Warning! Spoilers for Gen V Episode 6 follow.
Episode 6 of Gen V is unlike any other episode of The Boys universe — nay, unlike most episodes of TV ever. The surreal, format-shattering episode follows Marie, Jordan, Emma, and Andre as they track down the reason for the huge gaps in the memories, bringing them to the last person they thought would betray them: Cate, who has used her powers of mind control against them.
Now in search for what truly happened to them and those in the Woods, the gang ends up in Cate’s mind, watching, Ebenezer Scrooge-style, as they see the formative moments in her memory, from her imaginary friend Soldier Boy, to her first meeting with Dean Shetty, to how her powers affected Sam and Luke. But then, the memories shift to include not just Cate’s but also Jordan and Marie’s past. The visions even show a confrontation between Andre and the abstract concept of Luke/Golden Boy, who channels Cate’s inherent guilt into hatred for Andre.
It’s a stark departure for the show, but perfectly in tune with the envelope-pushing college spinoff. “It's our take on a flashback episode,” showrunner Michele Fazekas tells Inverse. “We wanted a way for all of our characters not only to hear about [the past], but to experience it.”
Thankfully, they had a character perfectly suited to a “mind journey” with Cate. Her “persuasion” power makes her very familiar with repressing painful memories. “Her power is so unique, it was like, ‘Oh, we might as well put them in her memories so that they understand why their friend who they love did this incredibly shitty thing,’” Fazekas says. “This is why I love doing a genre show: you get all of the emotion, and you can put people in her traumatic childhood memories, and they have a better understanding of her.”
In Episode 6, we see in Cate’s memories that Dean Shetty allied her with Godolkin with the help of a medication that quieted her brain but clearly made her more compliant. Depicting Cate’s superpowered mental illness is just the latest way Gen V explores timely issues that affect teens today, including self-harm, eating disorders, gender exploration, and sexual coercion.
For The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke, Gen V was an opportunity to narrow the social satire that The Boys cemented. “It became really important that the show be able to stand on its own,” he tells Inverse. “The Boys uses its superheroes and superpowers as metaphors for the broadest possible social issues. It's about celebrity, fascism, and authoritarianism. And so for this, we were really interested in the powers as metaphors for the psychological issues that teenagers are going through.”
Marie, Jordan, Emma, and co., don’t need to worry about saving the world — at least not yet. Their world is only as big as the college, and Gen V expresses that perfectly, even if it means more deliberate character development. “We picked their powers to be metaphors for the issues that they were going through. Whereas in The Boys, we were like, ‘Justice League! OK good, time for lunch,’” Kripke says.
Cate isn’t the only Gen V character grappling with mental illness. Sam, Luke/Golden Boy’s brother, has spent his life locked up in The Woods and struggles with hallucinations. After Episode 5’s “puppet massacre,” where we see a fight scene through Sam’s perspective showing his enemies as only puppets, Episode 6 built on that with another TV taboo: a sex scene with Emma.
The puppet scenes may seem silly, but they were treated with the utmost respect. “With the fight scene, we were like, ‘How can we show our crazy version of someone having a hallucination’ with the puppets, but you don't lean into the joke at all,’” Fazekas says. “The only crazy thing is you're seeing puppets, but you shoot it and cut it exactly as if it's human beings tearing each other apart."
But while Gen V may be focused on a younger audience than The Boys, toning down the graphicness was never a consideration. “This is what he hallucinates. When we know when he's under stress, this is what he sees, but it's not to make it less graphic, it's just part of who he is,” Fazekas says. “It goes back to watching Avenue V as a kid. Is it funny and outrageous? Yes, but it actually is based in his story and his character.”
Episode 6 takes all the best parts of Gen V and dials them up to 11 — the cerebral nature, the social commentary, and the trademark Boys goofiness — so it’s the perfect episode to accompany the recent news that Gen V has secured a renewal for Season 2. It’s now officially a major part of The Boys universe, but don’t ask The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke about the future of the franchise. Even though he said in 2020 that he had a five-season plan, this new spinoff and the massive success of the show has thrown that out the window.
“I have since realized that literally no one in history is worse at predicting the amount of seasons of a show, like literally,” Kripke says. He previously said he had a five-season plan for his show Supernatural — and it went on to have 15 seasons, though Kripke left after five. “I have learned my lesson and I've stopped predicting how many seasons these shows go. You will find out in hindsight,” Kripke teases.
With the way both The Boys and Gen V are shaping up so far, it looks like five seasons will just be the very beginning.