gen:LOCK

Tagged: TV

US animated webseries (2019-current). Rooster Teeth. Created, directed and written by Gray Haddock. Executive producers include Michael B Jordan and Alana Mayo. Voice cast includes Asia Kate Dillon, Dakota Fanning, Golshifteh Farahani, Blaine Gibson, Michael B Jordan, David Tennant, Maisie Williams and Kōichi Yamadera. Eight 25-minute (approx) episodes to date, plus five shorts. Colour.

In 2068 the Polity are losing the global war with the authoritarian and {nanotechnology}-wielding Union. When the Polity's military wing, the Vanguard, is pushed out of New York, one fatality is believed to be American pilot Julian Chase (Jordan); four years later he reappears with Englishman Dr Rufus Weller (Tennant), Iranian Yasamin Madrani (Farahani) and the Robot Caliban: they are from the Vanguard's Experimental Science Unit.

Weller has developed new Mecha called Holons, controlled by an Uploaded human mind which operates the Holon as if it were part of their body. However, few people are compatible: Chase is one such – but physically he is just a Brain in a Box (plus a torso and one arm), though able to interact as a full-bodied hologram. Later, four new candidates for the Holons arrive: Scot Cameron "Cammie" MacCloudbut (Williams), genderfluid Ukranian Val/­entina Romanyszyone (Dillon), Japanese Kazu Iida (Yamadera) and American Robert Sinclair (Gibson): the latter is an impostor, a Union spy, who fatally discovers he's not compatible.

The Holons attack an enemy facility but are met by a powerful new Union mecha called Nemesis, which is also piloted by Chase. Weller reveals that early on Chase had been uploaded to one of the only two gen:LOCK "Brains" then existing, with a copy uploaded to the other. But the "original" was captured by the Union, so the copy was loaded back into Chase's physical brain. The original, unable to return to its physical body, is trapped in its mecha: this has done little for his sanity.

The advancing Union overruns the Vanguard base, killing Weller. The others flee and discover the previously mute Caliban now speaks in Weller's voice, possessing his memories and a part of his uploaded mind. Season One ends with the Holon pilots defeating Nemesis by uniting in the gen:LOCK shared mind-space; but Chase cannot now download back into his physical brain.

Though there are mecha battles, the show spends most of its time on the characters and considering the nature of Identity: Chase's ex-girlfriend, American Miranda Worth (Fanning) wonders "which one of you is 'my' Chase: both, neither or did my Chase die four years ago?"; Chase himself frets over being the copy, as well as the long-term consequences of mindsharing with the others.

Expected to be a straightforward Anime mecha show, gen:LOCK has proved to be a noteworthy new series: thoughtfully written, amusing, and agreeably diverse while delivering exciting fight scenes. One criticism might concern the facelessness of the Union: aside from our being told that it persecutes intellectuals, it remains a somewhat nondescript adversary. [SP]

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