Gen V Asks: What if The Boys Was Riverdale?
The Boys universe goes teen drama for a tonal mishmash that's still a delight.
The Boys’ universe definitely has a specific tone. Based on Garth Ennis’ comic series, the irreverent and overly gory superhero series serves as the perfect retort to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s family blockbuster formula. But with Gen V, the college-set spinoff premiering September 29 on Prime Video, the CW teen drama gets the same treatment. But what happens when the ultra-lewdness of the “adult” show is mixed into the over-the-top melodrama of Riverdale? The answer is “exactly what you’d expect,” but still incredibly watchable.
Gen V begins the way many female-led coming-of-age stories begin: with the protagonist getting her period. But that’s the last predictable event in the life of Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair.) Thanks to a unique blood-bending power, she manages to get into Godolkin University, the hottest college for supes. It seems like “God U” only has two main majors: Performing Arts and Crimefighting, making the student population full of the most obnoxious kinds of people: theater kids and future cops. It’s the perfect recipe for drama.
The golden boy on campus is, fittingly, Golden Boy, aka Luke Riordan (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who is ranked #1 in a handy school-wide ranking system that keeps the future heroes at each others’ throats. Under the tutelage of Professor Brink (Clancy Brown), Luke is being groomed for the Seven alongside his best friend and Supe nepo baby Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo), and Luke’s mind-controlling girlfriend Cate Dunlap (Maddie Phillips.)
Marie is perfectly content to keep her head down and hang out with her Incredible Shrinking Roommate Emma (Lizzie Broadway), but finds herself thrust into a huge mystery surrounding a strange location known only as The Woods. Overnight, she finds herself the center of attention.
But the mystery in the middle of Gen V isn’t what sets it apart from The Boys — the subplots are. We see all kinds of teen issue-of-the-week topics addressed through the God U gang’s antics. Emma reveals a secret to a popular girl, only for it to blow back into her face. Marie becomes the target of a psychic creep who astral projects his way around getting consent.
Handling touchy subjects with sensitivity isn’t exactly this universe’s strong suit — The Boys’ political themes have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer — but that’s kind of what makes it awesome. When Riverdale ended only last month, it seemed like there was no more room for a show so self-consciously ridiculous and knowingly melodramatic. Gen V is exactly that. It could be described as Riverdale with superheroes… but Riverdale already has superheroes. It’s more like Riverdale with exploding penises.
There actually is nuance in the series when it’s absolutely needed. Jordan Li (dual cast as Derek Luh and London Thor) is a bigender hero always stuck in Golden Boy’s shadow because of their lack of mass appeal. There’s less nuance taken around Degrassi-era PSA topics like eating disorders and self-harm, but a Boys spinoff can only do so much when it comes to subtlety.
The acting also helps elevate the subject matter. Everyone knows exactly what kind of show they’re in — nobody takes themselves too seriously. Lizzie Broadway in particular delivers a touchingly vulnerable comedic performance, and even Shelley Conn, fresh from playing Beelzebub in Good Omens Season 2, is somehow more villainous as the shifty Dean Shetty.
Still, the intrigue of The Boys lives on through the main plot, which bends reality, memory, and (of course) grief and trauma, to show just how difficult it is to live in a world where it takes more than superpowers to make you special. There are twists, turns, cameos, and ships that will give fancam editors fuel for months and a villainous scheme that may just change the entire The Boys universe as we know it.
Gen V may not be the cure for The Boys withdrawal, nor an equivalent to the source show’s pointed MCU satire, but if you enjoy the gory action sequences, self-aware moments, and general camp, then this is a series designed in an underground laboratory just for you.
Riverdale, you may be greatly missed, but rest assured your memory lives on in the most ridiculous way possible.