 4’s Supe Virus & Gen V Connection Explained

The Boys season 4, episode 5 has finally properly introduced the supe virus, and here’s what it is, where it came from, and how it connects to Gen V.

Screen Rant interviewed McKenzie about her approach to “The Insider”, the importance of balancing action feats with character beats in The Boys, and her upcoming return to the world with season 5 of the same show and season 2 of its spinoff.

The Boys Season 4 Inspired Catriona McKenzie To Return For Gen V Season 2

Screen Rant: You’re stepping into a firmly established world on The Boys and near the end of a very intricate, conspiracy-driven season. When you were signed onto the episode, were you given the overview of the season arcs so you knew where your plot points fell in the grand scheme of things? And what preparations did you make to step so seamlessly into the right tone?

Catriona McKenzie: I was a fan of The Boys before. When I watched season 1, it was a revelation. It was such a fresh take on the whole superhero genre thing, so I was already into the show when I met with Eric Kripke, the showrunner. I was like, “This guy really knows what he’s doing,” and we were very aligned.

Aside from watching every episode, I read every script and spoke to the writer, Paul Grellong. He was amazing, side by side and shoulder to shoulder, and I really loved working with him. I really prepped in the same way that I restore ’50s and ’60s cars, and I have this curiosity about the world. When I look at the car and I go, “What is it now? What can it be? What’s the best version of itself?”

In a similar way, I get the script for The Boys, and I go, “Well, I understand the show. How can I make it better?” Probably 10 years ago, I rode a bull at a rodeo in the middle of Australia. I’m not afraid to strap myself onto a bull, let the gate open, and come out twisting and turning — which is sort of a metaphor for directing The Boys because it’s this big beautiful beast.

But all of the heads of departments, from Paul and Eric to the stunt coordinator, understand the show so well. And the actors are such custodians of their characters, so it was a fun bull ride across a beautiful, dusty rodeo arena. It was awesome, and I would do it again. In fact, I’m going back to do some Gen V soon.

Speaking of Gen V, we see Cate and Sam in various episodes this season. What can you say about how their relationship to Homelander is going to influence events in season 2 of Gen V?

Catriona McKenzie: I have a big fat NDA! [Laughs] I can’t tell you anything. All I know is that I was such a fan of The Boys, and I was like, “Do I really want to watch Gen V? What’s it going to be?”

But once I did, as a woman, I’m like, “Of course menstrual blood kills you. Of course this character is purging.” I just think that it’s a way to explore some of those issues in an equal opposite way from The Boys, and I’m really looking forward to getting into that. I’m doing episode 6, and I leave for Toronto to film in three weeks, so I can’t tell you anything beyond that.

Breaking Down The Boys Season 4, Episode 7’s Big Action Sequences

A-Train, Starlight & The Deep fighting in The Boys season 4 episode 7

You’re getting a reputation as an action director, and you get a really big action set piece with Noir and The Deep versus Annie, Butcher, and eventually A-Train. Can you talk about staging that?

Catriona McKenzie: Let me just say that this was a beloved space, and the sequence was rehearsed and practiced for months with stunts. We basically shot that scene for 10 days. Sometimes an episode of television will be in seven days, yet this one scene took 10 days to shoot. It’s quite an epic, and it can be quite technical.

We storyboard, and then we take the storyboard and we pre-vis it and it becomes a big communication device so that everyone, all of the heads of departments, can see. It’s not just the stunt coordinator; it’s also teaching the actors how to do that and training them so that they’re safe. And then there are physical effects that have to reflect the blows and, because Noir flies, there are VFX departments that have to come in and augment that. There are lots of departments that have to come in and are aligned so that it all happens flawlessly.

I don’t have that fear gene. I don’t what it is, but I really am more curious than scared about how it can all work — whether it’s rebuilding an engine or finding the character moments in the scene so it’s not just a smear of action. It actually has to be grounded with character stuff, which is ultimately what’s more interesting to me.

You have the last romantic moment between The Deep and Ambrosius, may she rest in peace, as well as his ultimate act of violence against her. What does that actually do that actually look like on set? How do you direct Chace Crawford opposite an octopus voiced by Tilda Swinton?

Catriona McKenzie: First of all, he’s an amazing actor. Even though the show is an extravaganza in many ways, I think that it is still character-based. It’s an absurdity, but I encouraged him that the more grounded and more specific and more authentic we took that scene, the more it came alive.

This scene is another example of an actor’s physical effects, special effects, and timing. We rehearsed that shot where he breaks the fish tank at least 20 times because the physical effects, acting, action, VFX, water, and everything had to be seamless together. It’s technical, but hopefully, you agree that the joy of the scene is the emotion. It’s ridiculous in some ways, but it’s heartbreaking too. I think that’s the thing we really capture, and Chace is an amazing actor.

The Boys Director Explains Starlight, A-Train & Butcher’s Character Beats

Joe Kessler looking at Butcher in The Boys season 4

Did you give Erin Moriarty any direction about how to behave as Shapeshifter Annie versus her regular self?

Catriona McKenzie: Erin’s so amazing. We talked about her physicality, we talked about her eyes, and we talked about a stillness because the Shifter doesn’t have the same kind of emotional, intuitive, emotional intelligence that Annie does. And we’ve seen that in the episode; there was just a stillness that she brought to her performance where she’s just a bit more robotic. It was fun working that up with her.

And she’s a natural. Basically, everything’s the opposite of what she’s developed, and she just moved away from her instincts. I think, as a director, it’s more and more about the subtleties of working with actors and working on characters that I find brings such pleasure. The minutia of performative detail is where I think is the goal is, and I love that moment when she gets out of bed and walks past Huey. She walks over to the safe, and you just know we’re in for a ride.

I’m curious what your interpretation of Bucher and his imaginary friend Kessler is, now that the secret is out for the audience. Because the ideas he has are truly heinous, but he is also part of Butcher? Is this all his anger and rage coiled into a Tyler Durden-esque figure?

Catriona McKenzie: Obviously, there have been comments about how zeitgeist-y this show is about where we’re at, and Butcher is kind of our access into this world. He’s the human that’s taking on these superheroes. I think all of us are animals, and we all have these outrageous impulses. Some of us act on them, but some of us go, “You know what? I’m an animal, but I’m also a civilized, sophisticated member of a community, and I have a social conscience.”

What I love about Eric Kripke is the way he’s created this character of Butcher that could go either way. He has the potential for terrible violence, but he also has a conscience, and he has these memories and commitments to characters that keep him in check — sort of.

I’m actually going back to Toronto to do season 5, and I’m so excited to see where Krpke takes Butcher. I think it is sort of the call to arms, asking, “What is it to be human, and what is it to run a race that’s full of integrity and grace and wisdom rather than just kill the world or smash it with vengeance and violence?” I’m really interested to see how he threads that needle, and it remains to be seen how he takes Butcher to the end of that line.

A-Train escapes this episode, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. But we also have some genuine moments between him and Ashley for what feels like the first time ever, as well as his admission that it feels good to be a hero. Why do you think Ashley says she can’t leave when it was her idea to begin with? Do you think this is the last we will see of A-Train and can we call it a happy ending?

Catriona McKenzie: I love that moment with A-Train and Ashley because I think, exactly like Butcher, there are people who have made their bed and made it so deep and so vast that they have to lay in it. And she’s a beautiful actor because you can see the moment where she holds onto that tiny window of possibility; the thought of just leaving this absolute clusterf–k behind.

But she can’t because she’s so invested. A-Train’s like, “Wake up, get out, run!” But she just can’t do it because that’s the hole that she’s dug for herself. And is it greed? Is it ambition? I don’t know, but she just can’t do it. She can’t walk away from the absolute toxic waste dump of her life. And that’s very human. It’s a very human thing. I’m older now, but I’ve had those choices. I look back and am like, “Why didn’t you run for the hills?”

Directing With Kindness: Catriona McKenzie Describes Her Leadership Motto On The Boys & The Cleaning Lady

Thony looks up from the ground in The Cleaning Lady

You directed episode 6 of The Cleaning Lady‘s most recent season, which revealed Arman’s fate in the wake of Adan Canto’s death. That must have been very delicate and challenging, not only stepping into a new world and concluding a fictional character’s arc in a tragic way, but also helping the cast and crew process the death of their friend and colleague. How did you approach such a sensitive situation?

Catriona McKenzie: One of the things that I’m good at is I’m really good at leading with a sense of compassion. As a director, you fall into the engine that is a show in its third season show. It’s an engine that is up and running, and it’s a very tight-knit crew and a crew that are grieving.

I’m good at doing action, and I knew they wanted to really honor Adan’s life and give his character a good sendoff. He sacrifices himself as a hero, so we did the Thelma and Louise thing and sent him off the cliff. It was quite a technical thing to do, but everyone obviously wanted to give him that moment. It was very sad for everyone — and particularly Elodie [Yung], who had to do that scene on the cliff’s edge. It was devastating for her, but she’s such a professional.

I guess it’s about being very calm and very precise and very gentle. I do think that, when you’re directing, you have to remember that actors are not machines. They’re living, breathing human beings with a life and feelings and insecurities. I just think kindness is key. To be kind to another human who has to step in and do the work is civilized and gracious.

Also, I think creative work doesn’t flourish under fear and brutality. I shadowed Ridley Scott on Alien: Covenant, which is a completely different kind of thing, but he’s very precise. At the end of Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer literally improvised his last lines because he felt safe. As [his character] is dying, the actor feels safe to do something extraordinary. There are so many examples of that, like Viola Davis in Air. She improvised that line, “A shoe isn’t a shoe until someone steps into it.” When actors feel safe, they unfold in a really beautiful way and are able to bring something extraordinary from the inside out. When I’m directing, I try and lead with the sense that it’s a team sport. We’re honoring the script and everyone is safe to do their best work.

For example, when Kessler and Butcher are at the bar, he stands up and falls over, and the whole world turns. I wanted to do a shot that required equipment we didn’t have, even though we’ve got all these toys and technical things to help us do stuff. So, the grips had to build something in order to do that shot, and they took a week to do it. I like to believe that, because I come with kindness and I’m technically savvy, they felt safe enough to build this machine that helped realize that shot.

Kindness is a North Star [for me as a director], because otherwise, what are we doing? It’s such a huge, sweaty thing that we do. It looks glamorous at the end of the day, when you see these beautiful actors on the red carpet, but the actual process of making a movie or show is gritty and sweaty and uncomfortable. Let’s make it collegial and lean into the curiosity of it rather than go, “Oh my God, it’s too much.”

I know you wrote as well as directed Satellite Boy. How does our experience as a screenwriter affect your directing style? And do you plan to return to movies or screenwriting anytime soon?

Catriona McKenzie: I started out as a writer. I went to NYU and have been in America for five years, learning from Jimmy McGovern [who wrote Moving On] and
Meg LeFauvre [who wrote Inside Out]
. From them, I learned that it’s character first. And in a way, the directing is just a visual version of that.

I had written this short script called Playing Hard to Get, where you see this woman coming out of the shower and getting ready for what we assume is a hot date. It’s a two-minute short, and at the end of it, she jumps into bed with herself. It was a comedy from the female perspective, but a director had taken it and made it a film noir tragedy; black-and-white and very stylized. That’s not funny.

That was the moment I went, “You know what? If someone’s going to do that to my scripts, let me ruin them myself.” So, I transitioned from being a writer to being a director, but I still write. I’m developing a couple of TV shows and I’ve got lots of ideas that I’m getting ready to take out into the world. They’re very different. Everything I do is very different, but now I’m just finding my creative tribe in America and the people I want to work with and collaborate with. I’m enjoying meeting some really great creative people and preparing for a different sort of bull-riding.

Check out our other The Boys season 4 interviews here:

The finale of

The Boys

season 4 will be available to stream July 18 on Prime Video.

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