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Gen V Review: The Boys' College-Set Spin-Off Has Nothing New to Teach

Fans of the bloody, cynical Prime Video superhero series will find more of the same here

Lyvie Scott
Jaz Sinclair, Gen V

Jaz Sinclair, Gen V

Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

The Boys universe is becoming a parody unto itself. 

Prime Video's flagship series is nothing without its satirical edge — and in the beginning, its role as a biting farce felt like a welcome challenge to the superhero industrial complex. But as the series doubles down on the mind-numbing extremity that once made it such a novelty, it's getting harder to ignore the paradox keeping this show — and its nascent cinematic universe — alive.

Sure, it's always been quietly hilarious to know that such a scathing critique on capitalism is backed by one of the biggest enforcers of the system. But somewhere along the way, Amazon got in on the joke, and the joke stopped being funny. The Boys made a name for itself by tackling the untouchables, but its only duty now is to remind us just how much the world sucks; just how untrustworthy people are; just how pointless the fight really is. Given the fact that we're already drowning in a sea of nihilism, it feels like The Boys is stuck in an era that no one really wants to explore in their downtime.

The same might be said of Gen V, a spin-off as unwilling to inject this universe with fresh blood as The Boys was to break the cycle of insincerity. Admittedly, the latter's latent smirking does feel a bit more at home on a debauched college campus, where nearly every kid you meet is as smug, self-aggrandizing, and backstabby as the next. That's how teens seem to everyone who's not a teen, right? On that front, at least, Gen V feels right in line with the needlessly cruel, brashly adult series that it's taking inspiration from. Unfortunately, it's not offering much beyond a few teen-focused shocks — and it's not equipped to explore any of it with the ingenuity its characters deserve.


  • A more diverse (and funny!) cast
  • Expands on The Boys' bureaucratic BS
  • Teen angst!


  • Hasn't learned any lessons from The Boys
  • The shock and satire gets old fast

For what it's worth, Gen V does have something of an edge against its predecessor. The supe groups in The Boys stake their validity on a potent mix of elitism and mass appeal. Only the most powerful heroes (or, why lie, the most palatable) make it into the Seven: We already saw what happens when a hijabi hero, or a hero with bat-like senses, has designs on Vought Tower. They never get very far, to say the least of the company's efforts to keep its brand intact. But the fledgling heroes of Godolkin University have no understanding of that concept. Not yet, anyway. Other than a weekly ranking that broadcasts their skills to the world, most have no clue that their chances of success are slim to none.

Nowhere is that more apparent than with Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), an impossibly optimistic freshman joining Godolkin for the fall semester. Her can-do attitude feels in complete opposition with her morbid blood-bending powers and the lengths she has to go to access them. They're intrinsically tied to a tragic past she's determined to make up for; her full ride to Godolkin is just the first step on an ambitious redemption arc. Marie wants to become the first Black female member of the Seven, but the fact that she essentially has to self-harm to use her powers doesn't exactly make her hero material.

There are many such supes at Godolkin, supes whose powers are either too weird or too dangerous to get them any closer to the clout they've spent their lives chasing. Marie's roommate, Emma (Lizze Broadway), is basically Ant-Man with a problematic power trigger; her new frenemy Jordan can oscillate between a male and female form (played by Derek Luh and London Thor, respectively). Each of their powers would be a tough sell for Middle America, but from the bubble of their Vought-owned-and-operated campus, they're told that their dreams are still well within reach. At God U, they've got just as much of a shot as Magneto clone — and resident nepo kid — Andre (Chance Perdomo), Human Torch stand-in Luke (Patrick Schwarzenegger), or powerful telekinetic Cate (Maddie Phillips). We know these kids are in for a rude awakening eventually, of course. It's only a matter of time before they see their benefactors for what they really are, and Gen V wastes no time in shattering the illusion. When a suicide rocks the school and blows open a campus-wide conspiracy, their true education effectively begins.

None of this is all that foreign to The Boys obsessives: If we've learned anything from the series' endlessly recycled story, it's that the system is irrevocably broken. Cops can't protect anyone, American politicians are complicit, and the supes here to save the day are little more than perverts most of the time (or worse: fascists!). Gen V remixes this thesis the way that only a teen supe show can, with familiar high school stakes, lofty therapy-speak, and snappy Whedonisms where actual team-building should be. Oh, and lots and lots of sex. It works in the way that 13 Reasons Why or Skins works, even in its blatant disregard for any kind of subtlety. After all, that's never really been a strength of the Boys-verse. But as a portrait of youth in a scary new world, is Gen V actually bringing anything new to the table?

Chance Perdomo, Gen V

Chance Perdomo, Gen V

Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

Here's the thing about our postmodern pop culture landscape: Everything's already been done, so everything runs the risk of feeling… well, derivative. Gen V might be guiltier than most, if only for its determination to appeal to an increasingly unapproachable generation. It's got all the bells and whistles of a superpowered Euphoria, but where that series at least has something of a finger on the pulse, Gen V feels woefully late to the party. The issues that fuel its many subplots would have felt scandalous 10 years ago; now, they only date it. So too do the series' many jokes. References to Dave Chappelle skits and five-year-old scandals feel like breadcrumbs for the adults tuning in for fear of missing out. But aside from the inherent Boys plotlines carrying over to Gen V, it's hard to say that anyone would really miss much by skipping it.

There's likely no better (or weirder) time to depict the college experience anew. So much has changed for the post-Millennial kids — not just in our world, but in Amazon's supe universe. Gen V picks up right where the third season of The Boys left off, but the spin-off is so reluctant to address the events of the series with any kind of meaning, it may as well be set in TV limbo. None of these "radical change agents" seem at all fazed by the war being waged outside their campus. That they were all more or less genetically engineered by Vought is little more than a talking point — or, in one charged bonding moment between Marie and Cate, an excuse to establish some fraught child-parent relationships. That Antony Starr's Homelander just killed someone at the equivalent of a MAGA rally, thus validating a very vocal (and very dangerous) minority, is hardly a blip on these kids' radar. Their only interest in tackling anything systemic comes with their crusade against The Woods, a Vought-funded horror show that'll feel real familiar to anyone that saw The New Mutants. There's a lot going on in Gen V, and not all of it works, but its greatest vice may be its neglect for a sense of place. 

The series largely fails to capture the essence of the doomscrolling, pearl-clutching generation it's meant to be studying. For all The Boys' commentary of a world on fire, Gen V seems pretty content to ignore it. The shows aren't actually interested in changing their shared, broken world. Breaking the cycle would bring an end to this merry-go-round of power and abuse, after all — and how could that be profitable for Amazon Studios? 

If shows about teens made for adults is your thing, Gen V will definitely scratch an itch. But as an extension of the universe that built its brand on social satire, it doesn't add much to the conversation. It feels more like the Euphoria-esque show that someone within the Boys-verse would be watching, and that may be enough for now. But derision and wit can only take this franchise so far. Sooner or later, it'll have to learn a new trick. 

Premieres: Friday, Sept. 29 on Prime Video
Who's in it: Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Lizze Broadway, Maddie Phillips, London Thor, Derek Luh, Asa Germann, Shelley Conn
Who's behind it: Evan Goldberg, Eric Kripke, Craig Rosenberg, Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas
For fans of: Skins, X-Men, CW teen angst
How many episodes we watched: 6 of 8