‘gen:LOCK’ Review: A Quantum Leap Forward for Rooster Teeth’s Animation Team

     January 26, 2019

genlock-review

Today, Rooster Teeth officially launches their newest animated series, gen:LOCK. This sci-fi/mecha story uses the company’s previous successes with Red vs Blue and RWBY as a launching point, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s very much its own thing. The combat gets kicked up quite a few notches, so whether you’re looking for aerial dogfights, metal-crunching mecha battles, or hand-to-hand melee exchanges, there’s a lot to love in gen:LOCK. The characters have also grown in complexity, both visually and in their personalities and motivations; that latter trait is something that makes RWBY so good, and Rooster Teeth wisely keeps that mature storytelling approach in gen:LOCK. And there are some really heady sci-fi concepts at play here that the story doesn’t dance around but rather tackles head on. Combine all of this with a narrative that throws twists and turns at you from the very first episode, and gen:LOCK is certainly a series to put on your short list.

If you’re interested in gen:LOCK, the good news is that Rooster Teeth will premiere the first two episodes today; Episode 1 will be free to watch on their site, while Episode 2 and subsequent episodes will be exclusive for paying members and the Rooster Teeth channel for VRV subscribers. The better news is that new episodes will premiere weekly on Saturdays with the finale episode premiering March 9th. Our review follows below, and I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler-free, though I’d advise going into this new series as cold as possible.

genlock-review

Image via Rooster Teeth

Set fifty years in the future, gen:LOCK finds our heroes existing under an oppressive authoritarian force that threatens to conquer the world. The people of Polity fight to maintain their way of life and resist invasion by the Union, but like any civil war, there are loyalists of both sides behind enemy lines. Those seeking to flee the Union become refugees as they head towards Polity and its shrinking border, while those living in Polity who are loyal to the Union are left untouched by invading forces.

In Polity, the defending military force–the Vanguard–has both walking mechs known as Striders and nimble jetcraft known as Interceptors at their command, but it’s the pilots who are at the heart of the resistance. Fans are immediately introduced to Michael B. Jordan‘s ace pilot Julian Chase and his girlfriend/fellow soldier Miranda Worth (Dakota Fanning) as they stop by Chase’s family’s apartment for dinner … sort of. Since the military needs them on hand at all times, they find unique ways to visit without officially taking leave. That setup tells you quite a bit about the main players in the story, but their response to a sudden invasion force tells you much more.

This first skirmish between Polity and the Union is a grand display of the tech and the tactics that each side employs. The Vanguard is powered by good old-fashioned military might with red-blooded soldiers of all creeds and backgrounds fighting to defend the innocent, while the Union is comprised of fighters who hide behind masks, use nanotech swarms to do their dirty work from afar (even corrupting soldiers and citizens alike somehow), and use remote hacking weapons to turn the Vanguard’s weapons against them. It falls to Chase and his squadron leader Razzle (RWBY‘s own Lindsay Jones) to save the day, or at least buy the citizens enough time to escape the invasion force…

genlock-review

Image via Rooster Teeth

The resulting Battle of New York becomes a traumatic event in the memories and minds of everyone who survived it, and as we jump ahead four years from that moment, we find out that the casualties were numerous and profound. In this near future, the Vanguard is holding on by a thread and just barely holding the line against the strengthening Union. Their only hope is the establishment of a daring team of recruits who will pilot a new form of weaponized neuroscience that powers devastating mecha, as long as they’re willing to sacrifice everything to save the world.

Here’s where the core cast of characters come in: Recruits include Maisie Williams as the Scottish tech wiz Cammie Maccloud, Kōichi Yamadera as the enigmagic Kazu Iida, Golshifteh Farahani as the no-nonsense Yasamin “Yaz” Madrani, Asia Kate Dillon as the tough-as-nails Valentina “Val” Romanyszyn, Blaine Gibson as the suave Sinclair and David Tennant as the brains behind the operation, Dr. Rufus Weller, a.k.a. Doc. It’s this team, along with some unexpected allies and surprising enemies, that will be the last hope for the future of Polity.

gen:LOCK does just about everything right, even in the early episodes. The characters are literally well drawn and metaphorically so, too. You get a great feel for Chase thanks to Jordan’s performance and of the supporting characters gathered around him, but you also get a good sense of scale and that this fight is going to hinge on way more than just one outstanding hero. The strength of Rooster Teeth’s animated storytelling has always been forming a narrative around a core team of disparate characters who represent the company’s own voices in their many and varied fandom. The extra cherry on top is getting to see gen:LOCK‘s mechs evolve over time, just as the characters who pilot them do. Fans of Battletech, GundamNeon Genesis Evangelion and even Zoids will be able to spot homages and familiar designs, especially as they improve over the course of the series. The show’s elite mechs, dubbed Holons, will now get to enter the pantheon of great mecha as all new, original entries; I can’t wait to see how they evolve from here.

genlock-review

Image via Rooster Teeth

If the first two episodes, packed with action, heart, and humor, heartbreaking twists and back-stabbing turns, don’t grab you, then clearly gen:LOCK is not the show for you. But I, for one, am excited to see what the Rooster Teeth team has in store for the gen:LOCK fans who are about to embrace this series in a big way. (Also, Cammie must be protected at all costs; she’s too precious.)

Rating: ★★★★ Very good

For more on gen:LOCK, be sure to get caught up with our recent write-ups provided at the following links:

genlock-review

Television

Close