Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the Gen V finale
The Big Picture
- Sam’s character in Gen V was the show’s purest, with lovable charm and innocent sincerity, offering a unique perspective on the world.
- However, the season finale abruptly changed Sam’s character, turning him into someone unrecognizable, which ruined the balance of optimism and cynicism in the show.
- Sam’s sudden transformation also raises problematic issues, as it villainizes his mental health disorders and suggests that people with such issues are inherently violent and irredeemable.
When a show is as dark, cynical, and self-aware as Gen V, it just can’t go on without a little levity. That’s why dark humor is so prevalent within it. It would have been too depressing and graphic without it. But even so, humor is just a distraction. What the show really needs is meaningful optimism and sincerity to balance out its nihilistic tendencies. And the show had that in the form of Sam (Asa Germann), the perfectly wholesome, innocent foil to the show’s cynicism. But then, out of nowhere, the finale of Gen V utterly ruined Sam, and in the process, left The Boys’ universe worse than it found it.
From the world of “The Boys” comes “Gen V,” which explores the first generation of superheroes to know that their super powers are from Compound V. These heroes put their physical and moral boundaries to the test competing for the school’s top ranking.
- Release Date
- September 29, 2023
- Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Maddie Phillips, Lizzie Broadway
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure, Comedy
Sam Was the Purest Character on ‘Gen V’
Throughout the show, we encounter many shades of Sam. But in everything he does, he always carries his same lovable charm and dark, self-deprecating humor. Sam is aware that his powers combined with his mental instability makes him extremely dangerous. That’s why when Emma (Lizze Broadway) comes to rescue him, he refuses her help, insisting that people get hurt when he gets out. He also adds that his cell isn’t so bad because he has a bean bag. As Sam had spent much of his life inside a prison cell, aloof from all the unspoken social and cultural rules, he exhibits an unguarded and child-like sense of existence. And this gives him a unique vantage point to see the world in interesting ways.
There’s a very interesting point in Episode 4, where Sam asks Emma, “Why do you always do that? Whenever I say something nice your voice gets all twisty, like it isn’t true.” It seems like a negligible moment, but it’s so crucial at fleshing out the persona that makes Sam stand out from all the other characters. Since Sam has been living alone in his cell for so long, he doesn’t understand the ironic tone that people often use to hide their embarrassment at the risk of coming off too emotional. But Sam doesn’t know how to do any of that — he is unblemished from the worldly ways. All he can be is deeply sincere.
Of course, he’s also alarmingly aggressive and murderous, but none of his hostility is unprovoked. It’s always a method of self-preservation, and he never holds any malicious intents in his heart. Even his homicidal sprees, shown from his eyes, take on a childish, innocent quality, depicting his unfortunate victims as puppets rather than actual humans. It’s a neat trick on the show’s part, one that allows Sam to distance himself from the violence he’s inflicting, keeping him in a favorable light with the audience.
Sam’s Heel Turn in the ‘Gen V’ Finale Was Abrupt and Unnecessary
The season finale of Gen V, however, completely altered the nature of Sam we’d known. And it wasn’t a seamless, step-by-step transformation, it was very turbulent and violent. In the penultimate episode, Emma urges Sam to stay inside her room while she goes out to grab food for him. Sam obliges to the request for a while but gets carried away after hearing a commotion in the corridor. There, he sees a group of supe students doing college stuff — drinking beer, smoking joints, and creating a ruckus. He gets drawn into the fun of it all, and before he knows it, he’s in with radicalized supe students who consider themselves superior to humans. And without requiring even the slightest persuasion, Sam appears sold on their agendas. Then, in the final episode, Sam teams up with Cate (Maddie Phillips) to free all the inmates held captive within the Woods and joins them in their rampage. When Emma appears to talk sense into him, he flips out on her in the most uncharacteristic manner. He calls her selfish, says she would do anything to get people to like her, and that she is not a hero. It’s the first time he’s ever been mean to her. It’s hurtful, and not for the cruelty of his words, but because it’s a Sam we don’t know.
The Boys’ universe that Gen V is set in is known to be selfish, dark, and downright evil. Even its protagonists are painted gray. Sure, it has its good characters, but they are far and few between. With all the evil lurking around every step of the story, things can easily get too bleak, too cynical. And while it is great fun to revel in its nihilism for a bit, it starts getting tedious after a certain point. That’s why it’s crucial for the show to have a foil to its cynical nature, and, in the episodes leading up to the end, Sam was the perfect antidote. The show has plenty of mass murdering sociopaths, but what it doesn’t have enough of is the purity and innocence as possessed by Sam. The end of Gen V, however, took the lovable Sam we knew and turned him into someone completely unrecognizable. Sam’s hasty descent to villainy feels familiar because we’d seen something similar happen in Game of Thrones with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). It was a decision that ruined the legacy of a once beloved show, and the creators of Gen V would do well to remember that.
Why ‘Gen V’s Finale Is So Problematic
Sam’s heel turn is abrupt and unwarranted, but it’s also very problematic. Sam suffers from extreme mental health complications; he has schizophrenia, and he routinely hallucinates. But by stripping Sam of his kindness and turning him into an antagonist, the show villainizes his psychological disorders. And this doesn’t just stop with Sam, it also extends to all the other patients trapped within the woods, all of whom have their own struggles. One of them, we learn, had a bipolar disorder. And once they’re freed, they turn into vindictive, unflinching murder machines, out to kill anyone who’s not a supe. When this happens, we, the viewers, are made to turn against them as we see them brutally killing every innocent person in their path. So, we are forced to root for our protagonists as they kill the inmates.
But at this point, you really have to sit down and question the message that the show is sending out with this depiction. Because, intentionally or not, Gen V is essentially suggesting that people with mental health problems, who have been abused will turn violent, and that there is no redemption for them. The prisoners from the Woods just become a nameless army of evil meant to drive the plot forward. What disappoints more is the fact that Gen V felt like a very self-aware show that wanted to touch upon mental health issues without resorting to clichés. But the finale undid everything the show had built until this point.
The end of Gen V’s Season 1 has left the fates of its characters uncertain. But the final scene shows Homelander (Antony Starr) maniacally smiling at the news of Cate and Sam being dubbed heroes, implying that he’s the one controlling this new narrative. Given their similarities, there is a very real possibility that Sam will find himself under Homelander’s wings, and perhaps even in The Seven. With the confirmation of Season 2, it’s certain that Sam will have an important role to play in the overall story, but it just won’t be the same if we don’t get our old Sam back.
Gen V is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.