Created and Directed By: Gray G. Haddock
Written By: Gray G. Haddock, Jason Weight, Evan Narcisse, Kerry Shawcross
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Golshifteh Farahani, David Tennant, and more.
Produced By: Rooster Teeth
Total Episodes: 8
Link to IMDb
Oh Rooster Teeth. I want to love what you make, and an equal part of me wants to hate it. Why must you place me into such a paradoxical existence?
Gen:Lock is another online web series produced by the same team behind Red VS Blue and RWBY. And just like those two shows before it, Gen:Lock has quickly become loved by audiences everywhere. However, also just like it’s predecessors, it is plagued head to toe in story telling issues that drag the whole product down. Like, a lot.
Yet I still binged the whole first season in a single night. I can’t decide whether or not that was a mistake. But hopefully, I will have by the time I’m done writing this.
Now, as per usual, I’m going to be completely fair here. I’m not going to tear this show apart without acknowledging it’s finer qualities. Because believe me, it’s got plenty of those! However, the highs of this show only make the flaws all the more glaring. Yet everyone I’ve seen discussing this show seems to be ignoring them.
But I’ll be damned if I do.
Story: Strong Start, But Train Wrecks Are Fast by Default
The story of Gen:Lock had a genuinely incredible start. The first episode is perfectly paced, introducing our main character, world and antagonists really well. We see who they are, the threat the villains pose, and it immediately grabs your attention. The next few episodes hold onto that, creating intrigue as it introduces new concepts and characters. When combined with the excellent performances (shout outs to David Tennant, who is actually the fucking best, though Michael B. Jordan has a few rough lines here and there), and it’s super easy to get sucked in!
But then it rapidly falls down hill. None of the characters are remotely interesting or truly memorable. Sure, they’ve got memorable enough personalities, but they have one major issue. The same one that plagued the characters of RWBY, and the characters in the later seasons of Red VS Blue.
None of the characters, not one character in the entire fucking cast, has a personal goal! No one has their own desire that they’re fighting to achieve! They’re all signed onto the team because… they’re the only ones who can, and they have to? Or because they think syncing up with a giant robot sounds cool? Or because they’re the good guys, so they have to fight the Union, the bad guys?
Moreover, we don’t know any of their backstories (save the main character Chase) until the second to last episode in the season. And even then, it’s not given to us in an organic and interesting manner. It’s just exposited at us by a character we’ve never even met up to this point!
This problem is made even worse when they completely skip the only real character development they could’ve given us: the team building. Initially, they pace it really well, as their personalities clash, their teamwork sucks and none of them want to spend any time with each other. They try to build their team chemistry one time, but that fails miserably.
Then… that plot is completely dropped. After that, the team has near perfect synergy and they get along with no issue. They go from paranoid maniacs who don’t trust any of the others to save their lives to best buddies in the blink of an eye! All that drama, all that possible character development, is completely ignored and washed away!
The villains of the story don’t fare any better! The Union is on par with RWBY’s Grimm in terms of intriguing villains with deep personalities and motivations. In that they literally have none whatsoever. Not one member of the Union so much says a single line! They just show up, do some evil shit, and leave. No one explains why they’re waging war against the world. They have about as much depth as a dried up puddle on a hot summer day!
All of these issues are brought on by the story’s pacing. As I mentioned before, the first few episodes have excellent pacing! But then they fucking hammer the gas pedal, and everything flies out of control! If they slowed down, gave it a few more episodes to breath, and developed the characters more, then I’d have far fewer issues with this show! In fact, I’d probably be screaming at you guys to go watch it! I’d probably fucking love this shit!
Look guys. Cool action, decent animation and alright performances can only distract me for so long. If the plot is garbage, how am I supposed to be invested in those things? The first and most important priority should be the story! If I can’t name a character without racking my brain for an hour, then I don’t care!
I shouldn’t have to say “I know this show isn’t very good, but I still like it!” when I talk about your stories! I should be saying “Yo, Gen:Lock is fucking rad!” But I can’t, despite the shows far stronger qualities.
Visuals: Rough, But Appealing
If you’re familiar with the modern animation style Rooster Teeth productions use, you know how Gen:Lock is going to look. It’s got a unique 3D pseudo-anime style with detailed character models. In down, calm moments, they move with a jagged, almost robotic style. But when the action swells, things get intense, and the animation is completely smoothed out.
Honestly, I like the look of this show a lot. You can tell that they took the lessons learned from RWBY in the years before and used them to refine the style to a brand new T. It could definitely still be jarring if you haven’t grown accustomed to it yet, but you can appreciate the work that goes into each episode once you do.
Now if only they’d take similar lessons in regards to the stories…
I thoroughly enjoy the designs of the characters. They all look cool, unique and interesting. They give the characters a layer of personality that the story fails to deliver upon. The same goes for all the mech designs. Sure, they look like Gundam rip offs, but hey! If you’re going to rip something off, why not steal from the best?
The action is also downright incredible in most scenes! The animation is smooth as hell, the choreography is intense and amazingly creative. Each blow, slice and gunshot have impact and pain behind them. It’s just a shame that they’re so short lived.
The music is also pretty good. I don’t think it’s as good as the RWBY soundtrack, but it fits the show perfectly. The opening in particular is a fucking banger! I can’t help but hum it to myself, sometimes without even realizing it! That’s a good sign, people!
God, can you imagine how great this show would be if the characters were as memorable?
Conclusion: Well, I’m at a Stand Still
I was really hoping that I’d figure out where I stood on this show by the end of writing this. However, now that I’ve put down my thoughts, I find myself more lost than before! On one hand, I absolutely hate the story, as it’s completely lacking in anything that I want from a story. On the other, I fucking love the visuals, music, action and casting.
I’m split right down the middle. Unlike with RWBY, where I love it despite of it’s flaws, I struggle to say whether I truly love or hate this show. Therefor, I can’t decide whether I should recommend it to you guys or not.
So I’m going to end this in a weird way. I’d say you should check this show out. Not because I think it’s good and worth your time. But for you to figure it out yourself. I’m at a complete loss, so all that I can say is check it out and see if it catches your intrigue.
Maybe, should this show get a second season, they’ll be able to fix these issues. Perhaps they’ll take more time, flesh out the characters, and give the villains more depth than… none at all. However… well, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but I know how these shows tend to go. It’s likely that this will be the best the show will ever get.
But hey! I’ve been wrong plenty of times before! And good god I’d love to be wrong! Trust me, I want to love this show!
But man, they are making it really hard to do that.