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What We Loved About And Wanted More Of From Gen V

More powerful than a locomotive, but also, to its own detriment, faster than a speeding bullet

Amazon Prime

What’s better than The Boys, a show about superheroes, capitalism, and exploding dicks? Depending on who you talk to, Gen V, a Boys spinoff about college-age superheroes, capitalism, and exploding dicks. We sat down – well, we were already sitting beforehand, because we work at computers – to discuss it for our first-ever Afterchat.  

Gita: Hello pals! Welcome to our very first Afterchat, a cute little blog where Aftermath staff get together to chat about something we've watched or played recently. Today, Nathan and I are going to chat about Gen V, a spin off of Amazon's The Boys that was so good that I might actually like it better than The Boys now.

Nathan: Wow! I did not know you liked it that much haha. Feel like I'm probably still a bigger fan of the main show, but Gen V is Gen Very good! Why did you like it that much? What about it surpassed The Boys in your eyes?

Gita: Okay, so part of this is my latent dislike of The Boys because of how much I despise the comic it's based on. Garth Ennis is sometimes a very, very good comic book writer, but his hatred of the superhero genre sometimes gets the best of them. The Boys is a perfect example of that tendency. In the comics, when super hero ingénue Starlight is introduced to the super team The Seven, she isn't just coerced into a blow job by one character, but instead gang raped by the entire team. It's played for laughs!

The Boys TV show does a much better job of portraying how capitalism and the culture of celebrity creates monstrous people, but there's still that baggage for me sometimes. Gen V is just far away enough from the source material that it doesn't feel tainted -- these are all original characters in an original story.

Nathan: I haven't read the comics, so I didn't know that (my second bold "that" in a single Afterchat) is what they were adapting The Deep's first interaction with Starlight from. Yeesh!

Gita: Dude... the comic is so bad. I stopped reading it when they did a whole gag about Hughie going down on Starlight without realizing that her period just started. Awful, awful shit.

Nathan: I am growing more amazed by the sentence that they managed to salvage a solid show from this. So wait, Gen V... does not have much in the way of a connection to the comics? Is there any source material in there at all?

Gita: The name of the university, Godolkin U, does come from a character in the comics. There, God U was more of an X-Men pastiche, and Godolkin was their Professor X. Also, he was a pedophile. It is genuinely amazing that The Boys television show is good, I refused to watch it for many years.

Nathan: Guess we have the writing staff of Supernatural to thank for that. Here's to 800 more seasons.

Gita: LOL

Nathan: But anyway, Gen V: I also enjoyed it! Characters' powers are waaaaaaaaay more interesting in this one, rather than just being parodies of preexisting superheroes -- though there's definitely still some X-Men DNA in there (Andre basically has Magneto's abilities, Cate is essentially evil Xavier, etc). 

Gita: I definitely think that part of what makes this spin off so good is that it feels like the team behind it doesn't want to rely on the existing characters from The Boys to entice people to watch. The main characters they've built feel really fleshed out and able to stand on their own. Who was your fave out of the cast of characters?

Nathan: Yeah, they start off feeling kinda like college setting archetypes, but they quickly reveal interesting wrinkles. Andre as the party boy nepo baby who had to grapple with being deceived by those around him (as well as, later, the ramifications of his own deception of his best friend) was a compelling central thread. Shame, uh, about the actor who plays him! Emma was also really fun. I like how they played with the idea of "getting small" both physically and emotionally. And of course Jordan was a standout for reasons that I think you're much better at explaining than me.

Gita: Yeah, I think for reasons that are obvious to people who have had or are currently experiencing Gender Feelings, Jordan was my favorite character. Jordan's starting point as a college cliche is also gender fucker-y, but in their case, Jordan can actually change from male to female at will, which each gender having a different power. They prefer to present as female most of the time, but their parents are more comfortable when they present as male. What I really loved about how this is all expressed is that Jordan never struggled with their identity -- they know who they are, it's everyone else that makes it complicated.

I do also have a real soft spot for the lead character, Marie Moreau, who enters the world of God U on a mission to be the first Black woman in The Seven. Her powers are cool, but honestly, I also relate to a character that goes to college and is wildly ambitious but also overwhelmed by how fucked up college can be. And boy howdy is God U a fucked up place run by fucked up people!

Nathan: Yeah, and her arc does a nice job of tying back into themes present in The Boys (especially season three): If you try to work within a broken, fucked up system, it will ultimately corrupt and/or discard you. It goes back to the idea of representation being a means to an end, not an end unto itself. The point, ideally, of getting people from a wide variety of backgrounds into positions of power is to change the systems of power. If that does not or cannot happen, then those systems just keep on hurting people. Feels like The Boys universe is very intent on saying that over and over and over, haha.

Gita: I thought that the conflict from the first episode was a really smart demonstration of how these power dynamics work in college. Marie ends up going on a night out on the town with the Cool Kids, the ones who are highly ranked for their powers, likely to get into the Seven, and definitely bring a lot of money and popularity to the school. Except, Andre loses control of his magnetism for a second, accidentally slitting a woman's throat. Marie is able to save her because she can control blood, but the school wants to expel her anyway, making her take the blame for Andre's deadly mistake. How different is that from how football players and athletes get to use college campuses as their personal playgrounds, wreaking havoc in their wake, because of how much donor money they bring in?

The Boys' writing team has really hit a sweet spot at translating these kinds of fucked up power dynamics -- they basically just add super powers to things that are constantly happening in the real world.

Nathan: Yep! That is absolutely their specialty, and unlike the comic apparently (lmao), they handle those concepts with care more often than not. That said, I do feel like Marie's transition from trying to climb the ladder to joining the others in trying to bring down the system just sort of... suddenly happened. A lot of things in Gen V suddenly happened, actually. For all its strengths, it struck me as pretty rushed in places. Made it hard to be convinced by characters' changes of heart, especially when they all duked it out at the end of the season.

Gita: This is a television show I would have happily watched a 24 episode season of, but that no longer exists in the age of streaming. There were a couple character moments that I definitely believed in, but needed a few more episodes to cook, but some of them are spoiler territory.

Nathan: We are already pretty deep within spoiler territory, I would say, so spoil away! If you're talking Sam and Emma, I agree. Sam's heel turn needed way more time in the oven. I absolutely bought his underlying motivations -- he was trapped and tortured for years so that humans could better understand supes -- but he went from doting lovebird to emotionless genocide enthusiast in, like, two scenes.

Gita: I LOVED Sam and Emma, and I shipped them SO HARD, and while I definitely agree that Sam would probably get radicalized after having been experimented on to create a virus that can kill super powered people, it happened within the span of about two minutes.

Nathan: I even liked how they portrayed his inner conflict, with his deceased brother, Luke, acting as his conscience. Those scenes were legitimately affecting! There should have been more of them.

Gita: No other television show has made me long for longer seasons of TV than this one, truly. I loved these characters, I bought into their conflict, and I wished I could have been around them longer. I even loved when they ventured into the world of college farce cliche. Like when they're trying to piece together the night before, where they attended a wild college party.

Nathan: That episode RULED. Honestly my favorite part, the apex of the show. Peak Sam drama -- he almost kills a dude in his own home! -- followed by a smash cut to everybody waking up at a party they were not, to our knowledge, previously at. That's when I was hooked. Ended up marathoning the rest of the series after that episode. Stayed up until almost 5 AM!

Gita: Emma is also a real standout in that episode. Honestly, I love Emma, I want her actress Lizzie Broadway to be in literally everything now. She's just hilarious -- definitely some layers to her character, but Broadway has impeccable comedic timing.

Nathan: Oh yeah, she's fantastic. Very good at both humor and vulnerability, the former often excessive to bury the latter. Her character felt the most real to me. Like, I've definitely known that person at various points in my life.

Gita: She just has a really relatable set of issues. She has a really vibrant personality, but everyone around her, including her super emotionally abusive mom, wants to make her smaller and less powerful. She starts out the series as a YouTuber, Little Cricket, who gets really small by throwing up. It's an allusion to her having an eating disorder, but as time goes on, it's clear that she also feels a lot of shame about herself, her power, and how she uses her power and that her smallness is also an expression of her shame. But then, to everyone's delight, we also get to see that by eating a lot, casting aside her shame, she can get really, really big.

Her big!!!!

Nathan: And strong! Strong enough to hold down Sam, who as far as we know is the most physically powerful supe in the show (aside from Homelander, but his appearance is basically a cameo). 

Speaking of, what did you think of the ending? I mean, it's an obvious setup for a second season following The Boys S4, but do you think it will be interesting? We've got our heroes locked up and blamed for the campus rampage perpetrated by Cate, Sam, and co -- who are now the Guardians of Godolkin. How do they break out? And where do the titular Boys fit into the picture, if at all? I could see them keeping Marie, Jordan, Emma, and Andre in cold storage for all of The Boys S4 -- it would be an exceedingly convenient explanation for their absence -- but somehow I imagine there'll be some kind of crossover later in the season.

Gita: Man... I just hope that whenever these characters show up in the next season of The Boys, as they inevitably will, that I can finally see Marie explode someone from the inside.

I don't mind the ending per se. It does what it's supposed to do -- wrap up the current conflict, leave a good hook for the next season, introduce more problems. I just do not know how they'll continue to pull it off and it makes me a little anxious, because well. The Boys is going to be all about the titular boys.

Nathan: Well, Marie did explode a guy's dick. That's got to count for something

I'm wondering if Gen V will continue to be a show about characters at college. They could easily leave behind God U at this point, especially since its central mystery has been solved. Moreover, the whole college element is essentially a farce. 

The idea of a superpowered, X-Men-style school was an enjoyable thing to riff on, but Gen V was never really a college show. The setting was more of a backdrop for a character-driven mystery, and these characters definitely have enough depth to exist elsewhere. I just wonder if they'll be as much fun out in the real world. Here's hoping!

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