The very idea of The Boys expanding their IP with a spin-off series is almost a move that puts the show at risk of leaning into the Marvel/DC desperation the Eric Kripke-developed program delighted in mocking. Thankfully, Gen V is much smarter than that, honing a personality that has plenty to say on human nature, whilst also remembering to be deliriously gross in the process; the first episode delivering on a multitude of bloodied bodies and huge male genitalia – you’ll see.
Opening with a violent, yet heart-breaking introduction to Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair, a true standout), a wannabe superhero who has aspirations to join the collective known as The Seven (this show very much playing to fans of The Boys, so, sorry not sorry to the uninitiated), Gen V quite quickly sets up the dynamic within – and beyond – the walls of Vought International College.
At said college, the hoard of teens that have been injected with compound V run free (somewhat) as they perfect their individual abilities and receive media training for their eventual thrust into the spotlight, should they be deemed aesthetically pleasing enough; it seems as though that even if you’re super-heroically gifted, marketability still trumps talent.
Sadly for Marie, her power of manipulating blood – both a deadly and life-saving component – doesn’t make her “camera ready”, nor appealing enough for the college course she hopes to take as the major stepping stone to start fighting crime, which, in turn, leads to a better opportunity to join the illustrious Seven.
Given what we saw happen to the population at large when superheroes were encouraged to stroke their own ego across the 3 seasons (so far) of The Boys, it doesn’t seem like the smartest tool to continue to do so to the students here, but Gen V very much mirrors our own world where the number of followers you have on social media outranks those with genuine intelligence, and Marie’s sheltered life – she’s never owned a smartphone, for starters – means she’s on the backfoot from the get-go. It does, however, allow her to be an easy gateway for us as an audience to navigate the college and learn who we should and shouldn’t trust.
Much like The Boys lives and dies off the chemistry of its cast, Gen V has aligned itself with a wealth of talent to bring shades of light and darkness to the core “supes”, with Lizzie Broadway proving a treat as Emma Meyer, a YouTuber who has the ability to shrink herself down to half-an-inch. The relationship that quickly forms between Marie and Emma looks to be one of Gen V‘s strongest components, with both women, though vastly different in their upbringings and social status, seeking to rewrite their own respective stories.
After the first episode presents the likes of Maddie Phillips‘ Cate and Chance Perdomo‘s Andre as almost stereotypical embodiments of the campus mean girl and a curtails-riding type – her boyfriend and his best friend is the all-American jock Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger, a casting that can’t help but feel like a nice knowing wink to Nepo Baby commentary) – the final moments of the debut episode almost instantly changes their outlook, leading the second episode and beyond to explore their core and morality.
Perhaps the most interesting of the core is the gender-shifting Jordan Li (Derek Luh as their male form and London Thor as their female). More than just seeming like the show is ticking a box of inclusivity, the character’s decision on what gender they want to inhabit is one of the third episode’s major reveals, with the show opening up an interesting conversation regarding bigotry and subsequent conforming.
A deeper, darker show than I suspect many will be expecting, Gen V still makes sure it caters to fans of The Boys and that show’s uncanny ability to shock at any given moment. There’s blood splatter, uncomfortable humour and nudity, as well as a few cameos to bridge the gap between the two (the PR piece-of-shit that is Ashley, as played by the superb Colby Minifie, is just one that I’m willing to reveal), resulting in a slick, momentum-heavy series that balances its satirical mentality with thought-provoking conversations about manufacturing people rather than nurturing them.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Gen V premieres its first three episodes on September 29th, 2023 on Prime Video. New episodes are then available each following Friday, culminating in an epic season finale on November 3rd, 2022.