8:00 pm EST, January 29, 2019

‘gen:LOCK’ serves up epic action and compelling characters despite a nebulous storyline

Rooster Teeth has officially dropped gen:LOCK, a mecha animated web series produced by and starring none other than Michael B. Jordan. The series’ first episode is currently available with the second episode open for those with Rooster Teeth memberships.

The show takes place in 2068 and centers on Julian Chase, a fighter pilot for the Vanguard, along with a diverse group of pilots, hackers, and research geniuses. Episode 1 jumps off with a very clunky introduction to Julian and his love interest Miranda, who is a capable pilot in her own right, before getting right into the immediate action.

It honestly would have been nice to have more buildup with some explanation of the Vanguard’s purpose and how the Union was formed before the battle that changed Julian’s life. We didn’t have much time to get invested or care about these characters as a couple nor as individuals before everything went sideways.

The story then jumps four years in the future and introduces several new characters, including Dr. Rufus Weller, a socially awkward yet brilliant man who is portrayed by the fantastic David Tennant. His character and Tennant’s lively voice feel engaging, natural, and bring a clever energy to the series.

It’s almost like he is playing an alternate version of The Doctor, which is never a bad thing.

The initial episode ends with a shocking revelation about Julian that makes you immediately want to jump to the next one. How do I know? Because that’s exactly what I did.

Episode 2 picks right back up with plenty of answers to the soldiers’ — and viewers’ — questions by explaining an ongoing research and development project where people volunteer themselves to control robots using their minds. Of course, only the strongest candidates survive, so it’s not the type of program you go into lightly.

A shocking revelation about Julian’s current status is also revealed in this episode that is equal parts fascinating and rather heartbreaking even though we barely know him. The optics of a Black man being involved in this type of experiment is not lost on me, but I’m willing to see how they continue to tread this ground.

Michael B. Jordan is playing a key creative role in the show with his company Outlier Society Productions at the helm, so I’m not too worried about it because I trust his judgement on portraying these situations and diverse characters well.

This episode also introduced a new crew of hopeful candidates with various backgrounds (and cosplay worthy outfits) that are far more interesting than Miranda. My feelings about her may change as the series progresses, but right now I have zero investment in her story even though I understand why she’s in this specific emotional space. Sorry not sorry.

There’s a ton of awesome fight sequences, secret union members, and an ending that makes me really wish I could binge this series. There’s just enough intrigue there to keep pulling fans in for more.

Generally, the show looks great with a mix of computer-generated elements with Rooster Teeth’s classic hand-drawn feel. gen:LOCK serves up great voice work all around from Jordan and Tennant alongside Dakota Fanning and Maisie Williams.

It’s truly a star-studded cast that brings these animated characters to life, but I’m curious about how they will handle the many details that they have yet to reveal about this world, antagonist, and war that we know literally nothing about so far.

The season is slated for nine episodes running through early March, so that leaves plenty of time to unfold the world around this crew. Hopefully, the actual storyline and world-building will match the show’s clever dialogue and peppy action. But, for now, I will enjoy the ride and see where the series takes fans.

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