Though Rooster Teeth has primarily been known in the past decade for its animated series RWBY, the studio’s 2019 CG show gen:Lock made enough of an impression that HBO Max acquired the series and gave the greenlight for a second season. In between action set pieces involving the color-coded Holon mechs, the writers of the sci-fi series used Michael B. Jordan’s Julian Chase to explore how technology changes one’s humanity, and what it means to be a person when you can digitally upload your brain into a giant robot.
Shown during the show’s 2021 San Diego Comic-Con panel, gen:Lock’s trailer for season 2 is an endurance test for Chase. Fighting the Union empire with the other gen:Lock pilots means fighting Nemesii, Union mechs all powered by a stolen digital copy of his brain. And for someone who already can’t upload themselves back into their human body, the self-murdering is starting to wear on him.
“Killing yourself again and again and again. I don’t even know what to do with that,” narrates Chase in the trailer.
With each fight bringing more Nemesii, it’s easy to see how he sounds so tired of fighting himself all the time. And it’s only the beginning. “Chase has those low points where he doesn’t care about anything,” admitted Jordan. He joked that Chase needed therapy, and he wasn’t really wrong.
Though not talked about in the panel, the trailer made clear right away that Chase’s team would be more vital than ever. Since last we saw Cammie (Maisie Williams), Kazu (Koichi Yamadera), Val/ (Asia Kate Dillon), and Yasamin (Golshifteh Farahani), their bonds have only grown, and the ability to share their minds with one another has given them all a unique connection to each other. As Chase goes to “new lows” in the season, Jordan also promised that his spark and emotional connections would slowly return. Like in any anime, the power of friendship is the key.
Digging deeper into its characters sounds like one of the core goals for gen:Lock season 2, as Dakota Fanning said that her character Miranda Worth would get her own “intense” arc that’ll call her values into question. “We see her get pulled into different directions,” Fanning explained, “and the inner struggle she has with her career and her relationships.”
Though it sounds like a tease about the dynamic between Miranda and Chase, who she dated prior to his apparent death, it’s worth remembering that she came to be a drill sergeant for the other gen:Lock pilots. And to Fanning, her empathy is what’ll get Miranda through the season. “She’s a good person, and she tries to make decisions that are ethical and true to herself.”
For as much as gen:Lock got right in its first season, the world-building was still a bit underbaked. The show never properly explained what the global conflict was about between the Union and the Polity, the faction the characters fight for. New showrunner Dan Dominguez promised that for season 2, the sides will become more clearly defined in the first episode. He even went further in calling the Union a hyper-religious state run as a “post-capitalist theocracy,” and calling the Polity an oligarchy of secular capitalists.
It was easy for the Union to be painted as evil in season 1. Not only were they slowly conquering the planet with an army of tanks and nanotech-using foot soldiers, they were inserting spies to steal gen:Lock technology. But the goal is to better flesh them out and their leader, Brother Tate. On that front, Dominguez used the oft-deployed phrase to describe the character: “Everyone is sure they’re the hero in their own story.”
Through the eyes of the gen:Lock team, and Rob Sinclair (Blaine Gibson), a potential gen:Lock pilot trying to escape Union territory after being kidnapped, the portrayal of the conflict and the Union will hopefully be shown a little more evenly. Minus the part where they tortured Chase’s digital brain and made an infinite army of him.
Gen:Lock season 2 premieres on HBO Max this fall.