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The Deeper Meaning Behind Billy Butcher's Powers In The Boys Season 3

Contains mild spoilers for the first three episodes of "The Boys" Season 3

The first three episodes of "The Boys" dropped on Prime Video on Friday, June 3, and it seems every character on the show has been on their best behavior for the year since last season's events transpired. That was destined to change, and it didn't take long for Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) to go against his instincts and takes Temp V, an experimental serum that gives him super powers for 24 hours. After hallucinating a conversation with mortal enemy Homelander (Anthony Starr), in which the superhero mocks him for wanting to become like those he hates, Butcher takes the serum, which gives him super strength and the ability to shoot lasers from his eyes, just like Homelander. 

Still determined to kill the all-American superhero he detests, Butcher interrogates a supe named Gunpowder (Sean Patrick Flanery) on the whereabouts of Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), a presumed-dead superhero rumored to be the Boys' best chance at defeating Homelander and Vought International once and for all. With the Temp V serum in his veins, Butcher cruelly lasers off Gunpowder's face, proving he's not so different from Homelander after all — or is he?

In a new interview with Variety, "The Boys" showrunner Eric Kripke reiterates that all of the superpowers in the Prime Video series are metaphors. "When it came time to give Butcher powers, that still held," Kripke said. "The discussion was, 'What is going on inside Butcher, and then how do we come up with a power that dramatizes that?'" 

Butcher both hates and loves his powers

Billy Butcher is dealing with a lot of inner turmoil after Season 2 of "The Boys," when he reunites with his presumed-dead wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanten), only to discover she is alive and raising Homelander's child the entire time he has been mourning her. Becca is eventually killed, and Butcher decides to honor her wishes and protect her son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), who inherits Homelander's superpowers. Angry at being sidelined from his mission to kill the supe, Butcher also feels betrayed by his former protégé, Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), who now works for the government and effectively supervises him. It's the perfect cocktail for innate rage — and why showrunner Eric Kripke felt Butcher's powers should parallel Homelander's.

"For Butcher, he is turning into the thing he hates most in the world," Kripke told Variety. "He hates it and loves it, in equal measure. That was where we got to laser eyes because laser eyes is a real Homelander thing." However, Butcher and Homelander are different, and it shows. Kripke explained, "But if you notice, visually and in the way Karl performs it, it's painful. It's a different, self-punishing, self-flagellating power. The beams are really rough, and they're smoking because they're burning his eyes as it's happening. It's a natural extension of his inner rage and his inner hatred, both toward Homelander and toward himself."

As for Urban, he's enjoyed exploring the moral dilemma superpowers present. "He's a character who absolutely despises supes and is forced to turn himself in to the thing he despises the most in order to defeat that very thing," Urban said. "It examines the cost of that, not only to Butcher, but to all of those around him, and seeing how everybody has to make a choice, in terms of how far they're willing to go."