6 Clues in The Boys Season 4 Suggesting Joe Kessler Wasn’t Real

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Joe Kessler in The Boys

The Boys‘ Joe Kessler reveal is one of the show’s best-executed moments so far, but the mystery had been teased throughout the entire season. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s role as Joe Kessler was one of the most anticipated parts of The Boys season 4, and the character’s big reveal didn’t disappoint. After seemingly trying to help Billy Butcher in his quest to take down Homelander, The Boys Joe Kessler twist unveiled that he wasn’t real, and instead was a figment of Butcher’s imagination as, like his late wife Becca, Butcher talks and interacts with Joe, who is already dead.

Although it was clear to the audience that Becca wasn’t real since she died on screen, Joe was introduced as a new character, making the revelation that he also died years ago a huge surprise to the audience. He essentially acts as the devil on Butcher’s shoulder while Becca acts as the angel since Joe appeals to Butcher’s worst instincts. However, despite Kessler’s true identity being a shock to many, some eagle-eyed viewers figured out the true nature of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Boys character, as season 4 already dropped plenty of hints that Kessler wasn’t real.

6Kessler Knew About Butcher’s “Clear Shot” At Killing Homelander With Soldier Boy

Kessler Alluded To Butcher Fighting Soldier Boy In The Season 3 Finale

Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) between Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Homelander (Anthony Starr) shooting lasers at each other in The Boys

One of the first clues that Kessler wasn’t real came during his introduction where he mentioned Butcher’s experience with Soldier Boy. After bumping into Butcher, the two caught up and discussed the ongoing supe crisis. Butcher mentioned that he was focused on Homelander and criticized Grace Mallory for not having her eye on the ball. This prompts Kessler to respond, “But you had a clean shot at him, right? With Soldier Boy” proving that he knew about the events of season 3 or – at the very least – the fight that took place during the finale.

Butcher had the chance to let Soldier Boy kill Homelander during The Boys season 3’s ending; however, he chose to save his enemy as Ryan’s life was also in danger. Although Soldier Boy’s defeat is public knowledge, Butcher and The Boys’ involvement is not. Kessler may be portrayed as a resourceful CIA agent, but the idea of him knowing these specific details like Butcher saving Homelander seems far-fetched. It’s also not the kind of thing Butcher would proudly share, making Kessler’s intimate intel on this mission suspicious and one of the earliest clues that this version of him wasn’t real.

5Kessler Knew About Butcher’s Tumor

His CIA Role Didn’t Fully Explain How He Knew About Butcher’s Brain Tumor

Karl Urban looking confused as Butcher in The Boys and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Joe Kessler in season 4Custom Image by Yailin Chacon

Like the Homelander and Soldier Boy confrontation, Kessler seemed to know about another very private aspect of Butcher’s life, his brain tumor. Once again, this is something only known by Butcher’s inner circle, and while someone like Homelander figured it out with ease, that could be the result of his superpowers. Kessler claimed that his CIA clearance allowed him access to Butcher’s medical records, and while this is plausible, he never explained why he needed them. The medical files didn’t seem to be a part of his attempt to track Butcher down, making his need for them pretty mysterious.

After the reveal, it is obvious Joe only knew about the tumor because he is an extension of Butcher’s mind, but the idea of the real Joe Kessler accessing these files made little sense. This was another early indication that there was more than meets the eye with Morgan’s character and that he wasn’t as trustworthy as he might seem. If Kessler was real, his CIA affiliation and the medical record excuse are still fathomable, but when analyzing why the character would actually need this information, it seems like this was an obvious clue to Kessler’s secret.

4Kessler Aligned With All Of Butcher’s Darkest Desires

Butcher Has Never Met Anyone With Such A Similar Mindset Regarding Supes

Karl Urban as Butcher looking menacing and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Kessler in The Boys.
Custom image by Simone Ashmoore

Despite Billy Butcher being a central part of The Boys, he is clearly the least moral in the group, making Kessler’s near-identical personality suspicious. Although he has met plenty of other people who want to take down Homelander and Vought, none of them have been quite as ruthless or immoral about it as Butcher. He has frequently thrown his team under the bus and shown little compassion towards those he has interrogated or killed, meaning the idea of someone conveniently sharing these exact goals seemed a little too good to be true, and it was.

Kessler seemed to share Butcher’s scorched earth vision, as he claimed he would be willing to train up his son to fight Homelander and was excited about Sameer’s virus potentially wiping out all supes. His savage approach to dealing with the supe problem perfectly aligned with some of Butcher’s darker thoughts, proving he reflected these sinister desires the whole time. The Boys did an excellent job of still making Joe feel like the sort of character that fits seamlessly into this universe, but his extreme mindset was one of the biggest clues that he was never real.

While the big reveal means a Joe Kessler The Boys spinoff may never happen, one of the big reasons it would be so appealing is because of his similarities to Butcher. Despite the character’s moral complexities, fans love Butcher, and Kessler’s similarities have made him a fan favorite as well, despite his more antagonistic role. Having what is essentially an even more brutal and remorseless version of Butcher has made The Boys season 4 far more exciting, but it was also a massive indication that Morgan’s character shared too much in common with Butcher to be real.

3Sameer Totally Ignored Joe Kessler In The Boys Season 4, Episode 6

Sameer Looked Confused Whenever Butcher Talked To Kessler

Butcher and Joe Kessler dealing with Sammy at a barn in The Boys season 4

The ending of The Boys season 4’s sixth episode revealed Kessler’s big twist, but there were plenty of teases throughout “Dirty Business”. Butcher, Kessler, and Sameer had several scenes together, yet Sameer only ever acknowledged Butcher while he completely ignored Kessler. When Butcher referred to his vision of Joe as “we“, Sameer looked confusingly to the side of Butcher, indicating that he didn’t see anyone else. Likewise, Sameer didn’t react to Kessler’s verbal attempt to wake him up, and instead only awakened after Butcher physically interacted with him, once again showing Sameer never saw Butcher’s imaginary companion.

While the brief interaction between the trio in episode 5 set off alarm bells for some viewers, episode 6 cemented that Sameer was completely oblivious to Kessler. The fact that the big reveal happened in front of him only adds to Sameer’s importance in helping uncover this mystery, as his scenes were the biggest giveaway. The Boys kept Sameer’s looks of discomfort and concern subtle enough that the twist wasn’t too obvious, but he was certainly the key to helping audiences discover the truth before it was unveiled, proving Sameer provided one of the largest clues to Kessler’s identity.

2Kessler Knew A Lot About The Boys (Despite Never Meeting Them)

Kessler Appeared To Have Very Recent Updates About The Boys Without Meeting Them

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Karl Urban stand face to face in The Boys season 4

Given Joe Kessler never met any other members of The Boys on screen, he seemed to know a lot about them. While it is possible the real version of Joe met MM and potentially Frenchie before his death, there is no way he’d personally know Hughie, Starlight, or Kimiko. His CIA affiliation may have given him some intel, but he seemed to know about incredibly recent events. Kessler criticized Butcher’s devotion to the team and mentioned that “MM’s on the verge of a breakdown” which is something that would be near enough impossible for Kessler to know.

Without directly working with Marvin, it seems unlikely that Kessler would know about his struggles, highlighting that there must be a deeper reason as to why he has this kind of knowledge. Kessler never explains who he is working with now or what kind of sources would get him that kind of information, indicating there is more at play. This scene alone may not have been enough to uncover The Boys season 4’s Joe Kessler twist, but the fact that he had so much information on the group was definitely worth questioning in hindsight.

Although Starlight has a mainstream presence, getting intel on the likes of Frenchie and Kimiko would be difficult since they were off the grid, and while Kessler doesn’t mention anything too specific about them, he acts like he knows the group intimately. Without sharing Butcher’s knowledge of the team, Kessler’s deep understanding of each member should be worrying as it would suggest The Boys aren’t that difficult to gain intel on. Therefore, Butcher’s lack of concern is another subtle sign that Kessler was always an extension of him, hence why Butcher doesn’t attempt to challenge him.

1Kessler Never Interacted With Anyone But Butcher Throughout The Boys Season 4

Butcher Was The Only Character That Ever Responded To Kessler

Kessler (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Butcher (Karl Urban) sitting on a bench in The Boys.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that Joe Kessler wasn’t real in The Boys is the fact that he never interacted with anyone else on the show. Although he did attempt to talk with Sameer, the only person who ever acknowledges him other than Butcher is Becca, who is also a figment of Butcher’s imagination. The show never attempted to disguise Becca’s fictional role, but this also demonstrated that Butcher was sick and hallucinating things, meaning Kessler’s true nature was hidden in plain sight.

Outside Sameer, their meetings never involved anyone else, and while at first glance this seemed to be for privacy reasons, the big twist clearly shows why Kessler never interacted with anyone else. This was easily The Boys‘ most genius clue regarding Kessler being fictional as it perfectly showed he was non-existent without Butcher. Although some people managed to figure out the secret before it was revealed, Kessler being a part of Butcher’s imagination was a brilliant surprise, especially given how many clues the show dropped.

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