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Why Ryan Butcher From The Boys Is More Terrifying Than You Think

Contains spoilers for The Boys season 2 finale

In the season 2 finale of The Boys, the young Ryan Butcher (Cameron Crovetti) becomes the subject of one of the most heated battles in the series. Against all odds, the Boys and their super powered allies are able to keep Ryan away from his homicidal farther-slash-Superman parody Homelander (Anthony Starr) and the Nazi Supe Stormfront (Aya Cash). With his emerging abilities, Ryan accidentally kills his mother while trying to save her from Stormfront, and toward the end of the finale we see Ryan handed off to the custody of former CIA deputy director Grace Mallory (Laila Robins).

If it's true, as the late Whitney Houston sang, that "children are our future," then Ryan Butcher should give the characters of The Boys a lot of concern for the world of tomorrow. While today Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his colleagues have their hands full dealing with The Seven and the corrupt Vought International, the events of the series' second season have the potential for creating a monster even more destructive than a maniac like Homelander. When you consider Ryan's abilities, his trauma, and some of the likely scenarios Ryan has to look forward to, it can be easy to forget he's a little boy and think of him more like a ticking time bomb.

Homelander shows us what the lack of a parental figure can do to a Supe

When considering the kind of person Ryan could become — or perhaps more importantly, the kind of Supe he could become — we need to remember exactly what made Homelander the man he is. Along with arguably being the most powerful Supe on Earth, Homelander experiences a much different childhood than most. Unlike Starlight (Erin Moriarty), for example, who enjoys a relatively normal family life before being recruited by Vought to join The Seven, Homelander is never treated as anything but a tool for the corporation. As a boy, Homelander is raised in a Vought-operated lab. The closest thing he has to a father is the scientist Jonah Vogelbaum (John Doman). We are led to believe the only mother-like presences in his developing years — a series of female teachers — are mostly either unintentionally killed or crippled by the young Homelander. For example his yearning for a maternal figure is so powerful that he hugs her hard enough to accidentally shatter her spine.

The first season of The Boys makes it clear that much of what informs Homelander's insanity is the cold, sterile environment in which he's raised and the lack of any kind of mother or mother figure. Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) is well aware of this and uses a maternal allure to manipulate Homelander, including letting him drink the breast milk meant for her newborn. Like Homelander's early teachers, she eventually becomes his victim. 

One day, Ryan could be even more savage than Homelander

Speaking to Inverse, Shantel VanSanten — who plays Ryan's mother Becca on The Boys — said showrunner Eric Kripke told her that her character "was basically raising the second coming of Christ, or a new Homelander." Unfortunately, while we can't blame Becca for the events that transpire in season 2 of The Boys, it looks like there's a decent chance all of her best intentions are for nothing. In an attempt to save Becca, Ryan winds up unintentionally doing what Homelander does to all of his young tutors and eventually to Madelyn Stillwell — he not only kills his biological mother, but cripples Stormfront, the Supe who wants to replace Becca. So now, like Homelander was as a boy, Ryan is a super-powered child with no living family and a penchant for killing and maiming maternal figures — but perhaps worse, since he had an actual mother and killed her, which one could argue would be more traumatic. While it could be that he will receive much better treatment from Grace Mallory than the young Homelander did from Vought, there are plenty of reasons to suspect this won't happen. After all, Homelander is still alive and the government likely sees Ryan the same way Vought did — as a failsafe against his psychotic father.

For now Ryan is just a boy and it's too soon to tell, but imagine if Homelander suffered from the same emotional defects, but without the controlling influences of Madelyn Stillwell and Vought International. As twisted as he is, Homelander at least has reasons to not go full General Zod and start ripping the world to pieces. Assuming Ryan's abilities to be at least equal to Homelander's, unless someone intervenes and helps to heal Ryan's mind and soul, what's going to stop him from eventually crossing the few lines that Homelander won't?