The opening scene of Gen V involves a young girl getting her first period, before things quickly descend into a Carrie-esque crimson mess. It’s shocking, irreverent, and gruesome – but would you expect anything less from a spin-off to The Boys?
Gen V follows protagonist Marie (Jaz Sinclair), who lost her entire family in a tragic coming of age moment, and now, 8 years later, she’s hoping to turn things around by becoming a Supe. First step to achieving this: Godolkin University, a college that accepts young adults with superpowers, with a select bunch making it into the Crimefighting major. This is what Marie wants, but as we all know, being a Supe that fights crime isn’t as altruistic as it appears.
Gen V focuses on the gen z, young adult experience, and situations that young people would have to deal with as they navigate growing up in a social media obsessed world. Declaring a major in a course that you want also means you need to have the public image that suits it. How many followers you have, your brand, how you look – it all matters. And even though these young people have superpowers, they usually have to self-harm in some way to access them: cutting into their palms, purging into toilets, or medicating themselves up to their eyeballs. Even a seeming friendly face cannot be trusted because they might just exploit any knowledge they have on you for their own gain.
It’s also a reminder that their parents are the ones who dosed them with compound V as babies, all with the hope that they could get ahead later on in life. They willingly exposed their children to mutation just so that one day they would be superhero famous, not taking into consideration the possible side-effects and the pain their children would have to deal with. The scary thing is, minus the superpowers, this is the real world now, where parents go to crazy lengths to get their children ahead, with very little thought of how it would impact them. They’re schmoozing, making connections, exploiting their own children for a profitable bottom line.
Things are harder for students like Marie, who has to navigate all this without familial support. And it’s students like her who become scapegoats for the ones with privilege and status. There’s also the horror of knowing that the powers that be use their knowledge of Marie’s past to manipulate her into achieving their ends.
Much like how things are in The Seven, Godolkin University also ranks its students, with the top ranked eventually drafted into The Seven, and so everyone’s at loggerheads in order to get a piece of a very small pie. At the top of the list is Luke (Patrick Schwarzenegger), aka Golden Boy, who has super strength and the ability to flame up. Schwarzenegger is fantastic in the role, able to portray both the charming golden boy persona and wear a more vulnerable face when dealing with his own private affairs. Watching him switch between these two faces when he converses with his mentor Dr. Brink (Clancy Brown) is such a show of his talent. He’s played a bunch of supporting roles in a number of things, like Moxie and Midnight Sun, but this might be his most memorable role to date.
Luke’s girlfriend Cate (Maddie Phillips) has the power of suggestion, and with a single touch she’s able to make anyone do anything she suggests. Luke’s best friend Andre (Chance Perdomo) has telekinesis, which he mostly uses to impress girls at clubs. Rounding up the gang is Jordan Li (played interchangeably by London Thor and Derek Luh), who is physically infallible and has bi-identity – meaning that they can shapeshift into a distinct male and female shape. The fact that Jordan shapeshifts to their male form around their father shows us something about how genders are perceived in Asian culture, where their father can be proud of Jordan as his firstborn son, but unable to stomach the idea of Jordan as a girl.
Despite Godolkin University’s pristine image of being a place that helps young adults with powers find their place in society, the reality is not actually quite as sanitized. There’s an underground area called the woods, where certain superpowered teens are kept and tortured to keep them under control. Most of the show’s narrative involve Marie and the gang trying to figure out the truth of what’s going on.
While Gen V is a tad tamer than The Boys – nothing can beat the horror that is Herogasm – there’s still plenty of gore and disturbing imagery. So if you couldn’t stomach The Boys, chances are this series won’t be your cup of tea as well. However, most will note that Gen V can’t quite match the satirical wit of The Boys. Despite its strong introduction, it can feel like a mediocre teen TV show at certain points. It’s still enjoyable in an X-men kind of way, and is entertaining enough to warrant a watch.
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While Gen V isn't quite on the level of The Boys, the show does treat its characters with empathy, which allows viewers to relate to them despite the larger than life world.
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