The next generation of ‘supes’ in The Boys universe is more chaotic than their false idols ‘The Seven’
Story: Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) accidentally unlocks her superpowers at a young age when she kills her parents in a freak accident. Her efforts to control her powers since the tragic accident to help society eventually land her at Godolkin University – an institution where young ‘supes’ can hone their skills and become a superhero. As one would expect, the students at Godolkin are unaware of the horrific crimes committed by their idols and ignorant about their university. When the university’s star pupil, Luke Riordan (Patrick Schwarzenegger – son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver) aka Golden Boy, murders the principal and kills himself, Marie and her new friends Emma (Lizze Broadway), Jordan (Derek Luh/London Thor), Andre (Chance Perdomo), and Cate (Maddie Phillips) investigate Luke’s inexplicable actions and the institute’s role in the murder-suicide.
Review: A spin-off to the hit Prime Video series The Boys always carried the risk of being repetitive, especially considering no one asked for a spin-off about unknown characters. The scepticism was warranted as several spin-offs over the years have failed to replicate the success of the original, both in terms of popularity and quality. However, this trend appears to have shifted in recent years with spin-offs to iconic TV shows delivering compelling stories. Better Call Saul, House of the Dragon, and The Good Fight are a few examples that have been able to emulate the success of their respective original shows. Gen V might not have matched the lofty standards set by The Boys but it certainly delivers a compelling coming-of-age superhero satire, which is rife with similar levels of debauchery, grotesque violence, and a gripping tale that puts significant emphasis on the famous quote by Uncle Ben in Spider-Man; “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The most noticeable departure Gen V has from The Boys is that it features endearing ‘supes’, who appear to have a conscience. This can be construed as these young individuals at Godolkin with Compound V in their system are yet to be corrupted by the power and impunity that their superpower grants them. This is in fact one of the central themes of Gen V. It is only when a personal tragedy affects the lives of the young protagonists do they snap back to reality and truly begin to view the world around them through a different lens. Apart from Marie, the rest of the lead characters exhibit traits that could potentially lead them down a dark path – one taken by their predecessors who are now members of The Seven.
The series navigates through various coming-of-age subplots that come with the territory. However, it is measured and does not hinder the main storyline. Despite Marie being the central character, with a compelling arc of her own, her friend Emma’s character development from episodes one to eight is superior on multiple occasions. While Jordan's character arc is also possibly just as complex. While Cate and Andre’s respective storylines are certainly intriguing, it is occasionally guilty of leaning into recycled tropes. Sam (Asa Germann) is yet another character who is fascinating. Sam is seemingly a sweet soul on the inside, but he instils dread and fear, considering his mental instability and powers that could rival Homelander himself.
Gen V certainly stands on its own merits with a storytelling approach that is distinctive from The Boys. However, Gen V has retained some of its crucial elements that also help in connecting the lore to the original. Episodes 6 and 7 perfectly encapsulate differences and similarities between Gen V and its more celebrated original series The Boys. Episode 6 titled Jumanji takes a stab at a classic trope called ‘Journey to the Centre of the Mind’ where characters are trapped inside the fractured mind of a friend who is in a comatose state. Gen V executes it to near perfection and also features an excellent cameo by Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy. Episode 7 on the other hand is akin to a classic episode from The Boys where the protagonists are cornered into an impossible situation with the odds stacked against them.
The finale is poetically on-brand with The Boys universe, where the ending is shocking yet unsurprising at the same time. The episode, titled Guardians of Godolkin, poses a few thought-provoking questions concerning the ethical dilemmas of freeing captive 'supes' who have been tortured and experimented on for years. The institute is in many ways a modern version of notorious Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele’s clinic. The final scene and the post-credits scene confirm a second season and a direct connection to the next season of The Boys.
Verdict: Gen V successfully fends off a wave of scepticism to deliver a compelling story underneath its gore, violence, and dark humour. The series uses its setting as a tool to scrutinise contemporary society that has become obsessed with earning ‘clout’ on the internet. And just like The Boys, Gen V emphasises the idea that great power eventually corrupts those who wield it.