Review: gen:LOCK “Second Birthday”

Cammie, get in the damn robot.

OVERVIEW (SPOILERS)

Cammie recaps the previous episode as she complains to Weller about how all crazy and dangerous the situation is, which snowballs into a multi-argument pile-up before Weller goes to see Colonel Marin, who chews him out and alerts him that there are only six months until the Union pushes them out of North America, so he better get a move on with training these pilots. Said pilots aren’t exactly thrilled to get trained, as Valentina is more eager to pound shots than getting shot at, but Weller returns and beg Cammie, Kazu, and Valentina to give Gen:Lock a try (which almost feels like a meta pitch of the series to new viewers).

Just as Weller described, the pilots take control of their respective bots by transferring their minds to them through a remote location, meaning they aren’t just piloting the Holons, they essentially ARE them. So, basically a G-Gundam type set-up but with Evangelion plug suits. The three newbies head out to the front of the base in a few test games to get their sea legs, including Capture the Flag, baseball, and avoiding getting shot. However, once they finish, new arrival of injured refugees arrive, showing them that they won’t be playing games against what they’re being trained for. Weller reminds them that it can be easy to feel powerless in the face of this, but they just need to try and make a difference in the ways they can.

OUR TAKE

Now that we’re a week out from the proper premiere, this week was the time to show whether or not all that hyping up was worth it! And after watching this episode, I can definitively say, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THAT…it’s got a lot of things I like and seem promising but also just about the same amount of things that are irksome and concerning and overall it’s still kind of a mixed bag.

Let’s start with one of the things I’m mostly enjoying so far: How they’re developing the rest of our main pilots. Seeing “Sinclair” (who is still in the opening credits despite dying which maybe means he didn’t?) die sparks a perfect opportunity to see the varied reactions each of the characters have, which in turn helps us understand how they will play off each other and other characters moving forward. Cammie is distraught, Kazu is dismissive, Valentina observes reactions, Yasamin is unphased. Likewise, the training in the Holons also displays their own different styles of approaching a problem: Kazu is direct and charges ahead, Cammie takes the unconventional route and learns as she goes, and Valentina hides and waits for an opportunity. And then we have Chase, who knows this tech inside and out by now, showing them all what they could be if they train.

But let’s talk about Chase, who is still a bit of a worry as our main lead, mainly because he’s just…not that interesting. His dialogue and performance are still so tepid and indifferent, which is increasingly concerning given the guy playing him. I mean LOOK. AT. THIS. This man is one of the best actors working today and they constantly have him in Fant4stic Human Torch mode so far. To be fair, I have no idea how to direct an actor as experienced and talented as Michael B. Jordan and going from live action acting to voice acting can be a bit of transition, but they really need to shoot some adrenaline into this character, or at least give him some time to develop. And no, Miranda and Chad’s secret drama isn’t going to cut it (and I’m pretty sure if it’s that they’re in a relationship, they would have outright said that by now, so $5 says it’s not that).

Though exploring the Holons (ugh, that name. “Hey, I gotta go to the doctor for a Holonoscopy!”) this episode definitely assuaged some concerns I got from the poster, namely in how customized each of the mechs were. Typically in “Real Robot” shows (that being shows that portray mechs as manufactured weapons of war instead of giant metal superheroes) have a much more of a uniform and industrial feel that shows that the mechs themselves, while inherently cool, are not usually all that special and are just tools. However, the idea that the pilots BECOME the mechs means that customization would be ideal, as each Holon would need to be best suited to their respective pilots’ specialized form of combat. That said, I’m kind of hoping we don’t see the versions of the suits from the Opening this early, as I’m liking the set levels of progress that we can see from how armored or not the mech is. You have beginners with just skeletons like the newbies, then mostly similar armor with Chase and Yasamin who are more experienced. I’m just saying don’t blow your awesome forms this early.

Then there’s Weller’s speech at the end, which plays into a feeling of hopelessness when faced with media only feeding you negative stories about how overpowering all the evil is in the world. This is a pretty relatable feeling in the current political climate and I bet there are probably a lot of people who have felt this way recently who will feel a strong connection to that speech. Sci-Fi has often used fantastical premises to help communicate issues of the time they were made in, from Star Wars to Star Trek to Doctor Who to Black Mirror, so I have no issue with gen:LOCK attempting to have a go at this. The problem is that this speech seems pretty disconnected from what we’ve seen in the series before now. Sure, there’s a feeling of being powerless in the face of evil, but none of that came from the media, it came from a swarm of deadly glitter and spider tanks. I’m all for social commentary in my sci-fi, but just try to make sure it has a place.

But yeah, overall, I’m still mostly enjoying myself with this series, but there’s still a lot of thorns in my side to really get a good Synchronization Rate going. We’re not even at the halfway point, and this is just the first season, but there are some serious bugs that need to be worked out here in the near future.

Score
7/10

David Kaldor

Green Lynx (David Kaldor): Aimless 20-something given a paid outlet for his thoughts on cartoons. Fears being boring slightly more than being outright disliked.

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