Losing your virginity is a teen rite of passage that can often be anxiety-provoking—even on television. On this week’s most recent episode, the extraordinary adolescents on Gen V are nervous about doing the deed for the first time—it turns out that having superpowers doesn’t immediately translate to sexual prowess. Making the sequence even more memorable, The Boys spinoff throws a puppet into the mix—all while nodding to an iconic Titanic scene.
Gen V is about a prestigious college with a unique entry requirement: You have to possess superpowers to attend. The young “supes” were injected with the Compound V serum as babies with extremely varying results, and this school looks to harness their remarkable abilities. Popularity, partying, and good grades are far from the only concerns on a campus that stokes rivalries. Divided into entertainment and crime-fighting majors, these students vie for lucrative opportunities laid out by the sinister multi-billion dollar conglomerate Vought International. However, as with The Boys, there is more to this superhero story than meets the eye.
While coercion is a repeat theme on Gen V, this isn’t a case of someone manipulating two puppets to simulate fornication, nor is it a superpower that can transform another person into an off-brand Muppet (like that episode of Angel). Instead, Sam (Asa Germann), the younger brother of the recently deceased Luke aka Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), has more than one power in his arsenal. Until a couple of episodes ago, Sam was being held against his will and experimented on in a facility beneath Godolkin University known as “The Woods.” His super strength was being used to augment his brother’s power, but he also hallucinates people as puppets during heightened intensity—whether threatened, scared, or aroused.
Last week, this took on a gory form, as he tore apart an entire God U security team limb from material limb (complete with red glitter blood) before the world shifted back to a flesh reality. During this rampage, Sam disassociated, temporarily losing his human form, and entered the plushie realm. “Ultraviolence, but make it Sesame Street” would be an unexpected direction for a TV show if this wasn’t a franchise that likes to push the bloodbath envelope. Seemingly, nothing is out of bounds in this supes universe.
Before the SWAT team descended midway through Episode 5, Sam imagined a version of his crush, Emma (Lizze Broadway). So now, the reality-fantasy puppet lines have tipped into surreal sexual territory in the sixth episode, “Jumanji.” Now that we’ve seen it, we have to wonder: Has Sam been forced to watch a production of Avenue Q on a loop during top-secret tests?
A bold approach to a teen TV milestone
Regardless of the specifics of Sam’s romantic dynamic with Emma, it is no wonder this character is a hot mess. Ping-ponging between reality and unnerving hallucinations will put anyone on edge. Imagine Sam’s broken psyche, then, as he mulls over the trope of the “first time”—which he’s been trained by pop culture to think is going to either be perfect or a complete disaster. (And this all from a character who cites Waterworld as his favorite movie) Sure, not everyone has the Dan and Serena on Gossip Girl smug storybook experience, but teen TV often opts for the two opposites on the losing your virginity scale: a regrettable mistake or a planned success.
Gen V falls somewhere in the middle.
Germann—who reminds me so much of Evan Peters in his ability to play adorable weirdos—captures Sam’s trepidation and eagerness when Emma asks if he is sure he wants to do this. He jokes that he’s had some practice (“my hand, and he’s competent”), and the safe environment of an abandoned drive-in theater offers a fairly typical teen hangout backdrop for this hookup.
Considering how much of Sam’s adolescence has been out of his control, it is heartening to see him share this moment with someone who cares about his experience, asking questions about where she can touch and how it feels. Enthusiastic consent is a lesson some other God U students must learn.
Of course, this is Gen V, not Sex Education, Gossip Girl, or Dawson’s Creek. And what begins as a first kiss to first shag dream encounter (complete with Wolf Alice’s uplifting “Don’t Delete the Kisses” on the soundtrack) quickly veers into bonkers territory.
When Emma straddles him, she shifts from human to puppet form. She takes his “Oh fuck!” exclamation as pleasure, which it kinda is, but with a dash of horror that he is banging a puppet—he keeps his human form during this sequence. His perspective switches between the real and hallucinated versions, showing puppet Emma bobbing up and down with a look of ecstasy that has to be seen to be believed. Yep, this is actually happening, and yet, it isn’t even the most out-there thing that Emma has been part of when it comes to Sam—that would be walking through a man’s head from ear to ear and killing him in the process.
Rather than freak out, Sam closes his eyes and goes with it, showing that he can block it out—to an extent. It’s all actually pretty PG-13, by Gen V standards—right down to the puppet hand slamming against the drive-thru claw machine, mirroring the sweaty Titanic car climax. Somehow this sequence manages to be both sweet and fucked up, which is a consistent strength of this franchise.
Germann and Broadway’s chemistry, even in the most unusual circumstances, crackles. That’s right; I’m saying there is chemistry even with the puppet version (kudos to the puppeteers). However, not every bedroom encounter on this show ends this well—or with both parties entirely intact.
The Boys has some stiff competition
Gen V is following in the footsteps of its predecessor by showcasing dicks for days, in various states and sizes, while upping the sexual stakes with each passing week. Over the course of its run, The Boys has taken a unique approach to foreplay that ended in a bloodbath, boasted a character called Love Sausage (his schlong is strong and long enough to strangle a human), and used dildos as a deadly weapon—among many other things—but Gen V proves that youthful exuberance extends to the bedroom.
Considering horny college students are the focus of the Prime Video series, it is hardly surprising that sexual encounters are enhanced (and often made worse) by the vast array of powers on display. A couple of episodes ago, Emma’s roommate, Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair), used her blood-controlling powers to protect herself from serial predator Rufus (Alexander Calvert). Meanwhile, in the premiere, Emma was asked to “get little” for the gratification of her hookup. The latter was consensual, but Liam (Robert Bazzocchi) took zero notice of Emma’s pleasure, nor did he seem phased by her reluctance to use her shrinking abilities.
Emma is someone who is constantly on a mission to please, whether it is her mom, the popular kids, or a guy. Emma exudes a happy-go-lucky vibe, but superpower or not, she is still hurt by mean comments left on her “Fun Sized with Little Cricket” YouTube series (she describes her content as “PewDiePie without the Nazi stuff”) and her self-esteem is low when she agrees to climb Liam’s pecker—literally. Gen V doesn’t hold back on showing an endeavor that only gets him off.
Her superpower is similar to Termite on The Boys, with a significant difference. Termite could size down on cue, whereas Emma has to vomit to make herself tiny (if she binges, it has the opposite impact). If anyone expected a repeat of Termite exploding his boyfriend while taking a journey inside his shaft, don’t worry, as there is only one “cocksplosion” so far this season. Liam left Emma’s dorm room with his meat and two veg (and ego) unscathed.
Sure, the low-brow humor of this no-strings encounter is impossible to avoid (there is a giant penis on TV), but the unabashed gratuity juxtaposed against a Polly Pocket-size Emma with a matching tiny outfit is the point. She still dresses up even when miniature, conditioned to play any people-pleasing role. It is why Emma’s unconventional meet-cute with Sam is so irresistible. The pair immediately hit it off despite the immediate challenges, and their sweet flirtation has so far surmounted many obstacles.
Their post-coital conversation veers from a satisfied afterglow, as their insecurities start to surface. Emma takes Sam’s hesitation for dissatisfaction and regret, and he is clearly preoccupied about the puppet factor. He doesn’t ’fess up to what he was seeing while they were having sex, but vaguely explains in not-so-many words, saying, “I’m messed up, Emma. You should be with someone that isn’t.”
Sam’s vague confession isn’t a deterrent. Rather than flee, Emma jumps in with both feet. Let’s hope she still feels this way when she finds out she could guest-star on a Euphoria-style Muppets reboot.
The Daily Beast