Our favorite heroes, like Batman and Spider-Man, want to make sure that what happened to them never happens to anyone else. The world of The Boys wonders what the world would be like if superheroes were actually real. The answer always ends up being “terrible.” Now, the latest chapter set in the world of The Boys, Prime Video’s Gen V, asks what it would be like to grow up in that world, ultimately confirming that it’s all but impossible to become a genuinely good superhero, fighting to make the world a better place, in this particular universe. Even if you try your hardest to be a superhero, you end up going down one of three paths: corruption, death, or ostracization.
Warning: Spoilers follow for Season 1 of Gen V.
The Boys began with a brand-new hero, Starlight, joining The Seven. Throughout three seasons, we’ve watched the optimistic hero be pulled down into the mud over and over again.
Gen V introduced us to a group of young supes with high hopes, and just like Starlight, they’ve watched their hopes of a world with good supes die, bit by bit. As the end credits roll, though, the heroes wake up in a room with no doors, wearing hospital gowns, and watching a news report that paints them as the villains of a terrible plot.
It was always a losing battle, though. Superpowers were developed by Vought International; the multinational corporation approached soon-to-be or brand-new parents and presented them with an idea: If you let us inject your kid with superpowers, they’ll be wildly successful people in a new world. All you have to do is not tell anyone. It’s like Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, but instead of vegetables, it’s people. Even before these kids could walk or talk, they were being turned into experiments–potentially lethal, wildly destructive ones–with no say in the matter.
In The Boys, we see all the ways someone could abuse the superpowers they possess, as well as the social and economic power that comes with having them. The Deep is a creep whenever possible. A-Train is killing himself to stay competitive. Homelander, the most powerful of them all, is a barely contained psychopath whose metaphorical constraints are getting weaker with each episode. Gen V, though, goes a step further. Marie, Emma, Sam, and their friends haven’t been corrupted by Vought–at least not directly. They all have different struggles that come with their powers, often accompanied by unintentional, grisly disasters, but they aren’t corrupt like Homelander or the Deep, or hiding terrible secrets like A-Train or Queen Maeve.
Marie wants to show her estranged sister that her frightening blood powers can be used to save lives, not just end them. Andre wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, a world-famous superhero. Golden Boy has all the power in the world, but in our brief time with him, it seemed like he had a sharp moral compass that kept him on the right path. Cate just wanted to be trusted and loved.
Gen V shows us, though, what those kids are up against when it comes to becoming a superhero. Cate and Sam have both seen the dark side of Vought and God U in clear, unambiguous detail. Sam was experimented on and tortured for his brother’s sake, and Cate was made to manipulate her friends and loved ones to cover that up. Both of these characters are wildly and obviously powerful–Cate can hear and manipulate the thoughts of everyone around her. Sam is super strong and super durable to a frightening degree; he’s a peek at what Superman’s Kryptonian strength could be like if he wasn’t holding back 99.999% of his power at all times. Both characters have seen the way superpowered people are mistreated by some of the biggest companies and most trusted institutions. When they end up at a pro-Supe rally, the path to radicalization is a short one. The path to them executing on their frustration and anger is even shorter, and it’s hard to blame them–in their experience, every member of the human establishment is, at the very least, trying to exploit them.
Marie, Andre, Emma, and Jordan saw the carnage occurring after the pro-Supe rally and tried to minimize the damage. But the tortured souls who were released from the Woods had no interest in holding back, and neither did Sam or Cate. Marie tried to stop Cate and blew off her arm in the process, destroying any possibility they had of coming to a compromise on their beliefs.
Even if they were to compromise, though, Vought has terrifying legal control over supes and their powers, and the corporation has the money and resources to cover up anything that doesn’t look the way they want it to. They can hide people and change the message on events. With God U, the corporation can not only study the most powerful supes unimpeded, Vought can shape the way those very supes think about their powers and the world, teaching them how to advertise themselves, how to interact with law enforcement. Kids who end up at God U might have the opportunity to succeed, but it’s all on Vought’s terms as this is essentially its own superhero factory, making sure there will be new supes joining the team for years to come–all under the company’s control.
Whether you’re Kimiko or Starlight from The Boys or Golden Boy or Marie Moreau from Gen V, the truth is that despite your best attempts, you never had a chance–Vought can’t afford to have good guys exposing the way it controls the system. And so you end up corrupted, dead, or living on the fringes of society, either in a literal prison cell or a metaphorical one.
Gen V has been renewed for a second season, so chances are we will get plenty more chances to see these budding supes suffer.
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