Will The Boys Season 3 Finally Reveal Billy Butcher’s Secret Power?

The following article contains major spoilers for Season 2 of The Boys.

The Boys is a universe of abject horror and peerless injustice. Notably, it features corruption, amoralism, extreme violence and immensely fierce survivors of trauma. Among these survivors, John "Homelander" and William "Billy" Butcher stand out. These characters couldn't be more diametrically opposed, yet profoundly identical. Homelander is the poster boy for Vought International and is thought to be one of the most powerful Supes in existence. Billy Butcher is the leader of "The Boys," and is inimitable in his capacity for inflicting cruelty onto others. Throughout most of the series, Billy holds extreme prejudice towards any super-powered individual, with Homelander holding the honor of being his most despised. However, Billy discovers a long-dormant power of his own near the end of Season 2: Empathy.

In The Boys Season 2, Episode 7, "Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker," audiences first meet Billy's father, Sam. From the moment Billy sees him, his disdain is undeniable. Thereafter, viewers learn of the emotional, mental and physical abuse that Billy and his deceased brother, Lenny, endured at the hands of Sam. From his perspective, Sam was trying to make Billy and Lenny the strongest men in the world. Later in the episode, Billy converses with Homelander's biological father, Jonah Vogelbaum, and learns of Homelander's childhood. As Jonah goes on, he reveals he had to "go to work" on John because he needed him to be "the strongest man in the world." At this moment, Billy realizes that he and Homelander aren't so different after all.

A character discovering emotional familiarity in someone they usually despise presents an excellent opportunity for humanistic storytelling that's as interesting as it is complex. Every single character that occupies this world has layers. They all have something for which they'd die, and they're all flawed yet emotionally recognizable. When the camera lingers on Billy as Jonah discusses "going to work" on John despite him "not wanting it," Billy's eyes betray the usually hardened facade Sam forced on him. He sits there, hearing Jonah cop to abusing John, turning him into the ruthless, tortured Homelander the world knows, and oddly, he feels for him.

Empathizing with a Supe, not to mention Homelander, is surely confusing for Billy. Over the last few years, he's built his entire personality around his hatred of and vengeance toward Supes. Thus, being put in the position of understanding who John is and where Homelander comes from means confronting his own pain and cruelty. In doing so, Billy obtains empathy for those who've caused him pain. Billy's first utilization of this long-lost power comes in the very next episode. In Season 2, Episode 8, "What I Know," Billy makes a deal with Vought CEO, Stan Edgar. This deal constitutes Billy surrendering Ryan, the son of Homelander and Billy's wife, Becca, to Edgar once he's captured him. However, at the last moment, Billy has a change of heart.

When they try to escape with Ryan, Billy and Becca are accosted by a battered Stormfront. As Stormfront has Becca pressed up against a tree, Ryan's rage at Stormfront culminates in him blasting lasers out of his eyes. When the dust settles, it's revealed Ryan inadvertently blasted Becca in the throat at the same time he virtually disintegrated Stormfront. Acknowledging that he's mortally wounded his mother, Ryan breaks down in tears, pleading for forgiveness. At this same moment, Billy's clutching the body of his now-deceased love, still covered in her blood. As Billy's insurmountable pain bubbles, he grabs a crowbar and stares at Ryan with, seemingly, murderous intent.

After Homelander lands and looks over the charred remains of a barely-living Stormfront, he angrily gestures for Ryan to come to him. However, Ryan goes against his father's wishes. Instead, he slowly rounds his way to where Billy's standing, taking respite in his guard. The emotional richness of this moment is utterly palpable. Billy tearfully stares down someone he used to demonize as he protects this person's super-powered offspring in order to ensure he doesn't become like them. In his heart, John knows that Ryan might be better off raised by someone who isn't him. Though, at this point, it's unlikely he'd admit it.

This scene is but a taste of Billy's empathetic prowess. For a character who's been so persistently unforgiving, it's captivating to see him go through the terribly difficult process of letting the rage go. Even though Billy was able to take Ryan, there's still exceptional potential for Billy and John to become emotionally acquainted. After all, they are the only two people in the world who understand what it's like to be in their incredibly exact circumstances. Billy and John are two of a kind in an enormously unique predicament, and there's an innate camaraderie to such an existence.

Going forward, it'd be quite fulfilling if they set Homelander on a redemption arc akin to what they seem to be doing with Billy. Audiences would no doubt be interested in discovering the trauma John experienced as a child. More specifically, it’d be fascinating to see if he could find it in his heart to forgive not only Billy and Jonah, but himself as well. What with Season 3's newer and greater threats, who knows -- maybe audiences will be lucky enough to see Billy and John working together. Whatever the case, Billy's burgeoning empathy has opened the door to this intriguing possibility. Time will tell if he has the courage to walk through it.

To see if Billy and John acknowledge each other's pain, don't miss Season 3 of The Boys, premiering June 3rd on Prime Video.

Dawn of the 7 the Bourke Cut Screengrab The Boys Prime Video
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