Gen V Review: Character Resonance in “First Day”

Image Credit: Brooke Palmer/Brooke Palmer/Prime Video
Image Credit: Brooke Palmer/Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

Following the exciting premiere of “God U,” “First Day” seems like a slight step down. The storyline is progressing rapidly, delving into the investigations surrounding Brink and Golden Boy’s deaths, revealing some of the administration’s concealed secrets. However, what truly engages me in this episode are the character dynamics.

A significant portion of this episode revolves around the aftermath of the incident at the crime-fighting academy. In the opening scene, we witness the board of trustees strategizing how to manage the situation with Ashley Barrett from Vought, essentially crafting the PR narrative that will drive the rest of the episode. They settle on a narrative that portrays Luke Riordan’s murder-suicide as a result of drugs and a psychotic breakdown. In this version, Andre and Marie become the heroes; without them, the loss of lives would have been far greater.

Even though Jordan was the actual superhero who confronted Luke, the trustees dismiss giving any credit to Jordan due to their unconventional use of pronouns. They believe Jordan’s identity might not resonate with middle America, whereas focusing on Andre and Marie could at least appease the NAACP. Consequently, Jordan’s ranking falls, and they are forgotten by the administration. In contrast, Marie awakens to a drastically changed world where she is now the center of attention, a privilege once reserved for the top-ranking upperclassmen. She attains the remarkable rank of No. 8, becoming the first freshman to break into the top ten.

Marie carries the trauma of recent events, but there is no respite in sight; Vought has immediate plans for her, including a live TV interview with Hailey Miller (who briefly appeared on The Boys last season). A conversation with the enigmatic dean underscores the stakes for Marie: joining the Seven promises power, wealth, and influence, all of which are essential for her quest to locate her estranged sister. On a deeper level, Marie isn’t just seeking to find and reconnect with Annabeth; she aims to demonstrate to her that she’s not a monster. Perhaps in doing so, she can convince herself as well.

Marie’s script mandates her to regurgitate Vought’s fabricated story: Golden Boy killed innocent people, and without her and Andre, many more would have perished. However, Jordan urges her to do the right thing and credit them on air, placing Marie at a moral crossroads.

From the moment we witness Marie rehearsing her pivotal moment of defiance, it’s apparent she won’t follow through; this series generally sees characters make selfish choices rather than heroic ones. While Jaz Sinclair’s performance may not be as captivating as one might hope, her character gains complexity through morally ambiguous actions, stemming from her troubled past and lack of privilege. It’s understandable that she feels the need to look out for herself. What she refuses to acknowledge is that without Brink, Jordan has no allies left either. What she can’t admit is that she relishes the newfound attention, especially during that glamorous photoshoot with Andre.

Marie’s storyline is the most coherent and fleshed out in this episode, firmly rooted in her perspective. Emma’s subplot, though somewhat isolated from the main narrative, also holds promise. It carries the essence of a high school drama: Emma confides in a new friend about her eating disorder, only to have that friend betray her trust by sharing the secret with everyone. It’s disheartening to witness Justine’s swift betrayal and the forced narrative shift towards patriarchy, even though her earlier promise not to stereotype Emma hinted at the potential for genuine friendship. It would be refreshing to witness more substantial development in the various friendships and connections within the show.

Beyond these grounded storylines, “First Day” plunges deeper into the labyrinth of conspiracies surrounding Luke’s demise. Andre attempts to involve Marie in his investigation, but her unwavering refusal forces him to seek assistance elsewhere. He teams up with Luke’s girlfriend, Cate, who also seems to be a potential romantic interest for Andre.

Before Luke’s demise, he alluded to giving something to Andre’s father, the trustee and revered superhero Polarity (Sean Patrick Thomas). However, it transpires that Luke was referring to the metal statue of Polarity on campus, containing a hidden phone. Andre and Cate discover the phone, accessible only through Andre’s metal-manipulation abilities, and watch a video message. In the message, Luke unveils the existence of a hidden hospital beneath the school called the Woods. His brother Sam, presumed to have committed suicide at Sage Grove, is trapped there, with Brink implicated in his predicament.

We witness Sam’s presence in the Woods, and Andre verifies this by hacking into a laptop at the crime-fighting academy. Surprisingly, the super-strong individual on drugs from “God U” is revealed to be Sam. However, the story takes a chaotic turn in the final moments, as Cate rescues Andre from a group of armed intruders and subsequently experiences a seizure due to excessive use of her mind control abilities, referred to as “pushing.”

On a character level, the episode emphasizes Andre’s inner conflict between meeting his father’s expectations and uncovering the truth behind his best friend’s fate. He misses the scheduled interview with Hailey Miller, leaving Marie to claim all the credit and angering his father in the process. However, I would have preferred to feel the weight of this choice more profoundly in this episode. Instead, we witness more violence and another instance of mind control used in a provocative manner.

Comedy in this episode may vary for different viewers. While I typically find humor in The Boys and did laugh during the premiere, certain elements, such as the flashlight incident and Rufus being commanded to harm himself, come across as somewhat immature for my taste. This is particularly true when such moments follow so closely on the heels of Cate’s mind control episode. It feels reminiscent of “Suicide Squad” and, while I enjoyed James Gunn’s film and its spinoff series “Peacemaker,” I hope for more substantial exploration of Cate’s abilities without resorting to random and crude humor.

Nonetheless, The Boys is an unapologetically irreverent show, and it appears that Gen V maintains this tone. The inclusion of dick jokes and bizarre violence is in line with the series’ identity. If Gen V ultimately leans toward a more youthful sensibility than The Boys, it’s not necessarily a detriment, considering the characters are still navigating the complexities of school life.

Additional Notes

• Although Jordan played a significant role in the hand-to-hand combat with Golden Boy, it’s debatable whether they deserve as much credit as they claim. The skirmish was brief, and they didn’t save anyone apart from Marie.

• We are introduced to Courtenay Fortney, a Vought executive producer who made a prior appearance in the first season of The Boys. She embodies the typical PR-focused Vought character, but it’s a delight to see Jackie Tohn from the beloved series GLOW.

• Adam Bourke (P. J. Byrne), who directed “Dawn of the Seven” in the parent show, makes an appearance. He’s now teaching at Godolkin, apparently due to an incident involving Minka Kelly.

• The final scenes suggest that both Marie’s self-harm through cutting and Emma’s self-destructive behavior in vomiting are themes the show intends to explore further.

Five Questions About “Gen V” Answered

"First Day" primarily focuses on the aftermath of a tragic incident at a crime-fighting academy, the character dynamics, and the unfolding investigations into Brink and Golden Boy's deaths.
The board of trustees chose to frame Luke Riordan's death as a murder-suicide to control the narrative and protect the academy's reputation. They determined that attributing the incident to drugs and a psychotic break would serve their PR strategy.
Marie is a character in the series who gains prominence due to her involvement in the incident. She becomes the center of attention because the board of trustees elevates her status and ranking to justify their narrative, making her the first freshman to break into the top ten.
The hidden hospital, the Woods, is introduced as a significant mystery in the episode. It's revealed through a video message that Luke left behind, indicating that Sam, Luke's brother presumed to have committed suicide, is trapped there. Brink is implicated in Sam's predicament, suggesting a deeper conspiracy.
Andre's choice to prioritize the investigation over his scheduled interview has consequences. It strains his relationship with his father and leaves Marie to claim all the credit for their heroic actions. This choice introduces a moral dilemma in the episode.