Gen V’s first season has garnered a lot of positive reactions, but this new spinoff of The Boys has also left audiences with a lot of questions. So let’s break down how Gen V flips Gen Z tropes, unpack all of those shocking twists, take a deeper look at what everyone’s pain secretly represents, and explore what those surprise Homelander and the Butcher cameos could mean for The Boys Season 4!
Gen Z Cliches, Super Sized
While we’re used to constant talk about Gen Z in the media, there haven’t been that many great representations of them onscreen, and Gen V is one of the most fun takes on this generation that we’ve had so far in a mainstream TV show. The college students here are a little bit Euphoria — with the dramatic sadness, trauma, drugs, and active romantic lives — with The Boys’ trademark superhero satire thrown in.
The series has plenty of Gen Z jokes — like how all the students are obsessed with building their online followings, how the university teaches branding as part of its core curriculum, and how, when violent chaos has broken out on campus, it’s not until they lose Internet connection that the kids start truly getting upset. And Gen V opens by giving us a cast of characters who fit already recognizable Gen Z tropes — only to (in classic Breakfast Club-teen movie style) subvert everything we think we know by complicating those character types over the season. We have the handsome and popular white boy who’s literally named Golden Boy, the beautiful but manipulative blonde Cate (whose power is to “push” people to do whatever she wants), Andre the reluctant son of a celebrity dad, Jordan a bigender student (one of whose powers is actual gender fluidity), Emma the YouTube celebrity who’s obsessed with being liked and relies on her eating disorder in order to “get small” for her channel (and even has the modern-classic “Almond Mom” monitoring her size and trying to snag her a reality TV show), and our heroine, Marie Moureau, who’s come from unbelievable disadvantage and trauma — having accidentally killed her parents and orphaned herself when she discovered her blood-related powers upon getting her first period.
Subverting The Tropes
We might think we know how the battles lines will be set up from those quick intros, but the first season of Gen V gave us a fair number of twists — the first episode ends with “Golden Boy” Luke (who’s set up to be Gen V’s Homelander on a straight path to the Seven) blowing himself up, and revealing that even the people we’re sure have it made may be privately struggling. It’s a little less surprising that new Dean Indira Shetty is up to no good, but there is a twist in her reasons for plotting to create a virus that could wipe out all Supes: her husband and daughter were on Transoceanic Flight 37, the plane that Homelander chose not to save. And if she wipes out all the Supes, she can kill Homelander.
The biggest mid-season reveal is that it’s one of the core group that’s betrayed them: Cate, who’s wiped all their memories and also wiped Luke’s memory several times. But she’s a sympathetic antagonist here because she’s been manipulated herself (ever since she was a little girl) by Shetty. Cate then tries to do the right thing by freeing all the locked-up Superheroes in “The Woods,” where they’re being cruelly experimented on but ends up riling them up on Superhero superiority rhetoric to go on a violent spree against all humans: The same shift happens with Luke’s brother Sam. He gets freed earlier by Emma, who unlocks her true hero over the season by enjoying her Big self, as well as using her ability to get small to do great things (like being the first person to break into the woods and free Sam.) Sam, when Emma meets him, is extremely sweet – despite all he’s been through thanks to Shetty and cruel Doctor Cardosa, and thanks to his own battles with schizophrenia. Yet the right-wing Superhero superiority rhetoric he hears at the town hall meeting plus Cate’s urging leads Sam to also free his own anger and resentment at what he’s endured to seek retribution. Instead of following Emma’s more complicated but human advice, he takes Cate’s easier way out.
Shetty’s hatred of Supes actually aligns her with The Boys’ central antihero Billy Butcher — but after Cate and Sam’s uprising, there’s a final twist that gives us a near central group of rebels like the Boys’ group but with some differences. After Homelander appears to stop the fight but brings a different agenda, the season closes with Marie, Jordan, Andre, and Emma as a foursome that’s being vilified in the media and blamed for the attack they fought and stopped. So all the season’s setting up of Marie and Andre as media darlings headed to the Seven is undone, and Sam and Cate are being celebrated by Homelander’s pro-Supes base. (We’ll get to what Homelander and the Butcher’s appearances and the virus mean for season 4 of The Boys in just a minute!)
The Deeper Meaning Of Gen V’s Pain
One thing Gen V (and the Boys) do expertly with all these twists is capture the layers of how traumas and betrayals affect people and lead them to act out or choose sides. Cate is hated by her friends (and her lover Andre) for lying and manipulating, but she’s doing that because she’s been treated that way. Then she snaps and tries to do the right thing and be a hero – but while she’s not wrong to try to liberate the people in the Woods, her way is wrong because it incites an eruption of hatred and bloodshed. It’s no accident that The Boys character Victoria Neuman shows up at a key moment here – because Neuman shares both Marie’s signature blood powers and her background. But Neuman is one of the most terrifying characters in the show because she’s incredibly convincing as a person who pretends to have principles and care about helping the world, while privately her ambition and calculating pragmatism have no limits. Naturally, she’s the one who ends up in sole control of the virus that Dr Cardosa and Shetty were developing.
It’s striking that every one of the central characters is driven by pain related to family members – three of the central group are fixated on a sibling. Cate lost her brother due to her powers, Luke’s distress is because he can’t free Sam from the woods, and Marie longs to find her sister Annabeth and prove to her she’s not a monster for killing their parents. Shetty’s driven by her lost family, Andre’s conflicted about his morally compromised Dad, and Emma’s issues with needing to be liked come from her mom. This portrait of Gen V (or Gen Z) is one that’s been stuck with a lot of trauma – here that’s represented by the revelation that all these young Supers were drugged as babies with compound V. So there’s an original sin by the older generation that caused all this suffering. Meanwhile, there’s a lot more inclusiveness in this generation – notably this spinoff of The Boys is a lot more racially diverse and more queer – but at the same time, these young people are still controlled by the same powerful exclusionary institutions. So in this story, Jordan will never get to be chosen as number 1 in the rankings because of the Disney-like corporation Vought’s concerns about middle America and conservative news reactions. And how these young people may feel about things doesn’t stop them from being subject to these greater corporate and political powers.
Getting To Be More Than Just Their Dark Sides
The series does a great job of walking all these lines of commentary and political divisiveness by not shying away from capturing all these complexities – and situating itself in our world with plenty of current references – and more importantly, complicating its central characters so they’re more than just one-note types or cartoons. Cate is like a Gen Z version of Frozen’s Elsa – even wearing gloves because she struggles to control her powers and shut up in a room by her parents for years, longing for her sibling – but she’s not inside a fairy tale where things will definitely work out for her. She’s also the epitome of that hot, popular, behind-your-back “mean girl” type that we all know and love – but she’s also genuinely loving and looking for true connection. And just as we may begin to expect one thing from her (i.e., continuing to cave to Shetty), she takes a different dark turn. Jordan at first presents with a certain cold drive that leans into certain “model minority” myths but over time shows their warmth, loyalty, and how navigating between their different presentations can come with baggage. We also expect certain things of Sam given what we know about him, but his twists and turns surprise us – and he (like these other characters) contains multitudes.
Thanks to all this, it’s a series that weirdly does feel accurate to capturing a number of aspects of Gen Z’s experience now (minus the crazy superpowers part). And it has a lot of fun in the process.
What Does All Of This Mean For The Boys Season 4?
But what does all of this mean for the next season of The Boys?! Gen V’s finale episode sees the arrival of both Homelander and the Butcher, setting up not only the next season of Gen V but also giving us clues about what will happen next on The Boys. The Butcher appears in a mid-credits scene, exploring The Woods facility to find out more about the virus. Showrunner Eric Kripke told Variety, “We knew that we wanted that virus to be a pretty big part of Season 4, and we knew that we wanted Butcher to be aware of it… It was really cool, because it does a nice little preamble to what’s coming next.” So it seems like, unsurprisingly, the superhero-destroying virus is going to play a big part in next season’s storyline, and The Butcher is already hot on the trail. Thankfully they’re keeping the timeline pretty simple – the next season of The Boys will pick up right after the events of Gen V, so no worries about confusing overlapping timelines to keep track of. And as for Homelander, who pops into Gen V’s final episode just to laser our main character and then turn the entire world against her and her friends to fit his own narrative, he ends the finale watching a news broadcast of the outcome of this: Cate and Sam being heralded as saviors and Marie, Andre, Emma, and Jordan locked away somewhere in a seemingly inescapable facility. The showrunners haven’t yet confirmed if anyone from Gen V will be making an appearance in the next season of The Boys, but it seems likely that we’ll at some point get some updates on them during the course of the season. Also, given that Gen V started at the beginning of the school year, that means that at the point where the season leaves off it’s getting very close to November – so it looks like we’re going to be quickly arriving at the Presidential Election that’s been looming in The Boys. All of this is going to have huge implications for all of our favorite characters.
Gen V was a fun watch that, in the end, left us with more questions than answers. So we can’t wait to watch season 4 of The Boys (and the recently confirmed season 2 of Gen V) to find out what happens next!
Maas, Jennifer. “‘The Boys’ Season 4: How Those ‘Gen v’ Finale Cameos and Mid-Credits Scene Set up Virus Storyline.” Variety, Variety, 3 Nov. 2023, variety.com/2023/tv/news/boys-season-4-gen-v-finale-homelander-butcher-cameos-1235777856/.