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What is real is that piece of you that wants to burn every fucking supe on Earth. How is it you think you ripped Ezekiel into fun-sized little chunks? I'm the one that gave you the juice that you needed. And I can do it again. All you have to do is hold up your end of the bargain. (...) We go all the way. I mean, come on, champ, what's a little genocide between friends?
―Joe Kessler to Billy Butcher.[src]

"Joe Kessler" is the secondary antagonist of Season Four of the Amazon series The Boys. The original Joe Kessler is a posthumous character.

He was a CIA Case Officer and a soldier during the War on Terror, during which he was acquainted with Billy Butcher, but during a battle in the Panjshir Valley he was left for dead by Butcher and was killed in combat. Years later, as a side-effect of overusing Temp V, and injecting himself with Compound V to stave off the side-effects, Butcher began hallucinating both his deceased wife Becca and Kessler, which were manifestations of his sentient brain tumor, with Becca urging him to make moral decisions and Kessler urging him to take the more violent routes and even having the power to take control of him. After Grace Mallory was killed by Ryan, Butcher gave in to Kessler's ideals and enters a symbiotic relationship with the now parasitic brain tumor. The two kill Victoria Neuman and steal the virus from The Boys before leaving for parts unknown, planning to use it to commit genocide against the entire Supe population, including Ryan with Kessler pleased with winning Butcher over.

Background[]

Little is known about Joe Kessler. He has a wife named Tanya, a son named Joe Jr., and close ties with Billy Butcher. The two men have shared several missions during the War on Terror,[1] such as "deprogramming" two men from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Joe promised to name his son after Butcher, but did not end up following through. In 2013, he and Butcher were on a military mission in Afghanistan. He was killed in action, leaving his body in the Panjshir Valley.

On Election Night in 2024, Butcher imagines Kessler's return. Kessler seeks to train Ryan to be able to defeat Homelander, before it is too late and the supes begin to subjugate the humans.

The Boys Series[]

The Boys: Season 4[]

"Department of Dirty Tricks"[]

Joe Kessler first appears at the CIA headquarters, greeting Billy for the first time in eleven years. The two then share a coffee together and discuss the current events, with Kessler also reminding Billy about their past during the War on Terror. Kessler tells Billy they need someone like him to step up, before the Supes start to subjugate and enslave the human race.

"We'll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here"[]

Kessler provides enough carfentanil to "take down ten bull elephants" to Butcher so he can dose Ryan and kidnap him to relocate him to the Hazlet Safe House. Butcher bakes them into cookies to feed to Ryan, but ultimately decides to throw them out instead. After Kessler finds out about this, he says that he would train his own son if it meant saving the world, and gives Butcher an ultimatum that either they will be forced to train Ryan, or they will be forced to kill him.

"Beware of the Jabberwock, My Son"[]

Kessler and Billy arrive at Stan Edgar's farm late at night, entering one of the barns. Billy reveals he has kidnapped Sameer Shah, a doctor who previously worked with a deadly Supe-killing virus. Kessler is unperturbed by Billy's extreme method of severing Sameer's leg, and listens as Billy explains his plans to the doctor; Sameer is going to engineer and replicate more samples of the virus. Billy turns to look at Kessler, who grins at him, with Billy returning a concerning smile.

"Dirty Business"[]

Kessler and Billy continue to threaten Sameer into recreating the Supe-killing virus, with Billy demanding he make it strong enough to kill Homelander. Sameer refuses, revealing that in order to make the virus strong enough for Homelander, it risks becoming highly unstable and airborne, threatening to exterminate every Supe on the planet. Kessler is delighted by this, urging Billy to go forward due to his hatred of Supes, while a hallucination of Becca Butcher in Billy's head opposes it, denouncing it as murder of many innocent people. Kessler suddenly shouts at Becca, revealing that he too was a figment of Butcher’s imagination, shocking Billy. Kessler tells him that the real Joe Kessler died in the Panjshir Valley, after Billy apparently left him behind, revealing that all of Billy's previous conversations with Kessler were just him talking to himself. Kessler states that he is Billy, his V-enhanced brain tumour having chosen Kessler as the manifestation of Billy's darker side. Kessler presses Billy, saying he can't refuse wanting to make the virus, because his own brain is telling him he wants to. He tells Billy not to worry and ends with "Daddy's home", referencing the same thing Billy said to Hughie in Season Two.

"The Insider"[]

Kessler manifests again as Billy returns to the Flatiron Building, pleading for him not to inform his colleagues about Dr. Shaw or the virus. Butcher ignores Kessler's protests as Mother's Milk assigns Kimiko and a newly pardoned Frenchie to watch and assist Shaw with developing the virus. He then smiles as Marvin reinstates Butcher as the leader of The Boys. Kessler later confronts Butcher about his newfound "soft spot" for supes, reminding him of his brief sexual relationship with Maeve and questioning his faith in Ryan. Butcher replies that he promised Becca he would take care of Ryan, to which Kessler reminds him of his infidelity with a waitress. Butcher tells him off before leaving. Irritated by Billy's defiant attitude, Kessler becomes non-responsive when he pleads for him to attack The Deep and Black Noir II, forcing The Boys to retreat with the help of A-Train. He reappears at a bar as Billy watches Ryan's speech during a live broadcast of Avenue V, telling him, "Silent treatment goes both ways." Butcher mocks him for underestimating his faith in Ryan before fainting as he leaves the bar.

"Assassination Run"[]

Kessler reappears by Butcher's bed after he is hospitalized in the CIA Hazlet safe house, lamenting his current state and his refusal to accept his help despite the circumstances. He offers to empower Billy as he did against Ezekiel in return for committing genocide against the supe race, only to be interrupted by Grace Mallory's arrival. He later looms over Billy after Ryan inadvertently kills Mallory without remorse, causing Billy to turn toward him with a look of weary resignation. Butcher returns to the Vought Fresh Farms facility to find The Boys arranging a meeting with Victoria Neuman. Butcher, refusing to work with Neuman, pushes Hughie out of the way as Kessler's tentacles suddenly emerge from his chest, restraining Neuman and incapacitating Zoe and their bodyguard. Butcher raises Neuman in the air and uses his newly revealed powers to violently rip her in half, shocking his colleagues. Butcher retracts his tentacles and steals the virus sample from Frenchie before leaving. Kessler is last seen smirking in the backseat of Butcher's vehicle as he drives away, satisfied with their newfound symbiosis.

Relationships[]

Allies[]

  • Billy Butcher - Former Colleague, Former Friend and Accidental Killer

Quotes[]

Out of all the fucking people that your festering fucked-up brain could have conjured up, you picked me. The real Joe Kessler? He's dead in the Panjshir Valley motherfucker, you never dragged me out, you left me to die.
―Kessler revealing the truth to Billy
So don't you worry, Billy my boy. Daddy's home.
―Kessler repeating Billy's line

Trivia[]

  • Before 4x06 revealed that Kessler's appearances were simply hallucinations in Butcher's mind, many fans and viewers had theorized this, as, up to this point, Kessler only ever interacts with Butcher, is only ever acknowledged by Butcher, randomly appears in Butcher's scenes and is often unexplainably absent when Butcher interacts with someone else. Some pointed out the plot being similar to Tyler Durden from David Fincher's 1999 film Fight Club, Rhys Montrose from YOU and Viktor Reznov from Call of Duty: Black Ops.
    • Viktor Reznov in particular bares many similarities to Joe Kessler, as, in Call of Duty: Black Ops, Reznov was a former close friend and ally of Alex Mason who presumably sacrificed himself to help Mason escape a Russian Gulag. Years later, Mason encounters Reznov in Vietnam, and Reznov frequently fights by his side. Like Kessler, Reznov's presence is never acknowledged by Mason's allies, and he unexplainably disappears and reappears by Mason's side at random points, with it later being revealed that the real Reznov died in Vorkuta, and the hallucinations were a side effect of a brainwashing number sequence. Reznov repeatedly pushes Mason into ignoring his unit's wishes and killing the 3 targets that betrayed him, similar to Kessler repeatedly pushing Butcher into ditching his morals and going for the kill against Homelander and any Supe that gets in his way.
  • The brain tumor that mentally manifests as Kessler is occasionally seen moving in a worm-like fashion. When Butcher sees a rabbit injected with Temp V burst upon with dark worm-like tendrils coming out of it, he realizes the same thing may be in him.
  • Butcher's sentient brain tumor appearing as a human-like hallucination is similar to Ultimate Tony Stark's sentient brain tumor from Marvel's Ultimate Universe.
  • Kessler (at least Billy’s hallucination of him) is one of, if not the only former ally of Billy Butcher who is pleased to see him after not interacting with him for years. Most characters, notably Frenchie, MM, Grace Mallory and The Legend show distrust and disappointment at seeing him again.
  • Joe Kessler, at least Billy's hallucination of him, shares a lot in common with the comic's version of Billy Butcher. Most notably, the obsession with killing supes, to the point where he'll be willing to kill Starlight, Kimiko, and Ryan just to ensure their death.
  1. Amazon Prime Video character summaries
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