from Amazon The boys has played a game of one-upmanship for three years, initially taking the somewhat tired superhero genre to the curb with layers of corporate satire, increasingly salty and nihilistic language and tidal waves of bodily fluids.
As much as I often enjoy it The boysOnce most of the competition was left in the R-rated dust, that one-upmanship often became self-driven and felt like a bit of a creative dead end. One exploding character turned 15. Gallons of fake bloodstains escalated to vats of intestines, with some sperm thrown in for good measure. The ethos of the show has always been ‘More, more, more’, but not always ‘More creative, more creative, more creative’.
It comes down to
Uneven but entertaining.
Broadcast date: Friday September 29 (Amazon)
Form: Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Lizze Broadway, Shelley Conn, Maddie Phillips, London Thor, Derek Luh, Asa Germann, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sean Patrick Thomas, Marco Pigossi.
Showrunners: Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters
With the new spin-off Gen V, The boys is at least briefly able to make a much-needed reset, bringing in a largely new cast of characters, tweaking its satirical objectives, and while the new series is still deeply invested in transposing our internal goo outward, it does some new things with its bodily splashes.
No performance is as likely to earn critical acclaim as Antony Starr’s ultra-intense take on Homelander, but the cast of relative newcomers is generally solid. If the series becomes frustratingly rushed as it progresses, staying within that rush and those choppy story choices, I found enough moments of giddy inspiration to be entertained and sometimes more than that.
The series begins with a scene dedicated to outdoorCarrie-ing Carrie, or at least marking distinctive new territory in the tried-and-true “girls first period” genre. Young Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) retreats to the bathroom and finds herself bleeding as she discovers she has a very disturbing superpower. She is able to manipulate blood, but unable to control that manipulation, with tragic consequences. It is dirty. And disturbing. And funny as hell.
Years later, Marie finds herself in a controlled institution for empowered teenagers, an institution that normally transfers its wards to even more controlled asylums in adulthood. But Marie has a way out! She has been accepted to Godolkin University, or God U, an advanced institution that turns gifted individuals into powerful crime fighters or actors.
The Godolkin institution allows that Gen V turns his iconoclastic attention to the burgeoning empire of ‘special schools’, taking the piss – and blood and semen and vomit and whatnot – from, for example Sky high, X Men, Wednesday And Harry Potter.
Particularly in the first episode, directed by Nelson Cragg and written by Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg and Eric Kripke, that involves a lot of world building, introducing us to the God U campus and its social structure – students are ranked by of “talent, skills, brand awareness and social mentions” – and the people responsible. These include superpower-free president/superintendent Indira Shetty (Shelley Conn) and famed professor Richard Brinkerhoff (Clancy Brown).
Although she dreams of being part of The Seven, Marie knows that if she gets into trouble, she will be sent to the asylum. So she tries to fly under the radar, even resisting the friendship of her sharp-tongued roommate Emma (Lizze Broadway), who has the ability to become very small.
In short order, and for reasons broadcast far too quickly to make any sense, Marie befriends a group of high-ranking, upper-class men led by the irrepressible alpha Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), his mind-manipulating girlfriend Cate (Maddie Phillips), his metal best friend Andre (Chance Perdomo) and Professor Brinkerhoff’s gender-bending TA, Jordan (Derek Lum and London Thor).
By the end of the pilot, several people are dead, Marie has gone from modest underdog to a heavily hyped version – a kind of Capillary-ness Everdeen, if you will – and the main characters are embroiled in a Vought-adjacent conspiracy involving Compound . V and something called ‘The Woods’.
That pilot was probably my favorite of the first six. The 55 minutes are packed with all the eager crudeness and deft pop culture references that fans crave. There’s a very likeable looseness that comes from an entirely new setting and a largely new ensemble, even if some of the characters are from The boys cameo popup. It’s mainly the men The boys that pop up and highlight the subversive contrast between the two shows.
Gen V is all about the women and these female characters who explore traditional adolescent insecurities and transformation rituals through a supernatural prism. Marie’s gift is not only released through menstruation, but she can only channel it through cutting. Emma’s power is closely tied to the fetishization of female weight and size. Jordan’s gender fluidity is clearly meant to generate trans-adjacent conversations, and while I’m not sure the show is fully equipped to have those conversations (nor want to address the JK Rowling in the room), there are some interesting ideas floating around round. .
There’s a lesson that no one seems to learn from the start Harry Potter series, namely that viewers are very tolerant of certain types of extended exposition and that spending a while simply establishing character and setting with very little direct plot will pay off if you want to delve into the mythology later.
Gen V, to its detriment, lacks that patience. It’s so eager to move forward that it can’t be bothered to give most of its main characters personalities, let alone build believable relationships between them. It tries to fill in gaps as it goes along, but episodes are getting shorter and shorter and when it comes to the choice between characters (and the metaphorical underpinnings of their gifts) and plot, Gen V chooses a plot every time.
And the overarching plot isn’t particularly exciting: lots of stuff about corporate cabals and illegal medical research. But thanks to the characters and their unique abilities, there are huge new things that move the story forward.
It’s easy to stigmatize Marie’s gift as disturbing and inappropriate; several powers that be wonder whether bloodbending will have four-quadrant appeal in Central America. But it’s becoming more and more versatile, and in a show that still loves nothing more than making its characters explode in thick red mist, Marie can do some new things there.
Then there are elaborate puppet sequences, slightly trippy (if perhaps illogical) journeys into palaces of the mind and, thanks to Emma’s power, Honey, I shrunk the kids-inspired forays into miniaturization and size play. Throw in the snarky “Wait, did they really make THAT joke?!” nods to things as innocent as PaleyFest and as not-innocent as parties at Bryan Singer’s house, and there’s a lot going on in Gen V. When it’s possible to pause and breathe, the writing is smart, the effects are polished, and the cast is good.
Introduced as gruff and withdrawn, Marie responds to immediate unwanted celebrity and the branding opportunities that come with it in a way that is complicated and unconcerned with simple “likability,” giving Sinclair a wide range of emotions to play out. She has her best scenes with the supremely funny Broadway, who weathers the pilot’s predictably prurient interest in Emma’s power — this is a franchise that loves a giant penis — to become the show’s most sympathetic and even lovable character.
Schwarzenegger’s Golden Boy has a lot in common with Homelander, and in its unfettered intensity there are effective similarities to Starr’s performance in the mothership. I wish Phillips had more of a chance to flex the comedic muscles that would have made her a star several years ago if Netflix hadn’t ditched Teen bounty hunters. But she makes Cate more complicated than her first impression suggests. There are strong supporting turns from Asa Germann, Sean Patrick Thomas, who plays Andre’s famous superhero father, and Jason Ritter, whose role I won’t spoil.
That’s not it The boys exactly needed rejuvenation or restart. The third season felt to me much the same as the first two: exhilaratingly uneven. And it isn’t Gen V evens out those imperfections. But I would say it’s a quality piece The boys and some of the tweaks to coming-of-age conventions emphasize the “exciting” column more than the “uneven” column.