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The Boys' New Character Sets Up A Huge (But Disappointing) Twist

Contains spoilers for "The Boys" Season 4, Episode 2 — "Life Among the Septics"

In its very first Season 4 episode, "The Boys" introduces a brand new character. The affable yet stone cold Joe Kessler is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan of "The Walking Dead" fame, and he seems like a potential ally during a time when Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) has none. However, his real nature might be a big and somewhat disappointing twist: Kessler could simply turn out to be one of Butcher's many hallucinations. Sure, Morgan might seem like too valuable an addition to "The Boys" Season 4 cast to waste on something like that ... but then again, this is a show that can summon Will Ferrell for a cameo and has no problem having Tilda Swinton voice an octopus. As such, let's look at the evidence.

Kessler appears suddenly and only interacts with Butcher, who has a deep history of vivid dreams, flashbacks, and hallucinations — from Mindstorm (Ryan Blakely) trapping him in a terrible scenario from his youth to seeing brief visions of Lenny Butcher (Bruno Rudolff and Jack Fulton) in Season 3 and Becca (Shantel VanSanten) in Season 4. In fact, Butcher's very first scene in Season 4, Episode 1 features other members of the team catching him talking to someone they can't see.

Butcher is dying. Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) has kicked him out of the Boys. He wasted his best shot against the dangerous, milk-obsessed Homelander (Antony Starr) in Season 3, and has no idea how to save Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) from the Supe leader's clutches. It's no wonder that Butcher's feeling a bit unhinged — and unfortunately, "The Boys" Season 4 might just underline this by eventually revealing that Kessler is just another one of his imaginary friends.   

Kessler is very different in the comics

Several "The Boys" characters are extremely different in the show than they are in the comics. Kessler is no exception, since his weedy comic book incarnation is a far cry from the cool, gruff live-action version. 

In the comics, Howard "Monkey" Kessler is a lowly CIA analyst who eventually climbs to higher echelons of the organization, both because of the Boys and in spite of them. Monkey is a valuable source of Supe information, but also a sniveling, vindictive, and abusive person whom Butcher holds in absolute contempt and is happy to bully mercilessly. Kessler is the source of much of the comic's dark humor, enduring numerous increasingly strange physical attacks and humiliating incidents. 

This Kessler would be a difficult guy to bring into live action even by the show's gleefully deranged standards, so it's understandable that he joins the many other characters who have been heavily reworked. Perhaps the most extreme examples of such reimaginings are Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), the head-exploding political operator, and Stormfront (Aya Cash), the social media savvy, supposedly progressive Supe who's secretly a violent WWII-era Nazi. In the comics, Neuman is male, powerless, and extremely simple — something of a blatant parody of George W. Bush. Meanwhile, Stormfront is a male Nazi whose look and powers make him essentially a take on Captain Marvel. However, he's a far more one-note character than the show's complex and deceptive Stormfront. In both instances, the show arguably changes the characters for the better, and it will be interesting to see whether it's able to do the same to Kessler.