'The Boys' landed on Prime Video at just the right time.
Audiences were now fully saturated in comic-book movies, and it was becoming a bore. Sure, there had been darker iterations and there had been self-aware ones. There had even both variants, and all colours and textures in between. Yet, none of them seemed to really tackle the concept of superhero privilege. Namely, how is it even possible for someone with godlike powers to have something resembling a healthy mental state? Undoubtedly, the ego and the constant gratification would drive them to levels of narcissism and sociopathic tendencies? Well, that's the furrow 'The Boys' has mined.
'Gen V' follows a group of students as they enter God U - or Godolkin University - and begin their new semester. Normally, you'd roll your eyes at the concept. A fresh-faced cast, plucked from the likes of 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' (two of them actually are) or 'Riverdale', and thrown into a college setting with a brand-new adventure to go on. Yet, 'Gen V' frequently delves into much thornier subjects, like why universities frequently block out certain applicants, and what it does to protect its star prospects? The opening episode, needless to say, begins and ends in bloody fashion, but it's how it sets up the rest of the season that makes 'Gen V' so compelling. It's not just going for cheap and graphic thrills with sneering nods to popular culture, although that's a lot of it. Rather, 'Gen V' acknowledges the hypocrisy that's riven in so many institutions that the current generation are exposing.
Some familiar faces from 'The Boys' crop up here and there, but it's very much its own thing. Patrick Schwarzenegger is a revelation as Luke 'Golden Boy' Riordan, perfectly capturing the queasy charm of someone born into privilege and ease - almost too perfectly, in fact. Even though his role isn't quite as dominant as you'd expect, Schwarzengger's screen presence is unmistakable and far more varied and vulnerable than his dad has ever done. While Jaz Sinclair is set up as the hero of the piece and her character arc throughout the season is an intriguing one, her performance doesn't always match the material quite as well as others. Lizze Broadway and Madie Phillips both shine as the shrinking Emma - who achieves her power in a pretty disturbing way - and Cate, who has the ability to make anyone do what she wants, but "is big on the whole consent thing."
Without delving too far into the plot or the further episodes, 'Gen V' has a lot to say not just about superheroes and the idea of manufacturing "brands" for export and the like that's expanding on what 'The Boys' has done already. Undoubtedly, it's working with a younger audience and coming at it from a different perspective, but the sharp edges and the witty writing is still there. As spin-offs go, 'Gen V' is one of the few of late that can reasonably stand shoulder to shoulder with its progenitor and maybe - just maybe - even surpass it in certain stakes.
The first three episodes of 'Gen V' are available now on Prime Video and will run until November 3rd.