Gen V review: The Boys are back in school

the main cast of gen v season one
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The Boys universe and Sky High collide in an entertainingly crass start for the super-powered spin-off. Here’s our Gen V review.

NB: The following review is based on the first three of eight episodes.

In the hunt for a new Game Of Thrones following the fantasy behemoth’s end in 2019, Amazon might just have accidentally stumbled on the show’s successor.

No, it’s not the streamer’s alarmingly expensive Rings Of Power series, which takes a similar setting but removes much of the politicking and, ahem, night-time activities. Instead, just a couple of months after [spoiler redacted] took their place on the Iron Throne, the first season of The Boys landed with one knee bent, fist buried in the ground, and a magnificent cape fluttering in a non-existent breeze. A wry, sarcastic and deliberately unsubtle satire of modern superhero culture, over the first three seasons your grandma’s least favourite show has proved itself a gripping, violent and frequently immature soap opera of political parallels and super-powered pornography.

Unlike Thrones, however, Amazon isn’t waiting for The Boys to run its course before jumping on the spin-off A-Train. Enter Gen V, a show that transplants the series’ trademark sex, gore and shock value into Godolkin University – a high-flying college for equally high-flying supes.

Leaving the main cast to one side (for the most part – the odd Vought executive or super-face from the main series pops up from time to time), Gen V instead tackles the story of Jaz Sinclair’s Marie Moreau, a young orphan with the power to control blood catapulted into further education alongside the children of former supes and would-be super influencers.

Once there, she finds herself caught up in the social media Hunger Games which underpins The Boys’ universe. Classmates balance their studies with jostling for the university’s top rank. Success can mean joining The Seven, the in-universe equivalent of DC’s Justice League. Failure means a life on the performing arts track or, in true Boys fashion, being viscerally exploded over a car park. To the ambitious Marie, neither seems ideal.

Based on the first three episodes, fans of The Boys have plenty, perhaps too much, to sink their teeth into. The on-the-nose real world parallels are here in full force, from jabs at Instagram culture to an institution spouting buzzwords about self-care while stuffing teens with experimental drugs.

The outrageous sex and violence are here too, though after three seasons it tends not to have the same shock value as it did back in 2019. In a way, Gen V suffers from sticking too close to an established formula, and the result feels more like an extra season of the main show rather than a unique take on the world in its own right. So far, Marie’s character feels a little too similar to the main show’s Starlight, and the writers’ reluctance to stray too far from familiar Vought trappings hints at a show slightly afraid to stretch its own super-powered legs.

Read more: How The Flash went from ‘one of the best superhero movies ever’ to financial disappointment

There’s plenty of potential here though, and there’s every chance the rest of the season, which we haven’t had access to at the time of writing, could grow into its strengths. The main group of students (Lizze Broadway’s super-shrinking YouTuber, Patrick Schwarzenegger’s literal and figurative Golden Boy, Derek Luh’s gender-swapping Jordan and others) smartly tick off many of the most pressing issues facing the youth of today, from eating disorders to social media to gender identity. It’s here, where the show does much more to distinguish itself from the main series, that Gen V really shines, and shows the potential to stand on its own.

As it is, though, Gen V struggles to escape from The Boys’ handsomely silhouetted shadow. Like its protagonists, the show still has room to grow, but for now, it’s a diamond in the rough.

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