If you partied a lot in college, you’re probably familiar with the experience of blacking out from drinking. It’s not a healthy habit, but we all overdo it sometimes — and when that happens, it’s helpful to have friends in your corner to fill in the gaps in your memory (as well as, ideally, grabbing you a bacon, egg, and cheese the next morning).
Gen V has a knack for taking these relatable coming-of-age experiences and giving them a superhero twist. So it makes sense that it takes a few minutes before our squad realizes there’s something profoundly wrong; losing a few hours of the night might be an unpleasant experience, especially when sex might be involved, but it’s not so far outside the norm for a bunch of hedonistic 20-year-olds. But it quickly becomes clear just how confused everyone is: None of them can mentally zero in on their last fully intact memories. It’s been days, and who knows how they wound up at Dusty’s party?
Much of “Welcome to the Monster Club” deals with everyone trying to figure out what happened to them. Rufus is suspect No. 1, having already proven that he has a pattern of using his psychic abilities to roofie female students at Godolkin. In fact, Cate is one of his victims: She once blacked out for three days and woke up in Rufus’s bed. He used mind control to rape her and make it outwardly appear as if she were consenting; if she ever tries to go to the police or the administration, he can easily use the footage he has to “prove” that she consented. “I should’ve known better, and now I do,” Cate says, showing the self-blame she’s internalized.
I think there’s potential to the idea of using Rufus to explore a new angle on campus sexual assault; it’s chilling to consider what your average Brock Turner type would do with the power to control minds. So far, though, Gen V has mostly used Rufus as a minor villain used for comic relief and outrageousness more than anything else: Cate gave him that “Jumanji!” punishment early in the show (an odd scene to think about considering what we now know about their history), and Marie exploded his dick in the last episode. And here, he’s used mainly as a red herring; we see him speaking with Dean Shetty and assume he’s her on-the-ground supe minion maintaining the administration’s secrets, but the actual person responsible was someone we liked.
This is ostensibly a big episode for Cate, but I wish we could’ve explored how she feels a little more. What was her experience with Rufus like, and how did their mind control powers play off each other, if at all? We usually see her treat him as a harmless twerp, but does she ever worry he could hurt her again? (Again, I think of the “Jumanji” command.) This is the shortest episode of the season by far, and I really think it could’ve used the extra time to help us better understand Cate, Rufus, and the general mechanics of mind control.
It turns out Cate was the one who wiped everyone’s memories — and she does it again when Marie comes to her with the realization that they’re all implanted with trackers. Again, I’m curious about how this all works and how Shetty expects to maintain these secrets; it seems very easy for the lie to fall apart when a whole group of friends keeps losing various memories. Take the scene when Marie runs into Jordan in the hall and can’t remember the moment Jordan references from earlier that same day. If you’re going to erase someone’s memories, you have to use a much lighter touch than that, Cate. Sloppy work.
While all this is happening, Emma starts her own investigation. Sam came to apologize to her and Marie at the beginning of the episode, but neither remembered him. Luckily, Emma can recognize that he is telling the truth, so she finds him at the drive-in theater he mentioned.
Emma has really been proving her hero bona fides lately, and finally people are starting to notice. She’s in the top 100 for the first time, and students suddenly revere her around campus the way they revered Marie. Later, she continues to prove her “big supe energy” by alerting everyone to the truth about Cate.
The confrontation at Rufus’s is certainly exciting and emotionally intense, with Cate admitting to wiping Sam from Luke’s memories over and over to maintain Shetty’s lies. It’s enough to make Andre call her a monster; he’s still hurting from what he learned about his father, and now his closest companion at Godolkin has betrayed him in the same way.
All of this works pretty well, and it’s a great move to keep the squad dynamics interesting by complicating Cate. But I still wish we had more time to really understand the context and history. I’m sure we’ll learn more particulars as the show progresses, but for now, I’m a little skeptical of the idea that Cate even needed to mess with Luke’s mind. After all, we saw the flashback to Cate and Luke visiting Sam three years ago, and we saw him grieving Sam’s loss after learning that he died. It seemed like the administration was completely successful in maintaining the lie until the events of the first episode. Why complicate it with more lies that could easily fall apart? Does that mean Cate was also repeatedly wiping Andre’s mind and the minds of other students who knew about Sam?
“Welcome to the Monster Club” is a bit rushed overall, which makes it difficult to really understand everyone’s point of view beyond the basics. I have to admit that Andre calling Cate a monster didn’t much faze me — partly because I expect her to explain her reasoning soon and partly because this show keeps using the M word over and over like it’s the only word that could wound a supe. We already knew that Marie, Emma, Jordan, and Cate all have complicated feelings about their powers and that they all feel like monsters sometimes — emphasized by Emma’s comment about how her mom once called her a monster when she turned big.
With three episodes to go in this first season, I’m looking for just a little more depth: something that will really surprise me about these kids and reshape my understanding of them as people. The reveal of Cate’s mixed allegiances is definitely a good start; there’s plenty to explore here if Gen V is interested.
• Dr. Cardosa mentions that he’s close to perfecting a virus that will allow him to control all the kids, but otherwise, most of our perspective is limited to the students in this episode. It’s interesting that Dean Shetty is intent on protecting Marie for now, though, and her demeanor with Cate also suggests there’s some element of genuine feeling there, no matter how nefarious her intentions are. That’s a good move for the character, I think.
• It’s a nice scene when Jordan vents about her sixth-grade girlfriend, who only liked her when she was in boy mode, and I like Maverick’s wisdom about how Jordan is the one with the hang-up, not Marie. That said, it’s a little hard to take him seriously when he repeatedly references using his invisibility to be a disgusting creep. He’s not Rufus level, but they’re the same type of guy!
• Is Emma’s surge in popularity just a result of her shift from Ant-Man to Giant-Man? We still don’t exactly know the particulars of what happened between her saving Cardosa from Sam and waking up in a swimming pool after a rager. Is appearing at a party enough to get you that kind of clout?
• The big creative set piece of the episode is Sam visualizing a bunch of Godolkin security as puppets while he massacres them. It’s brief but pretty fun and a nice way to do something other than the usual gory arm-ripping and head-splitting scenes. When dealing with a character as overpowered as Sam, it’s necessary to keep things fresh and avoid just showing the same effortless kills over and over.