Gen:LOCK: Season 1 – Episode 4 ‘Training Daze’ REVIEW

After the first couple of introductory episodes, we finally see the gen:LOCK team in their first field mission – and meeting a new threat.

gen:lock training daze

So far in gen:LOCK, the audience have been introduced to the central conflict of the show, the war between the Polity and the Union, and how the gen:LOCK programme is meant to be used to win the war for the good guys. However, with the Holons being portrayed as the heroes who are going to save the day, they need a clear villain to reflect against. Sure, there is the Union itself, but it’s a giant organization, a faceless entity. And just as the Holons are representative of the Polity/the protagonists, the Union’s champion is introduced in the episode Training Daze.

Cultured Vultures spoilers

The episode opens up with a montage, as the gen:LOCK team begin their rigorous training. At first the team seem to be doing their own thing, looking mostly after themselves – like Kazu cooking good food for himself while the rest of the team eat what’s handed out from the military’s cafeteria – as well as getting to grips with running the mechas in their own way. Gradually, they get better at running the machines and working together – like Kazu first cooking for Cammie, who is the youngest and most inexperienced of the team, then eventually for everyone else.

After an extended period of time training, Cammie convinces to the group to access a service called the Ether to relax during their downtime. However, they are very quickly disconnected as it turns out the Union have attacked one of the data points for the Ether. This is unusual because the colonel describes them more like an infection, spreading gradually over the path of least resistance instead of attacking points of strength. The gen:LOCK team are deployed to resolve the situation, unprepared for the threat that faces them.

Though everyone gets their share of the spotlight in ‘Training Daze’, it always focuses back on Cammie, who has very quickly become a fan favourite of the series. While the rest of the gen:LOCK team come from military backgrounds, Cammie is the most inexperienced in this lifestyle – the rest of the team are up and ready to go by the time that Cammie wakes up, usually because Kazu throws her out of bed. However, while the rest of the group are unwilling to work spend their downtime together, she is the one who brings them altogether to have fun in the Ether, and she is also the one who suffers the most during the attack. Dr Wellerm who has been in the limelight the past couple of episodes, takes more of a backseat, explaining to the recruits and the audience more about how gen:LOCK works, that their minds can only be uploaded for a limited time to the Holons and their suits are intelligent armour that can amplify their abilities when they aren’t piloting their mechs.

Gen:LOCK continues to draw influence from other existing shows: the concept of the Ether is very similar to the cyber world from the anime Psycho Pass,  but while creator Gray Haddock has admitted to being inspired by several anime titles, doesn’t mention that show as an influence. The avatars the recruits use in the Ether reflect their personality: Cammie uses a small anthropomorphic white rabbit, which may be an imitation of her robotic pet Nugget. Chase just goes for a standard hoodie, Kazu goes for a punk look with makeup and a studded leather jacket, Yasamin swaps out her short hair and military uniform for long hair and a hijab, and Valentina has a male avatar with a suit. Rooster Teeth also throws a wink to their own shows: when Cammie goes through which genre of gaming the gang can go for in the Ether, each of their avatar’s costumes change according to the genre, and it is nothing short of hilarious when the characters costumes get swapped out for RWBY designs as Cammie picks fantasy.

The creators also include some nice representation: when the gang ask why Valentina went for a male avatar, Valentina says they are genderfluid and though they are currently of a female biology, they have physically altered their gender several times before. This representation is also reflected in the casting of the character: Asia Kate Dillion identifies as non-binary. It is wonderful that while the creators of gen:LOCK want to create a unique story, they are also using it as a tool to represent this group of people in such a positive way. It also makes for a nice gag, as Kazu does seem to be interested in Valentina but when he asks her what sex she was at birth, she teases him with the response ‘you’ll never know’.

Though the original soundtrack doesn’t stick out as much as it has in previous episodes, the commercial tracks are more notable, with Sweatshop Boy by Battle Tapes, the same group who do the song for the intro sequence, making an appearance during the group’s training montage, as well as a brief piece of music with Casey Lee Williams’s recognizable vocals popping up when the gang briefly wear their RWBY costumes.

There’s also a nice moment where Chase and Miranda have a conversation together: it starts off tense, but they leave it on a positive note, showing some hope for the character’s relationship, though hopefully the writers don’t try and go for a love triangle situation with Chase, Miranda, and Jodie. It is a trope which has been oversaturated in recent media and could affect the quality of the show. Chase also reveals to her and the audience that his mother and sister are ‘gone’. Whether that means they perished in the New York attacks or went missing during the event is debateable. The wording however hints that there is a potential of them returning, since it sounds like Chase never got confirmation of them being killed.

Towards the end of the episode, the gen:LOCK team mostly do their own thing in terms of combat. Though Chase and Yas work as a co-ordinated pair to fight in their Holons, Valentina hangs back and provides cover fire, probably a result of her being retired special forces. Kazu goes all out brawler and smashes the enemy up close and personal, much to the chagrin of his allies, while Cammie struggles altogether. Though they do protect each other at certain points, they don’t work tactically as a cohesive unit, which is one of the factors that causes Cammie to be attacked by Nemesis, the mecha fighting on the side of the Union. It is only that after their comrade is threatened that the rest of the gen:LOCK team pull together, somewhat mirroring the way the group start off independent but slowly start to look out for each other in the training sequence.

Though the audience has seen Nemesis before in the opening credits, this is the first time they get to properly see it in action. Similar to the previous Union mech designs, it has insect-like features: this thing still is humanoid in its silhouette like the Holons, but also has multiple limbs and looks sharper and more angular. While the Holon’s armour follows the form of their silhouette, Nemesis’ has spikes sticking out of its armour, reinforcing its invertebrate appearance. It also is accompanied by the Union’s nanomachines. While this was also clearly displayed in the intro, more of the nanomachine’s capabilities are revealed, as it can simultaneously act like a shield and block out communication between the Polity’s forces.

Another thing to note is that Cammie audibly reacts to Nemesis’ attacks, outright screaming when Nemesis rips off the head of her Holon. Though it doesn’t kill her, the fact she is quite clearly reacting to what Nemesis does to her Holon means that the gen:LOCK pilots can still feel pain when their minds are uploaded to the machine.

‘Training Daze’ helps take gen:LOCK to darker places: while the writing and editing still fluctuates quite nicely between moments of witticism and emotion, the introduction of Nemesis advances the plot now that the audience are familiar with the recruits and the inner workings of gen:LOCK. As the episode leaves the audience on a cliff-hanger, it leaves them with questions for the next episode: will Cammie recover quickly from her encounter, and as one of the Polity pilots points out, ‘what the hell was that thing?’

Check out our previous gen:LOCK reviews here.

Verdict
‘Training Daze’ sets up a clear, identifiable threat for the gen:LOCK team to combat against, while staying consistently strong with its dialogue and characters.
8.5

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