Gen V Episodes 1–3, airing on Prime Video, wastes little time in establishing the hellacious tone of its series. As was the case with The Boys, of which Gen V is a spinoff, the show takes pride in the blood-soaked gore it can depict right out of the gate. With The Boys, we watched as Hughie’s (Jack Quaid) girlfriend was blown to pieces due to the carelessness of super-speedster A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). In the Gen V premiere “God U,” the big moment of shocking carnage comes via menstruation.
That’s because our protagonist, Marie (Jaz Sinclair), is a bloodbender. She, along with many others in her generation, was injected with Compound V when she was an infant, her powers not naturally created but made and only manifesting when she turned 12 years old. The results are catastrophic. Developed by Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke, the series follows the rule book of The Boys, though it bends it a bit in the opening three episodes as it follows characters aren’t given the same spotlight as those such as Queen Maeve or Starlight — though Marie certainly fits the Starlight disposition, something a seedy PR agent points out.
But the series is largely removed from the going-ons of the outside world as it preoccupies itself with the world of would-be superheroes attending a college for the superpowered. Hilariously, not everyone who attends will be studying to become a superhero, with many on the track to Hollywood for The CW style acclaim. As with the superhero world, there’s an ongoing ranking of the strongest students, with Luke/Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger) being the obvious favorite. He’s poised to be given a straight entry into The Seven, but tragedy strikes at the end of the premiere that shakes the school’s foundation and its rankings.
Because something insidious is occurring underneath, something referred to as “the woods,” though little information is spread about it. The consequences are enormous as Luke’s friends try to discover what happened to their friend to cause the violent outburst. While Marie is hesitant at first to join forces, knowing that her ties with the school are tenuous, she should embrace the numbers-driven ranking that helps her ensure a greater chance of success. In refreshing pieces of writing, she often points out to Luke’s friends that none of them would’ve stepped in to help her the way they expect her to do in return.
The friends in question are well-developed, though it takes an episode. The premiere is a lot of posturing and bits of shock value. “First Day” and “#ThinkBrink” fare much better as the compulsory introductions are over, and we get to spend more time with these characters as they’re put in increasingly precarious situations. Andre (Chance Perdomo), Luke’s best friend, is suddenly in the spotlight as the number one hero on campus. However, he can’t shake the guilt of what transpired — though his lack of guilt over accidentally wounding an innocent bystander while out drinking in Episode 1 remains a tepid plot point. Luke’s girlfriend, the empath Cate (Maddie Phillips), is determined to help discover the secrets of the woods. At the same time, Jordan Li (Derek Luh and London Thor) is furious over being looked over in the ranking despite being the real hero the day of Luke’s violent outburst. As a gender-shifting hero, they’re considered “bad optics,” with PR still pandering to those who see Homelander as their God.
Of the supporting characters, however, Emma (Lizze Broadway) is given some of the most emotionally potent material, as we see the true suffering that manifests due to powers people didn’t ask for — especially when layered with the power imbalance of parents who forced it on them. Emma can shrink, but the skill isn’t easily come by. She has to purge to grow smaller. She tries to joke about it, to say it isn’t an eating disorder but a way to manage her powers. Still, Episode 3, in particular, due to the arrival of her micromanaging mother, highlights just how warped her self-image is. It’s why her team-up with Andre — though seemingly doomed by the episode’s end — is so refreshing as we see her use her gifts to be a hero, to become her icon, Queen Maeve, even if her version is half an inch small.
While the character work is largely strong the series stumbles in it’s special effects. Emma’s powers work thematically, but the practicality of how they make it happen is less so. There’s a clear struggle in VFX effects as she’s rendered to look as if she’s walking ahead of a giant desktop lifesaver when small, granting her no purchase or sense of physicality. This is true, too, for any scene that isn’t hand-to-hand combat, with powers lacking in dynamic visuals and impact. The guts and gore still work, largely due to strong makeup effects, but anything that requires a lot of movement struggles to maintain the same level of tactility that The Boys manages.
Gen V Episodes 1-3 deliver a strong entry point into the series. Even if they struggle with bigger storylines — such as Emma’s disordered eating — they’re perhaps ready to tackle. The mystery of the world is intriguing, however, especially as we wait to see how it links up to greater world-building. The cast and that intrigue is the strongest pulling point, with a ready-made world to play within, even if the special effects suffer from a lack of innovation.
Gen V Episodes 1-3 are available now on Prime Video, with new episodes each Friday.
Gen V Episodes 1–3
Gen V Episodes 1-3 deliver a strong entry point into the series, even if they struggle with bigger storylines — such as Emma’s disordered eating — then perhaps they’re ready to tackle. The mystery of the world is intriguing, however, especially as we wait to see how it links up to greater world-building.