The Boys is the most inventive, extreme, and pointedly satirical superhero saga of its era. It’s also the one with the most dicks, and that continues to be true with Gen V, an eight-episode spin-off—set after the events of The Boys’ third season—that concerns the students of Godolkin University, a place of higher learning for Compound-V-enhanced supes looking to pursue careers in the crime-fighting and entertainment fields. Energized by the same go-for-broke creativity, sharp social commentary, and puerile R-rated sense of humor as its big TV brother, it reconfirms that this franchise remains the comic book genre’s only consistently imaginative player.
According to Amazon, which debuts Gen V on its Prime Video platform on Sept. 29, just about every element of its new series constitutes a spoiler, so consider oneself WARNED.
Developed by Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke with Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters as showrunners and executive producers, this college story revolves around Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), whose discovery at age 12 that she can control blood results in a horrific, scarring tragedy that alienates her from her beloved little sister. Six years later, Marie is accepted into Godolkin University (“God U”), where she lies about her ugly past, strives to fit in, and endeavors to play by the rules, knowing that any tiny misstep will earn her a one-way trip to scarier environs. That proves easier said than done, however, considering that she’s immediately placed in the showbiz school rather than her coveted crime-fighting program—a situation about which God U’s president, Richard “Brink” Brinkerhoff (Clancy Brown), isn’t very sympathetic.
Educational-track troubles aside, Marie quickly gets comfortable at God U. Her roommate Emma (Lizze Broadway), who has the power to alter her size, is cheery and eager to be friends, as well as knows how to utilize social media to her advantage. That’s key, given that God U’s student rankings are based on a combination of talent, skill, brand awareness, and social mentions, and being at the top of the class is a surefire ticket into Vaught’s superstar Seven. The institution’s current number one is Luke (Patrick Schwarzenegger), aka Golden Boy, a charming and handsome human torch who’s got the support of Brink and Dean Shetty (Shelley Conn). He’s also the de facto leader of a popular clique that boasts his empath girlfriend Cate (Maddie Phillips), metal-manipulating best friend Andre (Chance Perdomo), and nonbinary rival Jordan (Derek Luh).
Gen V’s tale truly takes off once Luke loses his cool, resulting in not-to-be-specified-here carnage that rocks God U and baffles his friends, including Marie, who’d been allowed entry into Golden Boy’s inner circle. Maintaining and uncovering secrets is the order of the day for everyone, as is dealing with past and present traumas involving disapproving and domineering parents, the messy onset of powers, and the fact that some of their extrasensory abilities are heightened variations of common, trying teen conditions, be it cutting, bulimia, suicide, or gender dysphoria. What makes these supes special is precisely what makes them normal—and, consequently, confused, scared, insecure, and angry. Even as the proceedings take off in outlandish directions, Rosenberg, Goldberg, and Kripke consistently couch their material in recognizable hang-ups and struggles.
And then there are the penises. Gen V understands that pre-adults with amazing powers would behave in all sorts of wacko ways, especially sexually. Between a shrunken Emma’s kinky encounter with an erect rod, Golden Boy’s habit of winding up nude whenever he ignites (thus making his dong vulnerable and visible to the public), and Marie’s capacity for swelling members (since she can regulate blood flow), the series leans heavily on phallus-related gags. It’s similarly not short on The Boys’ trademark gore and perverse comedy, and like that predecessor, it knows how to balance its more outrageous instincts with compelling characters, captivating storylines and a cynical distrust of, if not outright disdain for, corporate greed, commercialism, and exploitation.
Gen V smoothly integrates itself into the larger The Boys world even as it expands that universe. It’s a seamless extension of what’s come before, replete with nods to the ubiquitous Seven merchandising that dominates its warped American society, and cameos from quite a few famous franchise faces. Rosenberg, Goldberg, and Kripke color in the edges of their action with details and references that transform the show into a small (if vital) component of a much grander socio-political machine. So too does their narrative, tethered as it is to the type of conspiracy for which Vaught has become known. As a veritable feeder program for the superhero law enforcement and entertainment industrial complexes, God U is clearly up to no good, and early revelations about what’s taking place behind closed doors (and underground) turn out to be merely the tip of the iceberg.
Gen V skillfully juggles numerous plot threads without ever losing sight of its protagonists and their problems, most of which will be relatable to anyone who’s had to deal with body shaming moms, overbearing dads or guys eager to seize every opportunity to be date-rapey—the last of which is particularly worrisome when the creeps in question are MAGA-esque telepaths. For all its outlandishness, the show’s supe-populated reality never prioritizes insane spectacle over humanity. As a result, it routinely grounds what winds up being a wide-ranging quest by Marie and company to expose God U for its crimes, rescue victims of horrific abuse, maintain friendships, define identities, and achieve long-sought dreams.
Through it all, Rosenberg, Goldberg, and Kripke skewer cruddy reality-television, hollow celebrity and avaricious ambition while simultaneously celebrating true heroism. That they additionally manage to uphold forward-thinking views about tolerance, compassion, and equality while poking fun at those who disingenuously co-opt progressive values for personal gain turns out to be another example of the series’ deftness. Gen V is a gonzo affair full of hormonal supes who punch villains so hard in the stomach that their firsts come out of their victims’ mouths, and suffer from hallucinations in which their adversaries mutate into Sesame Street-style puppets. Yet beneath its cartoon exterior, it’s a heartfelt portrait of teenagerdom in all its chaotic confusion, as well as a scathing funhouse-mirror indictment of our ongoing national dysfunction.
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