This article contains spoilers for The Boys and Gen V.
Between the original series and the latest spinoff Gen V, The Boys universe has done a great job thus far of showing us the insidiousness of Vought and the supe-fueled culture that they’ve fabricated. However, the difference in perspective that these companion shows give us helps to paint an even broader picture of just how much Compound V has impacted the lives of supes and humans alike, and just how much work Vought has done over decades to normalize it.
The Boys has dipped its toes into showing us the physical cost that having superpowers can take through A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) and the heart attack he suffers after overdosing on Compound V to enhance his powers. Even though he recovers, he has to limit the use of his abilities for a while, which threatens his position in The Seven and his relevance as a commodity of Vought.
Because Gen V’s premise allows the show to focus more so on the perspective of supes rather than the humans fighting against them, we’ve gotten to see the greater impact that spreading Compound V throughout the population has had on people. The generation of young supes depicted on Gen V are among the first to know that they weren’t born with their abilities and were actually injected with a drug as a child.
Whether their parents fully knew what they signed up for seems to be on a case-by-case basis, but regardless, these young supes have had to come to grips with the fact that they were given superhuman abilities essentially at random without their consent. The writers of Gen V take this even further by focusing the show’s story on young supes who have to deal with the cost of Vought’s big experiment even more than others.
Emma Meyer (Lizze Broadway) has the ability to shrink and grow in size, but this power is dependent on the amount of food she has in her body. In order to shrink, she has to purge or throw up. In order to grow, she has to eat until she’s at her desired size. Even though Emma insists that she has everything under control, growing up with a power that forces you to essentially develop an eating disorder in order to use it can’t have been easy. Add in the fact that Emma’s mother is constantly looking to exploit her powers for fame and insists on measuring her to make sure that she’s not “too big” or “too small,” and it’s no wonder that she struggles to see her worth beyond the spectacle that Vought and her mother have created her to be.
Emma’s roommate Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) has the ability to control blood, both her own and other people’s. She had no idea she had powers until she accidentally killed her parents after she got her first period. Ever since that day, she mostly uses her own blood to fight, which means that she has to cut open her hand every time that she wants to use her powers and there isn’t a pile of bleeding bodies lying around. The season finale of Gen V did reveal that Marie is durable enough to survive a blast from Homelander’s (Antony Starr) heat vision, so this likely doesn’t do her a ton of harm, but it’s still important to note that she is still actively cutting and inflicting damage upon herself when she uses her powers like this, even if it does only feels like a paper cut to her.
Cate Dunlap’s (Maddie Phillips) powers of persuasion have limitations. If she “pushes” too many people, her eyes become bloodshot and she can succumb to violent seizures. After she stops taking the medication given to her by Dean Shetty (Shelley Conn), Cate also begins to be flooded with the thoughts of those around her. Cate’s actions in the season finale may be questionable, but there’s no denying that she’s been dealt a shitty hand. The powers that she didn’t ask for, that her parents shunned her for, can also kill her if she uses them too frequently.
By far the biggest physical cost of powers that season 1 of Gen V has shown us thus far involves Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo) and his father Polarity (Sean Patrick Thomas). In the penultimate episode of the season, Polarity suffers a seizure during an on-air interview and is rushed to Vought tower, where doctors attend to him. Andre accompanies his father, who remains unconscious while receiving treatment. After speaking to a doctor in the season finale, Andre learns that every time his father uses his metal-manipulating abilities, his brain tears a tiny bit. It turns out that decades of using his powers have taken a toll and Polarity has now suffered irreversible brain damage.
Even though Andre didn’t inherit his abilities from his father and was also injected with Compound V as a child, their powers have manifested similarly up to this point. Because of this, the doctor warns Andre that using his powers further would likely mean a similar fate for him. But what choice does Andre really have at this point?
He’s been raised his entire life to be his father’s successor and a future member of The Seven. Now that he’s decided to use his powers to fight for real good and not just Vought manufactured PR stunts, he is determined to make up for his past mistakes and selfish behavior. So far it doesn’t seem like this news has deterred him from using his abilities as he doesn’t hesitate to help Marie, Jordan (London Thor and Derek Luh), and Emma stop Cate and Sam (Asa Germann) after the God U campus is plunged into chaos and violence. But this is likely something he’ll have to seriously deal with in the future.
Gen V has made it even more clear how unfair and insidious it is that Vought has thrust superpowers upon generations of children at random with no idea how they would manifest over time. While some supes have great powers without any major consequences or weaknesses, others have to physically harm themselves in order to use their abilities. Some are conscious of the harm they do to themselves, while others, like Andre’s father, might not be until it’s too late. They use their powers regardless of the impact on themselves because Vought and the world they’ve created don’t really provide another alternative.
So many people in this world see superpowers as a gift, but Gen V further proves that things aren’t so black and white. The conflict shouldn’t be supes versus humans, but instead everybody versus Vought. They’re the ones who created this world where a supe’s value is dependent on what their powers are without any real way of determining who gets what powers. They’re the ones who would rather experiment on supes than offer a real support system for those who struggle with their abilities. And they’re the ones who push supes to prove their worth by using their powers, no matter the cost.
The Boys and Gen V are available to stream on Prime Video.