GEN V SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW SCORE
How do you make the concept of Marvel’s X-Men new again? You do the unthinkable. You strip away the element of overt oppression and give it a much more covert flavor. That’s what the folks behind Gen V — the spinoff of Amazon’s hit superhero satire The Boys — have accomplished, and it’s genius.
The Gen V series premiere opens in the past, with the news that A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) has been tapped as the very first Black member of The Seven: The Boys‘s answer to the Justice League.
Ironically while Marie Moreau (her younger self played by Jaeda LaBlanc) seems to be the member of her family least interested in the news, we soon learn that she is a supe just like A-Train. Completely ignorant of her powers, Marie loses control and unintentionally kills her parents.
Cut to the present, and the young adult Marie (Jaz Sinclair) has spent years in a home for young supes who presumably suffered similar dark events in their past. She’s spent her years learning to control her bizarrely macabre power — she manipulates blood, including hardening it and using it as deadly projectiles — and reading absolutely everything by Godolkin University Professor Rich Brinkerhoff (Clancy Brown).
When she succeeds in getting admitted to Godolkin, she thinks a brand new life is just a few steps away, but she’s not prepared for what’s waiting for her.
As Marie pushes away the warnings she gets from other students and from her own intuition, you know she’s just locking her cell that much tighter.
If you’ve seen The Boys, then the soulless, fame-starved students Marie finds in Gen V won’t surprise you. Her roommate Emma (Lizzie Broadway) uses her shrinking abilities to livestream wrestling matches she has with her pet gerbil David Caruso, Marie’s idol Professor Brinkerhoff proves to be coldhearted and dismissive, and the student body seems mostly comprised of two kinds of people — the top ranked, and those who want selfies with the top ranked.
Of course this wouldn’t be a series unless there were something nefarious going on, and Gen V doesn’t disappoint. Soon after Marie arrives, it’s clear there’s some secret darkness brewing beneath the surface of Godolkin. Students go nuts and get violent without explanation, there are ominous references to “the woods,” and Marie is nearly kicked out of school to cover an almost fatal screw-up by another, more popular student.
You find yourself being pleasantly surprised with characters you initially write off as jerks or sycophants who later prove to show wonderful depth.
This is where Gen V perfectly updates the concept of the X-Men. The naked, blatant bigotry of Marvel‘s mutant-haters — I mean, the government literally uses robots designed specifically to go after mutants — is replaced with the often unspoken, but nevertheless evident, bias marginalized groups face today.
The Godolkin promotional video we’re shown reflects this, focusing on transgender and disabled students in the guise of inclusivity, and yet later one of these students is quietly punished for being different.
We see a reflection of this as early as the opening scene. With its setting in the past, the scene allows for a Gen V cameo by a major The Boys character who has since been killed off. They assure their interviewer that the elevation of A-Train to The Seven is proof that we live in a “Post-Racist world.”
This helps create the interesting dichotomy of Gen V‘s super-powered characters. The most successful of these young supes see themselves as privileged celebrities and, in the open, are often treated as such. In fact, by the time a group of students goes to an exclusive night club, it’s almost a surprise that Cate (Maddie Phillips) bothers to use her psychic powers to get them in — by that point you’re assuming the supes’ reputations are such that no doors are closed to them.
But at the same time, you get the distinct feeling that they are all prisoners without even knowing it. As Marie pushes away the warnings she gets from other students and from her own intuition, you know she’s just locking her cell that much tighter.
Gen V is not only just as bloody as The Boys, it’s just as mandatory. Watch it.
The acting is superb as are the visuals — in particular there’s a hilarious and shocking sex scene that should remind The Boys fans of that show’s Season 3 premiere.
The characters are written extremely well. You find yourself being pleasantly surprised with characters you initially write off as jerks or sycophants who later prove to show wonderful depth. This is particularly true of Lizzie Broadway’s Emma, whose shrinking power can only be triggered by a very specific and self-destructive act. It gives us an intriguing new way to look at the very concept of super powers.
When it comes to streaming services dropping three or more episodes in one day, I usually avoid watching/reviewing them all at once, and I found that more difficult than I expected with Gen V. Ending with a spectacularly bloody scene that sees the shocking deaths of two of the series’ biggest names, it was almost impossible to not keep watching.
Gen V is good stuff. If you, like me, are a fan of The Boys who was worried this would be just another run-of-the-mill spinoff, stop worrying. Gen V is not only just as bloody as The Boys, it’s just as mandatory. Watch it.