HBO Max’s Genera+ion Review: An effective dramedy with spectacular storytelling, comedy, and performances
HBO Max’s newest original series Genera+ion is a spectacular and accessible dramedy that delves into teenage sexual exploration with an excellent comedic wit and characters.
It’s easy to solely see Genera+ion as another LGBT series in the quickly growing, but still slim LGBT content sphere and in some ways it is. It’s a series about teens who are working through personal and familial obstacles as they explore their own sexuality and personal views of the world as well as themselves. Chester (Justice Smith) couldn’t be more open about his gay sexuality, but still struggles to be open about his inner loneliness. Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) is bisexual but struggles to come out to his twin sister Naomi (Chloe East) as well as the rest of his more closed-minded family. Greta (Haley Sanchez) desperately wants to have a relationship with Nathan’s friend Riley (Chase Sul Wonders) but is afraid to let her feelings be known. On paper, Genera+ion has the same type of LGBT exploration that you’ll find in shows like We Are Who We Are and Euphoria, but stands out through its more comedic, even satirical approach.
Genera+ion is one of the funniest shows of the year so far with its incredible hilarity. The openings with Naomi helping her friend in the mall bathroom feel like a more adult version of an Amanda Show skit and they’re amazing. The interactions between Greta and her aunt are both funny and heartwarming because of how supportive she is. Nathan’s nervous mess-ups with Chester, Naomi, and a secret hookup of his makes his awkwardness oddly adorable. Also, Chester talking with the new guidance counselor Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) about ironic deaths is really fun and plays a surprising role in him opening up. Honestly, Smith’s performance as Chester constantly gives this show life and is easily a career best with the snappy line delivery and ability to make Chester give no fucks.
The satirical spin the series puts on certain characters and conversations is what really stands out though as it makes messages and views about sexuality and expressiveness more accessible and impactful. Characters like Naomi, Arianna (Nathanya Alexander), and Delilah (Lukita Maxwell) would simply be annoying caricatures of both extremes of the political spectrum on a more dramatic series, but here they’re a lot of fun and play a pivotal role in how the series can create thought-provoking impact. There’s a moment where Chester makes this impassioned speech about what’s wrong with the world that’s totally undercut by an unnecessary thought by Arianna – who believes that she can say whatever she wants about the LGBT community because she has two dads. It’s a moment that’s funny but has some good depth to it.
It’s a great showing of how people tune out political talk and can ruin voices that need to be heard for their own self interests. There’re other moments like this with Naomi telling off a security guard at the mall by throwing politically charged daggers at him to get him to leave them alone and Delilah turning a simple math problem into a tiresome argument about gender. It gets across it is points and brings out politically charged personalities in a humorous fashion while never losing its impact. It fleshes out problematic views and ideas without creating spiteful or villainous depictions that are easy to hate and it ends up making you think about what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. Not to mention, it creates these extremes that the main cast falls in between really well to show how stuck they really are.
While the series hits its comedic marks incredibly well, it also expertly balances engaging character drama through its effective storytelling and performances. As said before, Smith is at his best as Chester with how he makes him such a powerful and admirable force. I really love how Nathan, Sam, and really everyone sees him as the person they want to be because of how open and confident he is. However, this doesn’t make him perfect as he struggles with his own inner loneliness and it makes him the perfect centerpiece in a cast of character exploring themselves. Nathan’s story is incredibly engaging with how it connects to Naomi and her boyfriend and how it all plays out with his family, specifically his mom, is very compelling to watch. Greta instantly has your heart with how she longs for Riley and her shyness and genuineness make you really care about her. One of the best aspects though is Sam as his interactions with Chester are great and he just acts as this comforting supportive character that works perfectly between everyone.
What makes all these stories come together so well is how they interconnect at times through us seeing different perspectives of one narrative. For instance, the pilot initially shows us Chester’s story and then slowly builds on what we’ve seen through different perspectives of other characters. It makes the storytelling so much more engaging and creates instant intrigue in the characters that draws you into their stories. It even changes our own perspective on what we’ve seen as it fleshes out what really happens in certain moments. It’s honestly what the pilot for Genera+ion so damn perfect and gets you hooked on everyone’s story instantly.
Genera+ion is HBO Max’s best original series to date with its incredibly effective humor, engaging storytelling, and perfect performances that bring out politically charged messaging, characters, and stories in more accessible, hilarious, heartfelt manner.