In the first episode of The Boys season four, we finally get to meet Joe Kessler, the mysterious character played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Until now, we only knew that he used to work with Butcher in some capacity. We didn’t really know who he was until episode six, when it is revealed that he’s basically the devil on Butcher’s shoulders opposite of Becca’s angelic/morally just apparition. Here’s everything we know about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Joe Kessler in The Boys

Related: Joe Kessler Is Dead in The Boys, Actually

Joe Kessler and Billy Butcher, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Karl Urban, have an intense staredown in the boys season four
Jasper Savage/Prime Video

Episode one takes place six months after the events of season three. Billy Butcher is sick, no longer the leader of the Boys,and, well, pretty much everyone around him hates him. After a failed mission to kill Vice President-elect Victoria Neuman, Grace Mallory and President-elect Robert Singer call MM in for a heavy scolding. Butcher is not welcomed into the room but he is shocked when Joe Kessler “appears” at the CIA office. They worked together at the CIA and were in a war on some covert s**t. It’s been over 10 years ago, so they exchange some pleasantries and jokes before catching up over coffee.

Joe asks why Butcher is still trying to be down with the Boys. Butcher says he will get his leadership position back. Butcher is laser focused on killing Homelander and saving Ryan while Joe is clearly frustrated about Mallory’s preoccupation with killing Victoria Neuman. Joe says they need someone like him before supes start rounding up humans and putting them into camps. It’s not totally clear who the “they” is but we can assume that Joe is working on something behind Mallory’s back. 

We see Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Joe Kessler again in episode three after Butcher admits to the Boys that he only has months to live. MM is unwilling to help Butcher with his dying mission of getting Ryan away from Homelander for good. So he goes to Kessler for assistance. Joe gives Butcher a powerful drug that will knock Ryan out and allow them to essentially hold him hostage at Grace’s safehouse. Butcher bakes the drug into cookies but, after opening up about his fears of dying, decides to earn his trust instead.

Karl Urban/Instagram

Joe feels like Butcher is wasting precious time. He reveals that he looked into Butcher’s medical files and knows about his diagnosis. He also says they “need” Ryan because the whole world is about to burn. This angers Butcher because he doesn’t want Ryan to be a killing asset. Joe warns that they either figure out how to train him or they may have to figure out how to kill him. Honestly, they are both making valid points. Ryan is only 12 years old and maybe shouldn’t be trained to be a soldier. However, his lack of training could prove to be dangerous. He did (accidentally) fling a man into the side of the building and crush him, after all. The question is whether Joe is someone with good intentions or not.

In episode five, Butcher meets with Joe and gives him photos from The Woods at God U. Joe says that he and Butcher should do the job of killing Homelander without the rest of the Boys because, well, they are all a mess. (He’s not wrong.) Joe says that the two of them don’t belong with decent people. Later on, Butcher goes with the crew, Stan Edgar, and Victoria Neuman. They find Sameer, a scientist working at Victoria’s secret lab who is also her daughter Zoe’s father. He argues with Annie/Starlight about whether they should use the last bit of the supe-killing virus to take a shot and make a run for it from the Compound V animals or try to use it on a man’s corpse to kill the deranged animals. MM talks sense into everyone and they make the latter choice to save everyone, but Butcher never goes with the flow.

At the end of the episode, Butcher brings Joe to the secluded farm after he’s tied up Sameer and cut one of his legs off at the knee. Butcher threatens Sameer to make more of the supe-killing virus, lest he wants to lose more body parts. This brutality pleases Joe, who smiles in the background.

Except… Joe is not involved in any of this. Why? He died way back in the Panjshir Valley. Butcher did not save Joe Kessler but instead left him to die. This shows just how down bad he is, thanks to Compound V24. Joe and Butcher are now in the midst of a conflict, with Joe unhappy that Butcher isn’t down to follow his violent plans.

In episode seven, we don’t see Becca at all but Joe appears a couple of times. He berates Butcher for telling the group the truth about the supe-killing virus’ instability. Joe even “abandons” Butcher during a massive fight against the Deep and Black Noir. At the very end of the episode, Butcher tells Joe that he knows Ryan can be saved after seeing him go off script during that ridiculous Christmas spot. He collapses on the floor as Joe looks over him with some amusement.

Butcher is in the hospital and in very bad physical shape in the finale. He even calls and basically tells Hughie goodbye, asking him to tell the Boys that he’s sorry. But after Ryan kills Grace after refusing to go along with their plan to train him to kill Homelander, Butcher decides to let Joe truly become a part of him. We can only assume that between this mental shift and Butcher probably taking more V, he’s back and completely unhinged.

He kills Victoria Neuman in front of his former crew (and her daughter!) and takes the supe killing virus with him. Joe Kessler is seen in the back seat as Butcher drives down a snowy abandoned road. The Boys (except for Starlight) are now in custody and Butcher will probably attempt supe genocide in season five under Joe’s guidance.

Joe Kessler Will Return in The Boys Season Five

This is pretty much a given based on the season four finale. Butcher is being driven by this dark part of him to the point that Becca doesn’t even show up anymore. Joe will likely push Butcher to his brink, perhaps even causing him to sacrifice himself to defeat Homelander. Will Butcher have to kill Ryan? Can he ever reconcile with the Boys after this? We will have to wait and see what happens.

Is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Boys Character Joe Kessler From the Comics?

There isn’t a Joe Kessler in The Boys comics but there is a Howard Kessler. He’s a CIA analyst who feeds the Boys information. Butcher calls him Monkey due to a gross incident that happened at a brothel. Howard Kessler is a terrible person who tries to sexually assault a woman. Butcher responds to this by having his dog Terror deliver sickening justice. I’d rather not get into all that but it seems that Joe’s last name is simply a nod to that character and nothing more.

Originally published on June 13, 2024.