Like many great teen dramas, Gen V features a plucky group of friends dealing with the trials and tribulations of college, shitty parents and their blossoming journeys of self-discovery. Similarly, there’s also a killer soundtrack featuring Maggie Rogers, Wolf Alice and Phoebe Bridgers – as well as classic coming-of-age anthems from Hole and Bananarama. But alongside the harmless first kisses and complaints about homework, Gen V also has the exploding penises and ultraviolence we’ve gotten used to from its parent series, grownup superhero drama The Boys.
Set after the explosive conclusion to season three, this youth-focused spin-off starts with orphan Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) as she gets accepted to Godolkin University (God U, for short), a school designed to train superheroes in everything from crimefighting to brand awareness. Marie’s power is blood manipulation, but her classmates have different abilities. There’s Ant-Man-inspired Emma Meyer (Lizzie Broadway), metal-bender Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo) and mind controller Cate Dunlap (Maddie Philips). There’s also Luke Riordan AKA Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who’s on a fast track to joining the fully-fledged supes in The Seven, while Jordan Li (Derek Luh and London Thor) can change genders at will. More adult themes such as self-harm and eating disorders are also tackled.
As you can probably guess from the corruption that’s rife over in the main show, things aren’t exactly what they seem at God U, and the gang of mini-heroes have to team up to uncover the truth Scooby-Doo-style. It’s a dog-eat-dog world however, and a sense of imminent dread stalks every twist and turn. Time is still made for the occasional frat party though.
There are various nods to events in The Boys across Gen V, with plenty of familiar faces turning up over the course of the eight-episode run. The events of this spin-off could also have huge ramifications for the entire shared universe, depending on how things play out. Rather than feeling like a convoluted introduction to an upcoming plot point like The Walking Dead’s cancelled coming-of-age spin-off World Beyond, Gen V creates its own rich, self-contained franchise that feels worthwhile. It twists expectations with trippy dream sequences, surreal powers and murderous puppets. The focus is on teenagers but Gen V is certainly not a kids show.
Taking advantage of the smaller stakes, the junior supes are allowed to develop naturally and most are immediately more likeable than the jaded character from the main series. Luckily, retired superhero Polarity (Sean Patrick Thomas), True Crime presenter Tek Knight (Derek Wilson) and superintendent Indira Shetty (Shelley Conn) are on hand to offer a healthy dose of unpleasantness.
Despite Marvel introducing enough teen superheroes to launch a Young Avengers and the success of Stranger Things, Wednesday and The Umbrella Academy, Gen V is confidently its own thing. It’s comfortable sitting in the shadow of The Boys for the time being and while the gory humour might feel familiar, this smart, sleek spin-off is never less than exciting.
‘Gen V’ premieres September 29 on Prime Video