The end of gen:LOCK season one saw Cammie provide much needed upgrades to the team’s holons, leading to a much more cohesive team, able to successfully complete their mission. Similarly, in season two, the series itself goes through upgrades of its own, leading to a more cohesive narrative and grander experience that successfully takes the show to new heights.
gen:LOCK, an animated series, follows a highly skilled team who pilot mechanical robots to help do their part in fighting a war between two warring factions, The Polity and The Union. At stake is the fate of humanity in a futuristic world plagued by a climate disaster. Chase (Michael B. Jordan), Miranda (Dakota Fanning), Cammie (Maisie Williams), Yaz (Golshifteh Farahani), Kazu (Kōichi Yamadera), and Val (Asia Kate Dillon), along with their fellow fighters for The Polity put it all on the line, often sacrificing themselves, their families and their own humanity.
One of the issues with the first season was the glanced over and often generalized good side vs. bad side focus of the war. The Polity, where the gen:LOCK team’s loyalties lie, were in a by the books war with their completely mysterious adversaries, The Union, who have a powerful weapon. Each side’s intentions were not clear as to why they’re at war, and not much was known about the history between the two sides, or the spark which set everything off other than the attack on New York City.
In season two, the writers are aware that the intentions must be made very clear at every turn. We see layers to the story in how each side of the war finds ways to justify their cause while at the same time ultimately betraying what they supposedly stand for. The moral complexities make the viewer question what we were made to believe so far, and possibly even if there is truly a side to root for. The question of who are the good guys in this world is ever present. The season also gives more detail into the intricacies of the war including the smoke which The Union utilizes as a weapon.
Also expanded on in season two is a much more complex visual representation of the mind share space the gen:LOCK team occupies. The team may be stronger than they were, but they still struggle with being open with each other, leading to some very compelling stories of inner growth.
While the story is still mostly geared as Chase’s, we get more glimpses into the past of the rest of the team, providing their motivations to joining the program and why they still struggle to fully open up to one another. Yaz, Cammie, Kazu, Val, each have their inner demons and go through the wringer yet manage to help each other deal with their own baggage. A few characters still need some fleshing out to help understand their motivations and what drives them, but it’s more than we got in season one. Some characters’ roles have changed between seasons due to outcomes of the first season but they weave them in (or out) effectively as the story needs.
The voice work is still on point and the animation in the battle sequences are visually exciting and grander. In general the animation feels much smoother too. I never really had an issue with the animation style, but it was noticeably better to look at this season.
Over the course of eight episodes, we’re provided with many answers to lingering questions posed in the first season. If something was hinted at in season one, it is pretty much addressed head on. Each one of these mysteries and questions gets folded into the current story and help to expand and build out the story of the new season.
Season two provides a more realized world full of backstory and world building which was missing in the first season. Season one felt more on the surface in terms of the risks, development and story narration. The new season feels more bold, ambitious and willing to take more risks making the contrast between the two very noticeable. When the show takes an unexpected path, it feels more important and carries urgency.
The grittier use of language now as a Max Original series was an unexpected turn. A certain scene in episode three caught me off guard and was intentional to push the boundaries a little further than I expected for the series. In doing so, it helped prepare for additional scenes later in the season that are quite suggestive at times.
By the middle of the season things get quite heavy, truly tapping into the emotional wealth this world has always had the potential for. This season sees the physical, mental and emotional toll on each and every character.
Twists happen each episode, feeling like game changers, keeping the viewer on their toes. With the weekly release schedule, it’s a shame viewers can’t get the payoff immediately as I did binging these screeners, but the suspense will keep viewers wanting more. The season is bold and unafraid to take risks, which pay off more often than not.
A grander vision this season will be much appreciated by the audience and fans who have waited a long time to continue this story. The world of gen:LOCK is still full of so much potential, and hopefully with it’s new home on HBO Max, this will be the first of many more seasons to come!