Movie Reviews

Butcher’s Backstory Sets Up Major Changes For Him In The Boys Season 4

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Boys season 3, episode 7

We’ll never look at Billy Butcher the same way again after The Boys season 3 finally pressed play on his backstory – what does this mean for Amazon’s upcoming season 4? Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher crashed into The Boys as a tour de force of violence, tea, and colorful language, but season 2 steadily began peeling back that rough exterior. During a visit to Butcher’s Aunt Judy, the silver-haired Walter White wannabe mentioned Billy’s late younger brother Lenny, who he apparently adored. The Boys’ leader went on to blame his father (played by John Noble) for Lenny’s death, but The Boys stopped short of revealing exactly what went down between brothers.

Thanks to Mindstorm’s mental superpowers, The Boys season 3 vividly tells Billy Butcher’s long-awaited origin story. Predictably, it’s deeply upsetting. Billy and Lenny Butcher began as close as brothers who support different soccer teams could be, with the elder child routinely protecting his sibling from their father’s physical abuse. As they grew older, Butcher increasingly adopted his dad’s raging temper, whereas Lenny remained true to himself, creating emotional distance between them. Billy accidentally struck his brother during a stapler incident at school, then received praise from their father while Lenny got kicked and humiliated. Eventually, Butcher ran away, abandoning Lenny to his fate. Unable to endure the abuse without his brother around, Lenny took his own life as a teenager.

Related: The Boys Finally Pays Off Hughie’s Very First Scene (Why It’s Perfect)

The Boys‘ best Butcher backstory trick is avoiding conventional flashbacks. Rather than just showing the audience Billy and Lenny’s awful childhood, Butcher himself relives the trauma as a helpless bystander, courtesy of Mindstorm. The illusion even forces Butcher to watch Lenny shoot himself, which obviously isn’t a memory he’d possess, but rather a moment Butcher spent decades envisioning. Mindstorm forcing Billy Butcher to regurgitate his immense Lenny guilt will surely ignite a drastic change in Karl Urban’s character ahead of The Boys season 4. His distressed and vulnerable reaction immediately after awakening proves that reliving those bad memories has profoundly affected The Boys‘ emotionless antihero. But will Butcher find the motivation to become a better man? Or will he double-down on being the world’s most diabolical boss?

Lenny’s story could inspire Butcher to mend his ways in The Boys season 4. One would hope that witnessing old mistakes in a vivid third-person mind-prison was the wake-up call Butcher sorely needed. From this point forth, maybe the Boys’ ringleader will stop dragging Hughie down the same path that claimed Lenny’s life. And by watching his father be horrific to people in the past, perhaps Billy will finally draw a line between controlled anger toward corrupt superheroes, and selfishly abusing the people closest to him. The way he anxiously apologizes to Hughie (mistaking him for Lenny) after Mindstorm dispels the illusion could mark the beginning of a Billy Butcher redemption arc in The Boys season 4. He’ll still want to kill Homelander, obviously, but could the days of treating Kimiko and Frenchie like attack dogs, needlessly slaughtering supes in cold blood, and hurting the people he cares about be over?

Or is that prediction a little too optimistic? The Boys season 3’s Lenny backstory proved beyond doubt that Butcher’s violent nature and lack of compassion are inherited from his abhorrent father. The connection is so obvious, even Butcher himself must’ve realized it while watching his younger counterpart use the same “f**king p**f” insult on Lenny that their father did. And yet the final moments of The Boys season 3, episode 7 see Billy Butcher lie directly to Hughie’s face, refusing to pass on Starlight’s warning that V-24 is fatal stuff. Butcher’s twisted decision might prove he’s too far gone. Maybe Butcher has accepted he’s his father’s son, and is doubling-down on that darkness believing change isn’t possible this far down the line.

However Lenny’s backstory impacts The Boys season 4, Butcher will be a very different man. Karl Urban’s character will either embark on a road of forgiveness, setting up a future scenario where Butcher redeems himself for Lenny’s death by saving Hughie. Or Butcher’s bloodthirsty resolve will strengthen, and more shades of his dad will swim to the surface. This could lead towards the original The Boys comic book ending by Garth Ennis, where Butcher kills foes, friends, and everyone else on his crusade against supe-kind. By forcing Billy Butcher to confront past sins, Mindstorm might’ve just guaranteed the very same bloodbath in live-action.

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More: The Boys’ Herogasm Beat The Hype (But Not For The Reasons You Think)

The Boys continues Friday on Prime Video.

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