Gen V season 1 review: "A hot mess but a damn good time"

Jaz Sinclair and Chance Perdomo in Gen V
(Image: © Prime Video)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Despite its flaws and bumps, Gen V is a good time. It's a hot mess, but it's a damn good time.

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The Boys is the darker, grittier antidote to the colorful, hopeful world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It poses the theory that the people who are supposed to protect us suck, actually, and there are no heroes – just humans walking around with superpowers. Gen V is an extension of this universe, introducing us to a new crop of young supes who are destined to become world-renowned heroes and move into Vought Tower.

Welcome to Godolkin University, cheekily abbreviated to God U, a college for kiddos with superpowers that is an obviously parody of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Students take courses like "Hero Ethics" and "Branding," and are awarded for both clearing homicide cases and having a million Instagram followers. 

It’s here that we meet our ensemble cast: the blood-soaked Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), real-life Alice in Wonderland Emma aka Cricket (Lizze Broadway), the mysterious and vengeful Cate (Maddie Phillips), the literally magnetic Andre (Chance Perdomo), the gender-shifting Jordan (Derek Luh and London Thor), the troubled but super strong Sam (Asa Germann), and the once beloved Luke aka Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger). The prestigous institution isn't what it seems to be, and our supes spend the season getting to the bottom of it – and uncovering some impossibly dark secrets along the way.

Gen V

(Image credit: Prime Video)

The first episode throws us right into action, attempting to hook the viewer by setting up a plethora of questions that will be answered later on – but the result is more confusing than anything. The first 20 minutes of the show is spent watching various characters go on something of an apology tour, for apparently traumatic events that we have zero context for. And, predictably, after spending some time throughout the episode hating each other's guts – everyone decides to soften and have a real bonding moment towards the end (something that happens again and again throughout the series).

After a muddled first episode, we head straight into Herogasm territory. Dicks explode, ear drums are broken, sex scenes are weird, puppets get violent, blood is everywhere, and there's also a gruesome self-immolation scene that rivals Hereditary. In between the moments of absurdity, we start to see that being turned into a supe at birth isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Turns out, not everyone wants to join the Seven. Some people just want to live a normal life. Other people have to deal with the negative side effects of their powers, and how they can become a form of self-harm. One of the main themes of show is guilt, how we cope with it, and the ways in which we blame ourselves for things that weren't our fault. 

At the heart of the show is Asa Germann's Sam, whose capture holds the key to the inhumane goings-on at Godokin. Sure, all of the main supes in the series are likable, have cool powers, and end up touching our hearts. But Germann delivers the standout performance of the season, becoming the best part of every episode when he shows up. Sam is a tortured, haunted character and this never leaves him – not even in his fleeting moments of joy or when his dry humor is making Lizze Broadway's Emma laugh. Sam's dark cloud is always there, and it's what motivates him to escape – but it's also the thing that tells him to kill. And instead of it being consistent doom and gloom, some of his most paranoid and delusional moments are transformed into pure absurdity – with the writers giving us laugh-out-loud moments in the midst of heartbreak.

Gen V

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Because it's a spin-off, Gen V will inevitably spend its tenure fielding comparisons to its ultra-entertaining and wildly popular predecessor. The Boys feels like a comic-book show, rooted in spectacle and absurdity. Gen V, at times feels more like a CW show – and I'm not talking about the Arrowverse. Luckily, the writers are well aware of this, going as far as to namecheck Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars as just a sampling of the shows that their theatre students have gone on to star in. The series suffers from lulls, uneventful scenes that are used solely to establish plot, and exposition where there should be action. The timeline is a mess, with each episode jumping back and forth and relying heavily on flashbacks. Plus, the adult characters are both comically unlikable and utterly useless – especially the ones who are in charge.

Being in college is hard enough without pressure from your parents, but these parents (and parental figures) are dead-set on exploiting their super-kiddos and pushing them to their absolute limits just so they have something to brag about. Much like in The Boys, it's all about popularity and starpower, but the difference here is these supes are just trying to get by, and even, dare I say, do the right thing. 

While villains like The Deep and Homelander exist in this world, these young supes aren't murdering for funsies and having intercourse with dolphins. When they're not at each other's throats over who gets to be number one, they’re battling eating disorders, recounting tales about accidentally murdering people with their period blood, and learning to love and accept themselves for who they truly are. They're also making huge mistakes, doing raver drugs, and using their powers to go viral on Twitter. 

Despite its flaws and bumps, Gen V is a good time. It's a hot mess, but it's a damn good time. We can only hope it gets weirder from here.

The first three episodes Gen V season 1 are streaming on Prime Video from September 29, with new episodes airing weekly. For more, check out our list of the best new TV shows coming your way in 2023 and beyond and a look ahead to The Boys season 4. For more on Gen V, also check out our guides to:

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Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.