The thing about aging is that the older we get, the stranger those coming up behind us seem to be. Social media has only exacerbated this perception: Youths are weird, olds are judgmental, and that's a messy enough dichotomy without tossing superpowers into the mix. Yet, here comes Gen V, Prime Video's first live-action spin-off of The Boys, to pit today's gifted youngsters against their Gen X/Millennial elders.
There's a damn good reason why the kids aren't alright in Gen V. As revealed in The Boys, superheroes aren't born but made by shady Vought International's Compound V, a serum that gives kids superpowers — hence the title. The scummier parents have injected V in their children, hoping to one day cash in on the celebrity superhero craze represented by the league known as The Seven. Now that these investments — er, kids — have grown to college age, they can attend Godolkin University School of Crimefighting, the Vought-owned superhero training academy that hones their gifts for the betterment of the world. At least, that's what Indira Shetty (Shelley Conn), Godolkin U's cheery dean of students, keeps telling everyone.
Those well versed in The Boys know Vought is a Nazi-spawned ultra-corp that twists heroes into brands, from which come glitzed-out film franchises and lucrative endorsement deals that appeal to the media-drunk, chronically online influencer sphere. This gives Gen V, wrought by showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (Marvel's Agent Carter), a compelling angle to exploit: It embraces this hellscape of academic clout chasing and, in true Boys fashion, gleefully wrings every poisoned laugh it can from it by making earnest gestures at concepts like diversity, inclusivity, and safe spaces while simultaneously taking the piss out of them. One of its more squirm-inducing gags is an invisible campus RA who runs mandatory consent seminars. Considering the source material, it should be no surprise that its satire only gets harsher from here.
Although Gen V spends quality time delving into the lives of its ensemble cast, it primarily focuses on Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), an ambitious freshman with the power to manipulate blood into various deadly (and gnarly) forms. She secures a full scholarship to God U, determined to become one of its "culturally unique change agents" and, hopefully, the first Black woman to join The Seven. However, her biggest challenge is convincing people of the merits of her grotesque and, given its activation method, disturbing superpower. Market research could well become her arch-nemesis.
Marie's dorm mate is Emma (Lizze Broadway), who can shrink. As the White Claw-slurping Little Cricket, Emma films YouTube boxing matches with her gerbil, David Caruso (as her pet's name might imply, she's a big fan of William Friedkin's 1995 erotic thriller, Jade). While she gets on well enough with Emma, Marie is a bit cagey about her state-run upbringing and has only blank stares on offer whenever her pop-addled roomie starts rattling off references. "Are you Amish?" Emma asks her. "Is Black Amish a thing?" (Broadway is a standout; if any cast member survives the leap to The Boys big leagues, she'd be the one.)
Along the way, Marie makes a few social contacts, for better or worse. Among her contemporaries are Andre (Chance Perdomo), who has magnetic powers and lives in the shadow of his alumnus super-dad (Sean Patrick Thomas), and Jordan Li (Derek Luh and London Thor), who can swap genders at will and has limited patience for Marie's provinciality. There’s also Cate (Maddie Phillips), who can Jedi mind-trick anyone to do her bidding with the touch of her hand (but totally doesn't because she's "all about consent"), and her boyfriend, Luke (Patrick Schwarzenegger), the Golden Boy of Godolkin and Professor Rich Brinkerhoff's (Clancy Brown) pet student, meant for greatness and a slot on The Seven — and, as befits the source material, has stashed away skeletons that inadvertently trigger a mystery for Marie's clique to explore — when they aren't busy boning each other, that is.
These performances vary greatly in quality, oscillating between impressive and wearying, depending on who occupies the scene. We soon encounter Sam (Asa Germann), who has knowledge about "The Woods" (the epicenter of the season-long mystery) and grapples with sporadic lapses of reality, i.e., he sees puppets. Sam should be one of the more interesting characters in Gen V — his dilemmas and powers are often a source of the show's more inventive sequences — but Germann frequently gums up the works with his splotchy, overwrought performance. The individual capacity to endure some of these characters will hinge on a tolerance for that young, I'm-a-hot-actor type who unravels into chaotic spectacles at the slightest inconvenience, unleashing a torrent of expletives, with the heavily enunciated "f*ck" (and its gerund cousin, "f*ckin'") being the vulgarity of choice. (Or maybe that's just us olds.)
Gen V is a wise next step for The Boys as Eric Kripke’s series, based on the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic book of the same name, shifts into full franchise mode. It's a forked-tongued commentary on academia and the minefield it lays before students conditioned to navigate it at any cost, presented with the original series's notorious brand of blood-spattered, genitals-besotted havoc. (As to that, this show is uniformly hostile towards the penis.) Think of Gen V as a vulgar, violent answer to the X-Men, replete with traumatic backstories in which supes-to-be discover their latent powers and soapy romantic entanglements are inevitably wrecked by plot twists and betrayals. Half the fun of Gen V is watching these characters flail in a perpetual cycle of f*cking up, breaking up, and making up. They're absolute messes, yet for the six episodes (of eight) available for review, the detritus that shapes them is interrogated with a sincerity that's difficult not to appreciate.
Gen V premieres September 28 on Prime Video with three episodes. New episodes drop every Thursday. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Jarrod Jones is a freelance writer currently settled in Chicago. He reads lots (and lots) of comics and, as a result, is kind of a dunderhead.
TOPICS: Gen V, Amazon Prime Video, The Boys, Chance Perdomo, Clancy Brown, Craig Rosenberg, Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg, Jaz Sinclair, Lizze Broadway, Michele Fazekas, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tara Butters