A new episode of “Gen V” drops this Friday (or, as Eric Kripke admitted, let’s be real, probably late Thursday night) and I can’t wait! If you haven’t been able to watch the first three episodes which were released last week, here’s a little recap of what happened in those episodes – and why I’m so excited about the next ones!
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EPISODES ONE THROUGH THREE AHEAD
The show takes place at Godolkin University (God U, get it?), where the first generation of superheroes who actually know how they got that way (ie, their parents shot them up with Compound V) is arriving for the start of classes. We’re introduced to the main characters, including Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), whose perspective largely frames these episodes.
There’s also Luke, aka Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), top ranked and stereotypically attractive, and his girlfriend Cate (Maddie Phillips), who has to wear gloves most of the time because if she touches you she can mind control you.
Andre (Chance Perdomo) is the son of a Supe and in line to be one of the Seven himself if his dad has anything to say about it, Jordan (London Thor and Derek Luh) is the bi-gender child of two highly driven parents, and Emma (Lizze Broadway) is Marie’s roommate, whose superpower is that she can make herself tiny.
“Gen V” takes the same cynical look at where we are as a society in terms of what we value and how we relate to each other. Social media, crafting an image, and cultivating followers and popularity is a legitimate major at God U, and the vast majority of students are all in.
As soon as one of them gains some recognition, they can’t walk across campus without repeated requests for selfies, and most fellow students can’t be trusted with any personal information. Emma learns this the hard way when she’s manipulated by a classmate into talking candidly about herself, only to have that used as fodder for the girl’s viral TikTok.
The adults are corporate power-hungry manipulators too, as we’ve come to expect from Vought. The first episode introduces us to the aptly named Professor Brink Brinkerhoff (Clancy Brown), who’s about as much of a stereotype of a narcissistic full professor as you can get – I admit, as a professor myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the caricature.
He’s got the power to decide who gets to be part of the Crimefighting School – similar to the coveted admission to the Business School in a few real life universities – and he’s got his favorites. He summarily rejects Marie before Golden Boy turns on his mentor and takes him out of the picture, opening up an opportunity for her to get in. Dean Indira Shetty (Shelley Conn) is an enigmatic woman who can seem incredibly warm and nurturing, and then you get a glimpse of her face when the target of her warmth can’t see it and realize she’s as cold as ice. Andre’s dad, who was the Supe Polaris, is just as icy in his determination to see his son become number one – and maybe one of the Seven.
One of the narratives that “The Boys” universe has explored in all its versions is parenting, for better or worse (usually for worse…). In the original show we eventually learned what Annie’s mother and other parents had done to their children with Compound V for mostly selfish reasons, and in the animated Diabolical, we saw the costs of that selfishness in brutal detail for the kids.
“Gen V” continues that exploration, and not just with Andre’s father. Emma’s mom is similarly invested in her child’s “success”, essentially telling her to suck it up and do whatever it takes to find some popularity no matter what the personal cost. Jordan’s mom and dad are the “driven Asian parents” who refuse to see their child for who they are and instead want to have a successful son – whether or not they identify as a son or not.
True to every Eric Kripke show ever, that’s not all the show has to say about family though. Like “Supernatural” and “The Boys” and every other show he’s put his creative touch on, “Gen V” is also about the importance of family bonds – especially sibling bonds – and what that inspires. Of course, the sibling bonds on this show are fraught and sculpted by trauma, because this is the universe of “The Boys after all.”
Marie is desperate to find her little sister, who was separated from her after she got her first period and her powers manifested as the ability to control blood – which she hadn’t harnessed at all and thus it became a weapon that accidentally killed both her parents and traumatized her younger sister. Luke is desperate to find his little brother (who’s named Sam and has floppy hair so that every “Supernatural” fan was instantly a million percent invested in that relationship).
We don’t find out what happened to Sam (Asa Germann) until the third episode, but let’s just say I’m already feeling very protective of him! Cate also has a missing sibling – when her powers manifested, she didn’t know she had them, so when she told her little sister to “go away and never come back” on a family camping trip, that’s exactly what happened.
Nothing more compelling than a big brother or sister looking for their little brother or sister, frankly. You’ve got me, “Gen V.”
The other compelling narrative that runs through “Gen V” is one that we explore deeply in our new book on “The Boys” coming out in December (Supes Ain’t Always Heroes) – the impact of trauma. Every single human who becomes a Supe is traumatized in some way. They’ve been manipulated and used, first by their parents who gave them Compound V without their permission or understanding, and subsequently by a string of power-hungry adults who want to use them too.
The fact that the parents shot their kids up with a substance that they had no idea how it would impact their child is just plain chilling – and, it turns out, just plain dangerous. We don’t know a lot about Andre’s backstory yet, except that he has a Supe for a dad and that never turns out well, but the other main characters have all experienced significant trauma as a result of being dosed with V and having parents willing to do that.
“Gen V” does something interesting with some of its Supe powers that I haven’t entirely figured out yet. All the shows in “The Boys” universe love to comment on reality and current society using the lens of fiction (another thing I love about them) and “Gen V” does too.
Parallels are always there just under the surface, or sometimes right there on top of it. Marie’s power manifests for the first time as she reaches menarche, and instantly becomes destructive, which I’m tempted to say is some kind of commentary on either how dangerous it is to be a woman in this society or how much men perceive women as dangerous and therefore need to keep them down in some way. She wields it intentionally through cutting, but again, this isn’t portrayed as serving the same function that self-harm does in reality.
Emma’s power only manifests when she purges repeatedly, becoming smaller each time. It sounds like a metaphor for an eating disorder or for the kind of depression that makes someone want to just fade away and not exist anymore. (Interestingly, it’s not portrayed as an eating disorder, and Emma protests everyone trying to put her in that box and use it for social media drama).
Jordan being bi-gender is tempting to see as a parallel for being trans, though Jordan can choose which gender to be and make it happen instantly and also has the freedom to switch back and forth, a choice that doesn’t exist in reality. Nevertheless, the stigma is portrayed realistically, with Ashley refusing to move Jordan too far up the ranks because “a bi-gender Asian with pronoun fuckery, try selling that to Dallas or Fort Lauderdale!”
Yes, there’s racism and homophobia and corporate greed and all the other issues that “The Boys” universe tackles so well in “Gen V” too. There’s also, as Kripke points out, a lot of heart.
It’s the characters that I find most compelling in both its parent show and in this one. There’s also plenty of mystery going on – what happened to Luke’s little brother? What is “the woods” and why is everyone keeping it a secret?
As with all secrets, there’s plenty of violence doled out to keep it that way, and because this is “The Boys” universe, that comes with plenty of explicit blood and gore. The show knows how to create shock value, whether it’s bits and pieces of a human being blown to bits forty yards overhead and raining down on the guy’s friends (goodbye, Golden Boy…) or a tiny human taking out a sadistic guard by crawling in one ear and out the other, decimating his brain along the way.
And of course, there’s plenty of sex too – and it’s always creative. Kripke and company are never afraid to poke fun at masculine insecurity, so the guy who only wants to be with Emma when she’s tiny so she can climb on his dick (literally) and have it look gigantic is both hilarious and pointed. (I might have cheered when she slapped him on the balls though). “Supernatural’s” Alex Calvert makes an appearance as a jerk too, who Cate mind controls into repeatedly hitting himself in the balls with a bat and yelling ‘Jumanji’. You can’t make this up!
I won’t go through everything that happens, but we leave our main characters in a tough spot at the end of Episode 3. Marie has been drawn into taking some much-needed maternal solace from the Dean, only to find she was just being used to get donors to open up their pocketbooks and approved of only when she stays on script – literally.
Andre, who truly loved his bff Luke, has tried to be a hero for real and gotten in return only his father’s censure and warning to cut it the hell out. Jordan saved the day when Luke tried to kill Marie and others, only to get no credit for it and be faced with parental disappointment at who they really are once again. Cate joins Andre for some actual heroics and depletes herself physically in a frightening way as a result.
And Emma is perhaps the most heroic of all, proving that strength and wits and heroism can indeed come in (very) small packages and size isn’t what matters – but she also ends up in a very sticky situation.
Will she escape? Can anyone help little bro Sam? Will they solve the mystery of The Woods or will the powers that be force them back into the manufactured Supe slots they’re supposed to dutifully stay in? Will Ashley be able to figure out what to do with all that Golden Boy merch??
Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters serve as showrunners and executive producers for “Gen V.” Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Neal H. Moritz, Ori Marmur, Pavun Shetty, Ken Levin, Jason Netter, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Craig Rosenberg, Nelson Cragg, Zak Schwartz, Erica Rosbe, and Michaela Starr also serve as executive producers on the spinoff series. Serving as co-executive producers are Brant Englestein, Sarah Carbiener, Lisa Kussner, Gabriel Garcia, Aisha Porter-Christie, Judalina Neira, and Loreli Alanís. The series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios, in association with Kripke Enterprises, Point Grey Pictures, and Original Film.