Gen V Episode 1 review: A superbly shocking debut

Cameron Frew
Jaz Sinclair as Marie in Gen V

Gen V – much like The Boys in all of its queasy, crude glory – leaves any four-quadrant concerns at the door with Episode 1, a hilarious, genuinely shocking debut for the spinoff.

Early in The Boys, we watched Homelander and Queen Maeve make light work of plane hijackers before abandoning the hundreds of souls on board, watching them plummet towards their inevitable, harrowing death.

Eric Kripke and co. have exuded a rare mainstream confidence from the get-go, but Gen V feels like a step up in its first episode alone: the splutter-worthy jokes come thick and fast, the violence is slick and grim, and you get that creeping sensation that you’re watching the beginnings of another smash-hit.

Episode 1 breezes past at a breakneck pace, but it’s a substantial pilot; characters enter (and leave) the picture with dynamic flourishes, and the ensemble’s fresh charisma is enough to sell you on the series. Spoilers to follow…

Gen V Episode 1 is brutal, period

Gen V begins eight years in the past, with Super Center telling “supes and civies” to “rip up the history books”, because The Seven has just tapped its first African American member: A-Train. Watching at home are two parents, but their little girls couldn’t be less interested – meanwhile, their dad is swept up in the momentousness of what’s happening. “He parties with Jake Paul and Scott Disick,” the quips dismissively, in the first of the laugh-out-loud lines.

Suddenly, one of the sisters starts to get a tummy ache. She goes to the bathroom, where she realizes she’s had her first period – but Marie isn’t like other girls. She’s a blood blender, capable of weaponizing any trickle of blood from her body – but she doesn’t know the full extent of her powers, to the point that she accidentally rockets a blood spike through her mother’s neck when she comes into the bathroom. When her dad rushes in, Marie panics and accidentally causes a blood quake of sorts that batters him against the wall and covers his face in shards.

This is Marie’s (Jaz Sinclair nightmarish origin story, and we forward-wind ahead to her in a grey, dreary college for supes, full of lethargic, pasty students who have no ambition; she even catches one watching Seven-inspired porn in the common room, while others are dragged away to the “Elmira Adult Rehabilitation Center”, presumably a similar facility to Sage Grove Center. She reads books by Professor Brinkerhoff (Clancy Brown) in her spare time, wondering when her story will begin – and as luck would have it, it starts with an acceptance email from Godolkin University, Vought International’s prestige, high-education hub for supes.

Godolkin University is wild, funny… and scary

Marie and Emma in Gen V Episode 1

As she arrives, wide-eyed and bemused at the free-wheeling spirit of everyone around her, we see the campus orientation video, with beaming students talking about how “super-focused” and “super-abled” they are – oh, and the latter teen is in a wheelchair, floating above a classroom. We also meet Indira Shetty (Shelley Conn), who uses insane buzzwords like calling students “culturally rich change agents” and heralds the school’s alumni who’ve gone on to star in acclaimed shows like… Riverdale.

We also see brief channel-hopping through news reports, with one talking about “Homelander’s trial”, presumably for the killing of the protester in the Season 3 finale, and Queen Maeve’s death.

Marie eventually finds her dorm room, where Emma (Lizze Broadway) is filming a YouTube video. Her online alter-ego is known as Little Cricket, and she has the ability to shrink down to barely an inch in size. Just as she’s about to tussle her gerbil, Marie walks into the room. She describes herself as “PewDiePie without all the Nazi stuff”, a reference that goes completely over Marie’s head – it quickly becomes apparent she’s not tuned into any sort of pop culture.

They head down to watch the Lamplighter School of Crimefighting’s members practice in the stadium, where Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), the aptly-named number one student at Godolkin, is duking it out in a training session. While Emma almost froths at the mouth at – let’s not mince our words – his swinging, flaming penis, Golden Boy rips the boy’s arms off his shoulders. The applause turns to reluctant clapping, but it’s okay – he has regenerative abilities, and by the time his flesh and bones re-attach, he’s smiling and thanking him.

Everyone’s class schedule comes through, and Marie is distraught at seemingly not making the cut for Intro to Crimefighting; anyone who’s ever become a Vought hero with a city contract starts there, so her career is a non-starter without it. As she’s about to storm into Brinkerhoff’s office, she’s halted by Jordan Li (Derek Luh and London Thur), a gender-shifter who denied Marie’s request to get into the class.

Moments later, Brinkerhoff emerges from his office and shoots Jordan in the chest, but they manage to switch just in time to block the bullet. Fortunately, it’s just a running joke between the pair. Marie then tells the professor that she deserves a spot on the class, but he tells her that “performing arts is a fine programme” and walks away.

That night, Marie sees a student sprinting away as armed guards are either walloped or chasing after him. She uses her powers to stop him, and she’s helped by Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo) and his Magneto-esque abilities, but as he’s being taken away, he screams that he’ll never go back to “the Woods.”

Marie befriends Godolkin’s seniors

Marie and Luke, aka Golden Boy, in Gen V Episode 1

The next day, Marie puts on her best face to make friends with her acting classmates, all of whom are insufferable; the leader of the clique brags about being in talks for an “elevated superhero thing” directed by Zach Braff – the second-best satirical joke of the year behind Barry’s Sian Heder cameo.

Meanwhile, Luke aka Golden Boy meets with Brinkerhoff in their office. It’s immediately clear that they have some sort of weird father-son dynamic, especially when the professor reveals the good news: not only is he getting a new suit that can’t be burned, but he’s been accepted into The Seven without the usual need for a draw from the university’s leaderboard. You’d think he’d be delighted, but as they hug, Luke hears a voice calling his name in his head – something is off, but we don’t know what.

Marie ditches the wannabe actors, and as she’s strolling around the campus, she meets Andre. He’s come up with some dreadful superhero names for her: Bloody Marie and Cawagula. He’s not there to spitball branding ideas, though – he wants to invite her out to party off-campus with Golden Boy and his girlfriend Cate (Maddie Philips), an empath. She’s hesitant, given she’d be breaking curfew, but Emma threatens to jerk off in her company if she doesn’t go – which is as good a reason as any.

She heads out while Emma hunkers down in her bed, reading “kill yourself” messages on her YouTube channel. A text breaks her away from the doom-scrolling: it’s from a boy who said he liked her videos, and he wants to “bang.” We’ll say this: the sex scene has to be seen to be believed. It involves her becoming really small – the process of which is sickening, literally – and pleasuring him in a unique way. It’s not gory like Termite’s genital-demolishing gesundheit, but you’ll be thinking about it for the rest of the day.

Marie’s night out goes haywire

Marie and the other characters in Gen V Episode 1

Marie meets up with Andre and his friends, and barring some frostiness with Jordan (“Are you gonna reject me from this outing, too?” she asks), it goes pretty well. Golden Boy may have the hallmarks of a proto-Homelander from the outset, but he makes an effort to engage with Marie, to the point she feels comfortable telling him about her parents’ deaths. “Being a hero isn’t what you think,” he tells her.

When they arrive at the club, Marie is pressured into taking molly almost straight away; Cate jokingly threatens to “take off her glove” and make her do it, but she’s “all about consent.” She obliges and goes for a dance with Cate, while Andre and Jordan congratulate Luke on joining the Seven. They discuss who’ll become number one next: Jordan doesn’t think it’ll be them because they’re “too confusing”, but Andre isn’t interested in the responsibility, nor does he want to work with his dad at Vought (we don’t know who his father is yet).

Andre then tries to chat up a woman sitting alone at the bar, and he shows her a trick: he turns a coin into a little bird and wagers that if he can get it into someone’s glass, she should go home with him. It all goes very wrong, though: somebody bumps into him, causing the bird to slit another woman’s throat. They all freak out and run away, but Marie uses her powers to put the blood back into her body and block the wound.

She’s overjoyed at having saved a life, and as everyone around her films the whole ordeal, she’s sure it’ll give her the edge to finally get into the university’s crimefighting class – but it’s quite the opposite. Brinkerhoff compares her to a man who died while saving his dog in the UK – she did a noble thing, but she’s the necessary sacrifice to cover the backs of the supes who’ll “go all the way.”

Marie fights back against his ruling, but he says her powers don’t have any “four-quadrant appeal”, and she’s “an orphan who murdered her parents”, so she doesn’t have any choice in her expulsion.

Golden Boy flames on

Golden Boy in Gen V Episode 1

Luke wakes up in his dorm room – or so it appears. We’re actually seeing his recurring nightmare, with visions of a young boy called Sam surrounded by trees. “It’s not a dream, it’s real… please help me,” he says, as the room starts to shake. Marie cuts her hand open as she replays her parents’ deaths in her head and her sister calling her a “monster”, but she refuses to be beaten and marches back into the university.

Meanwhile, Luke walks into Brinkerhoff’s office in a pale daze. As Marie walks in, he’s hugging the professor in a fiery blaze, burning him to a crisp. “You don’t understand what Brink did, you don’t know about the woods,” he says, she calmly agrees to keep it “their secret.” But Golden Boy can’t help himself: he activates his powers and pursues her down the hall, knowing his reputation is on the line. Jordan tells him to chill out, and he instantly suspects they’re “in on it” too – whatever “it” is – and they duke it out, including one leg-crossing jab to the dick.

He gets the better of them and chases after Marie outside, but he’s stopped by Andre. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” Luke says, and just as it looks as if he’s about to kill his best friend, he hugs him. “I’m so sorry,” Luke says before turning hotter than he’s ever been, flying into the sky and exploding, with his flesh raining down on everyone below. Godolkin has lost its Golden Boy.

Make sure you stick around during the credits for a “special message” too.

Gen V Episode 1 review score: 4/5

Gen V finds its rhythm quickly in a gleeful, head-knocking introduction to a whole new world of The Boys. Diabolical, as they say.

Gen V Episodes 1-3 are available to stream now. You can check out our other coverage here.

About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, and Oscars enthusiast. He loves Invincible, but he's also a fan of The Boys, the MCU, The Chosen, and much more. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.