The Boys and its spin-off, Gen V, are some of the gnarliest shows around when it comes to blood and guts. The Boys makes its intentions known very quickly when A-Train runs through Hughie’s girlfriend, leaving the latter holding her hands, disconnected from her splattered body. She’s instantly killed so that Hughie can get angry enough to join up with Billy Butcher and the crew. The Boys’ new college-focused spin-off, Gen V, is a violent show, too. Its main character slices her hand open to access her blood powers, and even just five episodes in, the show is hinting that her control over blood is more extensive than you can imagine. Gen V not only features one of the bloodiest opening sequences in any show that I can remember, but it’s also much more creative with its use of graphic violence and other body-horror-style moments thanks to its protagonists.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for Prime Video’s Gen V through Episode 5 of Season 1. If you haven’t caught up with the series yet, you may want to wait until you do.
Marie Moreau is what Avatar: The Last Airbender fans would call a bloodbender. In the show’s opening sequence, she learns about her blood powers when they kick in alongside her period. By the end of the scene, Marie has accidentally–and violently–killed both of her parents as her newly manifested powers go wildly out of control. It sends her life into a spiral, landing her in an orphanage for supes and estranging her from her horrified sister. While The Boys asserts that it’s all but impossible to be an uncompromised supe, though, Gen V is following Marie’s journey to try to get there.
Marie’s powers are a tool–like a hammer or a chainsaw. You can use them to pound nails and cut down trees, but horror movies and true-crime stories have proven that you can find lots of less savory uses for them, too. As Marie goes through her first days at God U, she explores her powers and finds new uses for them. She can sense when other women are having their periods. She can trap the flow of blood in uh, certain regions. She can detect blood clots. She can reverse blood loss.
Despite how things began when Marie discovered her power, she’s less of a weapon and more of a Swiss army knife. She’s a detective, a bounty hunter, a warrior, and a doctor all at once. She’s exploring who she is without shame for the first time in her life, and discovering all of her potential, rather than being shamed for being different. At the same time, though, she’s being pulled in a dozen different directions. People want to exploit her, shun her, and befriend her–they all want a piece of her in some way or another, and she’s giving up her blood to try to do that as she figures out what she wants.
It’s no coincidence that Marie is paired with Emma, known to her YouTube fans as Cricket. Emma stands as a representation of child celebrity and body image in an always-online world. She’s not Ant-Man; her powers don’t come from a suit. We learn shortly after seeing her wrestle a mouse that if she wants to use her powers, she has to give up something. Namely, the contents of her stomach. To shrink, she has to purge as if she were bulimic. When paired with the scene where she pleasures a guy in her shrunken form, it highlights the way she has to literally minimize herself and who she is to get the fame she thinks she wants.
When we meet her mother, it feels similar to characters like Patty in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, but Emma walks a line between being a child celebrity and an adult in control of her destiny. Her mother has designed what she sees as a successful life for her daughter and expects her to make the necessary sacrifices to climb the ladder of fame. Emma is racked with self-doubt throughout the series, seeing her power as little more than a form of entertainment for others and suffering from the same body changes that people with bulimia experience, including gnarly breath and her teeth rotting from the back. It’s not until she meets Sam Riordan that she starts to see herself as something more, infiltrating first a top-secret facility, and second someone’s literal head. These scenes don’t skimp on nauseating imagery, but they’re all about how she has to hurt herself to live a life she’s been told she wants, before beginning to see who she can be on her own.
Jordan Li’s power isn’t nearly as grisly as some of the others here, but it has its own kind of discomfort for both Jordan and certain people around them. Jordan can swap at will between a male and female version of themselves. While their father clues us in on their birth gender, Jordan doesn’t seem to favor one or the other. Along with this power comes some other fairly standard superpowers like super strength and durability, but the ability to switch is the most visible.
When we do finally meet their father, the two are at odds with each other. Jordan’s father wants them to live as a man because he views that as the path to success. For Jordan, switching genders is part of their self-expression, and it hasn’t stopped them from being one of the top performers in the school. From the school’s perspective, though, as explained by faculty members like the Dean, Jordan’s gender fluidity is unpalatable to the mass market. Under the surface of both Jordan’s father’s stance and the school’s are those uncomfortable stereotypes about Asian masculinity and femininity, as Jordan works hard to get out from under the weight of expectations and to just do what seems right.
Sam, is perhaps the best example of the way Gen V uses graphic violence to let us into its characters’ heads. This is where the truly huge spoilers start. Sam is on the run from Vought’s security teams, and we already know from previous meetings with him that he struggles with accurately perceiving reality. That comes to a head when he’s cornered. Sam is incredibly strong–the kind of strong where people around you might as well be made out of toilet paper. Combine that with the fact that he’s been tortured to the point of literally being mentally unstable, and it’s no surprise that things get nasty when he fights back. But then, Sam and everyone around him suddenly turn into felt puppets. Sam tears a guy in half–that’s not an exaggeration–and red sequins fly everywhere.
The horror that Sam has seen and the violence he’s capable of are enough to scar anyone, and Sam has developed techniques to try to cope with it. They’re not healthy, and he seems to know it, but they’re emergency patches for someone in a terrible place. The only way he can get through these horrifying events is to live life in a puppet show.
This scene lets Gen V be every bit as gory as The Boys, but now it’s happening through Sam’s eyes, telling us what’s going on in his mind. It also makes the gore more palatable and, for lack of a better word, fresh when compared to the other graphic stuff in the show.
The kids in Gen V aren’t alright, but they’re trying hard to get there despite the manipulations of Professor Brinkerhoff, Dean Shetty, and the Vought Corporation, and it shows in virtually every character. They’re all victims of unimaginable trauma, both old and new, at the same time. The Boys is a fun show in its own right, but it rarely feels as if the graphic violence is there to do something other than make us gasp. With Gen V, it’s always there telling us something.
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