Eric Kripke’s subversive superhero adult comedy The Boys has gone from strength-to-strength since it first burst on the scene (and Hughie’s girlfriend) back in 2019. The R-rated comic book adaptation quickly catapulted to the top of streaming service Prime Video’s most watched list, firmly becoming their flagship series thanks to the deranged blend of adult comedy, sharp satire of the superhero genre, self confessed ‘diabolical’ amounts of gore and equally compelling characters. It was only a matter of time before multiple spinoff shows were announced which would expand upon and explore the world of The Boys – and the latest is the fun and very bloody live-action YA series, Gen V.
The series centres on freshman Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) and her new size-changing roomate Emma Meyer (Lizzie Broadway) as they begin their tenure at the Vought International approved Godolkin university, the prestigious superhero-only college which trains students to be the next generation of Supes – and possibly the next elite members of the Seven. Along with navigating new classes, friendships and parties, the pair find themselves accidentally embroiled in something sinister taking place at their University, teaming up with the top ranked students – Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo), Jordan Li (Derek Luh & London Thor) and Cate Dunlap (Maddie Phillips) to investigate.
When The Boys animated anthology and subsequent live-action spinoff series were first announced, eyebrows were raised over the fact that by becoming a franchise and expanded universe, surely the show is turning into the very thing that it’s been mocking and satirising. However, writers Kripke, Evan Goldberg and Craig Rosenberg have crafted a bloody, bonkers and very bingeable new tale set amongst the much loved universe – featuring several references and cameos cleverly interwoven throughout – with a compelling central mystery of its own at the forefront, which thankfully sets it apart from its predecessor.
The central superhero college premise is a refreshing angle for the next project in The Boys universe, especially in the early thread which ranks the students in a Hunger Games style system, scored by their social media following and super powers, with hot shot Golden Boy top of the charts and gunning for a spot in the Seven. Amidst the college partying and absolutely bonkers sex scene (rivalling season three’s giant penis stunt!), Gen V impressively balances the shocking superhero shenanigans with a worthy character-driven conspiracy plot.
Just like the mass Compound-V experiment which handily feeds the corporation new superheroes to puppet, Vought (along with the help of Professor Dean Shetty) is once again pulling the strings on campus with a compelling secret project known ominously as “The Woods” teased throughout the series. Meanwhile, students are blissfully unaware of the corporation’s nefarious next moves as they attend a variety of seminars on topics wildly ranging from crimefighting to performing arts and yep, you guessed it – superhero marketing and media training!
The highly likeable band of protagonists are thankfully each afforded great arcs, backstories and superhero abilities, striking that fine balance between heart and humour. The setup is undoubtedly heavily inspired by the angsty X-Men mutants – especially with Golden Boy’s gloved girlfriend, Cate (hello Rogue!) – with the effects of the Compound V powers having rather traumatic effects on the students and their tragic relationships with their parents. Lead Sinclair is solid as the guilt ridden blood bender Marie Moreau who has aspirations of being the first black woman in The Seven, along with complicated new frenemy, Jordan Li (Derek Luh & London Thor) who grapples with their identity.
However it’s newcomers Lizzie Broadway and Asa Germann who are the true standouts. Broadway’s performance as Emma Meyer showcases a fantastic mix of excitement, bravery and affecting vulnerability – particularly as she deals with her psychologically abusive and controlling mum/manager. And while going into too much detail would spoil much of the surprise, Germann’s performance is equally as poignant as Sam, especially with his surprisingly sweet (and of course, shocking!) meet cute with Emma. And yes, the show carries on the hilarious tradition of obviously older actors playing college students!
The young adult spinoff retains much of the signature outlandish blood, gore and adult humour, but it also explores the world from a very different perspective, delving further into real-world themes and issues such as gender fluidity, the detrimental influence of social media and eating disorders – similar to shows such as Euphoria and Sex Education – with surprising sincerity. While the show can at times stray from the central conspiracy narrative into the more teen drama tropes, thankfully the brilliant performances of the central cast, paired with genuine character development, help steer the ship back on course.
As previously alluded to, much of the insane violence, blood and gore remains in some crazy new sequences which thankfully visually rival The Boys. There’s even an entire sequence shot in a similar vein to Black Noir’s special, swapping the shocking blood and gore in live-action with inventive Muppet style puppets. There’s also plenty of inventive new superpowers too, including Marie’s creepily impressive blood bending (very Avatar) and Emma’s size shifting. However, while the student ranking aspect certainly feels novel, especially with an entertaining early ‘Battle Royale’ type showdown between Supes, so far it has felt somewhat under-utilised unfortunately.
Gen V is just as bonkers, bloody & hilarious as The Boys, with an excellent young cast of new Supes driving the intriguing central mystery. With plenty of cameos and superhero showdowns to entertain fans of The Boys whilst they wait for the upcoming fourth season, along with fantastic character arcs and binge worthy cliffhangers, the spinoff show more than earns it’s stripes.