If Prime Video’s The Boys asks the question, “What if any ol’ assholes had powers,” its spinoff Gen V asks, “What if any ol’ asshole college student had powers.” And luckily, Gen V is already much queerer than its predecessor.
The show takes place at Godolkin University School of Crimefighting, where hopeful heroes train and hone their skills with the goal of getting assigned to protect a city, or, in rare cases, selected to be an elite member of Vought International’s The Seven, the most famous (read: most heavily marketed) superheroes in America, maybe even the world.
Gen V definitely assumes you’ve watched The Boys. Right off the bat there are references to the way Season 3 ended, and they reference characters from the original franchise throughout. Now, I don’t personally think it’s 100% necessary to have watched The Boys, if you’re okay with missing the occasional reference or having to do a little extra legwork to pick up context, but it would definitely help. For example, the show talks a lot about Compound V without ever explaining it, because in The Boys they already covered the reveal that people weren’t just naturally born with superpowers, they were victims of an experiment where parents were paid to give their babies a serum called Compound V. Gen V is very much happening concurrently with The Boys, and Vought’s fingerprints are all over the school.
That said, if you DO watch The Boys, the general tone and vibe will be familiar to you. It’s gory and graphic while being funny and irreverent. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, but if you think you could enjoy a show that will not turn the camera away just because someone’s throat has been slit or their arms have been ripped off, and whose sex scenes are more often meant to make you uncomfortable than to turn you on, and that tackles serious issues without taking them too seriously but somehow without making light of them either, this might be the show for you.
Gen V’s first few episodes dropped over the weekend, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying getting to know the new characters, and diving into the new themes of the season.
The main hero of our story is Marie Moreau, who learned that she had the power to manipulate (and weaponize) blood when she got her first period. She’s determined to be a real superhero someday, to really make a difference, and maybe even become one of the The Seven. With her on her journey is her roommate, Emma, whose power is the ability to get really small when she purges and big when she eats again. Don’t worry, it’s barely a metaphor, and the parallels between her powers and eating disorders are drawn in neon lights by a classmate and her mother.
I am pretty sure Emma is bisexual (or pansexual!), even though she technically hasn’t said so explicitly. When we meet her, she’s wearing a necklace of rainbow gummy bears, and she talks a lot about wanting to be in a threesome with the most popular m/f couple in school. She also has what I interpreted as a bit of a flirtation with a girl on her dorm floor, and also says she wants to play Queen Maeve in a scene from their drama class. Queen Maeve is the resident bisexual Wonder Woman on The Boys. Emma can even be seen eating a Brave Maeve Pride Bar as a snack at one point.
Another one of our core crew is Jordan, a shifter. Jordan isn’t non-binary, they’re… extra-binary? Bi-gender, is the word used for them specifically. They can shift between male- and female-presenting versions of themself on a whim, and does indeed flip back and forth often as it suits them. Most people use they/them pronouns for Jordan, though some use she/her or he/him depending on how they’re presenting. They haven’t corrected anyone yet on their pronouns, but based on how they reacted when their parents exclusively referred to them using he/him pronouns, even when they were shifted into their femme-presenting form, I think probably they/them is a safe bet.
Jordan was #2 in their class for a long time, but despite being beloved by teachers and students alike, it seems like their “gender fuckery” might not be palatable for wider audiences (as proven by the spectacle of Maeve coming out as bi), so they have that to contend with — since in this world, being a hero is as much (if not more) about marketing and capitalism as it is actually saving people. And it feels very correct that, so far, most of the pushback or discomfort around Jordan’s gender shifting comes from older generations; their peers don’t seem to think much of it. Marie was surprised when they first shifted, but quickly landed on using they/them pronouns without anyone telling her to.
There are more purposefully heavy-handed metaphors throughout; the actually-named Golden Boy who is under so much pressure to be perfect he risks literally burning out at any moment. The charming popular boy whose power is actual magnetism. The pretty popular girl who can get whatever she wants with the flick of her wrist.
And while these not-so-regular college kids have to navigate classes and regular college kid stuff, but they also have to untangle larger mysteries like where young supes are disappearing to, all while trying not to lose control of their powers. (PS: Aforementioned pretty popular girl is named Cate and she’s played by Maddie Phillips, who also played queer in Teenage Bounty Hunters.)
While I still don’t know why I like The Boys (and I do!), I have a better understanding of why I enjoy its youthful younger sibling, Gen V. I love unlikely friendships and found family, and this has a bit of both; it’s almost like these teens are a D&D adventuring party and have to use their unique powers and also teamwork to save the day. But also people are literally dying, violently and often. It’s a blast! Sometimes literally! To quote femme-Jordan’s actor London Thor, “Superheroes, college… what could go wrong?”
I also appreciate a show that will use a term like “gender fuckery” and have queer and trans characters without inventing a clean and shiny world where everyone is just okay with it, but also where the queer and trans characters have other personality traits, problems, and goals that have nothing to do with being queer and trans. It’s a dark and twisty show set in a dark and twisty world. It feels weirdly nice to be included in it.