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Listen up; this is it. The Union's making their play. This is how the war begins.

"What is gen:LOCK, if not the next step in humanity's evolution? And you can be the first to see where it takes us."
Dr. Rufus Weller

gen:Lock (stylized as gen:LOCK) is a Mecha web series from Rooster Teeth that premiered on the 26th of January 2019. Unlike Red vs. Blue and RWBY, their other two flagship series, while the first episode is free for anyone to watch, the rest of the episodes are exclusive to FIRST members. The series began airing on [adult swim]'s Toonami programming block on August 3, 2019. Season 2 was officially announced on October 24th and would be exclusive to WarnerMedia's streaming service HBO Max for 90 days before coming onto Rooster Teeth. The season premiered on November 4th, 2021.

As a summary puts it: on the losing side of a global culture war, an Experimental Science Unit is pushed to identify a team of young pilots who can control a variety of prototype, next-generation mecha—giant, robotic, weaponized bodies. The recruits will find, however, that their newfound abilities come at no small cost.

The main cast consists of:

And Rooster Teeth staff members, including:

  • Blaine Gibson as Specialist Rob Sinclair
  • Gray Haddock as Unit Leader Leon August
  • Miles Luna as Miguel "Migas" Garza
  • Chad James as Jodie Brennan

In addition to the actual show, DC Comics released gen:LOCK (as well as a series for RWBY) as part of a partnership with Rooster Teeth, consisting of 14 issues. The events take place after the first season.

A tie-in novel, Storm Warning, was released on October 6, 2020.

Season 2 First Look Trailer, S2 Official Trailer

The series provides examples of:

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  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The Bilingual Dialogue with Kazu flows as quickly and naturally as if it was all being held in a single language, some characters even managing to interrupt Kazu mid-sentence to correct or remark upon the very last word he says. Realistically, the translator software should take a split second to translate his words, and then everyone take another split second to read them, (as during his first line, which we see in first-person from Val/entina's perspective), but this would presumably become tedious and interrupt the flow of every scene. His subtitles also occasionally feature English abbreviations such as "'scuse me" and "somethin'" which probably wouldn't actually appear in an accurate Japanese-to-English translation, but help to express Kazu's casual and carefree attitude.
  • Ace Custom: Every gen:LOCK candidate begins with a "stock" Holon, seen when Cammie, Kazu, and Valentina are starting out. After getting accustomed to using their Holons, however, they are outfitted with color-differentiated armor sets, then are further customized to accommodate the candidates fighting styles. They're later completely overhauled by Cammie, once the attack on the Anvil forces the team to relocate to RTASA. Also true of Strider pilots, as Leon, Miranda, and Jodie each have specific load-outs and paint jobs for their mechs, I.E Leon's single right shoulder rocket pod and Ace decal to the right of his cockpit, Miranda arm-mount double cannons, and shoulder launchers and a pile of kill marks, and Jodie's rocket pod arms and rotating shoulder turrets along with a skull and bone paint job.
    • Chase is a former airforce pilot and functions better in their air, so his Holon is outfitted with wings courtesy of Migas and wields a custom machine rifle. Later his Holon outfitted with a more aerodynamic version of his first Vanguard Armor and is given an improved version of his winged jetpack as well as wrist-mounted rocket launchers and missile pods on the wings for combat.
    • Yasamin's functions better in close quarters combat, with a propensity for dual-wielding firearms, so her Holon is given wrist-mounted lasers. Later she also receives wings, and adds lasers to her eyes as well.
    • Cammie has little experience with firearms and has a lower center of gravity compared to the others, so her Holon is given remote-controlled drones with automatic aim assist. It also has hardware that lets her remotely hack enemy technology, befitting her hacking expertise. Later she adds shorter lagomorphic legs and rabbit ears, allowing her to jump higher and seemingly providing better control over her drones respectively (on top of the obvious aesthetic purposes) and also wields two machine pistols, grenades, and remote-controlled detonators.
    • Kazu functions best in melee combat, with a propensity for using whatever he can find as a weapon, so his Holon is first given a pair of short katanas. Later his Holon is outfitted with heavy-duty armor, designed like his (but more importantly Cammie's) favorite manga character RoboShogun, as well as a katana-esque BFS and shotgun.
    • Valentina functions best as reconnaissance and sniping, so her Holon is given increased optical sensors for long-distance scouting and sniping. Later she receives very light armor, stealth tech, and grappling hooks for quick relocation, as well as a long dagger for close combat.
    • Sinclair receives a dark blue Holon, but as a result of his kidnapping, he never gets to use it. Leon later pilots this Holon to buy time for the team, and as such the only customization he possesses is the color scheme on his Vanguard Armour and wields a standard machine rifle during the season finale.
  • Achilles' Heel:
    • The cyberbrains of the Holons, as they contain the actual minds of the pilots, are the only non-replaceable parts of the mech. Or rather, Dr. Weller chooses not to replace them. A backup copy of a pilot's mind can be created when they upload by using a spare cyberbrain, but when Chase and his Holon were captured on a mission during the Time Skip, he was forced to replace Chase with the copy. Dr. Weller decides to stop the practice out of ethics.
    • Due to limitations in range because of uptime, Holons have to be deployed on-site for a mission rather than traveling, meaning the pilots' bodies are vulnerable if they are not properly protected while uploaded. This comes up in Episode 6 when the gen:LOCK team is forced to abandon their defense of the Anvil because their physical bodies were in danger. Nemesis also attempts this tactic in Episode 8.
  • And I Must Scream: Weller is very concerned about making sure the Holon pilots never exceed uptime as it would trap the pilot's mind, preventing them from ever being able to return to their biological bodies. The Nemesis pilot is strongly implied to be trapped inside the mech, unable to return to their original body. After an experimental Holon mission went wrong, Chase was captured by the Union, his mind forever denied a route back to its biological body. The ESU kept a backup of Chase's mind and downloaded the backup into Chase's body. Meanwhile, the version of Chase who pilots Nemesis is a trapped and tortured soul, driven mad from being trapped in his Holon for years, what the Union did to him, and the feedback from the other pilots when uploaded, driven to try and kill Chase in the desperate hope that killing the copy will allow him to return to his real body. Unfortunately for him, Weller confirms that gen:LOCK technology just doesn't work that way.
    Nemesis: Why am I still here? Why are there new voices in my head!? Want out!
  • Anyone Can Die: Weller dies in a Heroic Sacrifice midway through the first season. Season 2 ups the game by killing off Leonnote , Kazu, Cammie, and Jodie.
  • Augmented Reality: Referred to as mixed reality (MR) in-universe. Holograms and projected digital displays are commonplace to the point of replacing most everyday electronics such as tablets and televisions, several characters have Electronic Eyes that give them a personal HUD and translator, and the internet has been replaced with a virtual world known as the Ether, which is accessed with VR headsets.
  • Batman Gambit: When Weller is taken hostage by a Union agent, there is very little anyone can do to turn the situation around because the agent is able to use nanotech to keep everyone off his back. Weller is the one who realizes he can use his situation to his advantage and overcome the Union agent. "Sinclair" tries to use Weller to obtain access to a Holon. Even though it'll leave his body behind, he'll still be able to get the Holon to the Union so that they can reverse-engineer it. However, Weller takes his abduction as an opportunity to establish that "Sinclair" wasn't the person he recruited to the program, but a replacement. As a result, this man is not gen:LOCK compatible. Since Weller is the only one who's familiar with the consequences of gen:LOCK incompatibility, he, therefore, instructs everyone to allow "Sinclair" to get into a Holon. Instead of stealing the technology, "Sinclair" ends up dying in agony.
  • Big Applesauce: Julian is from Brooklyn, and the first episode has NYC being attacked by The Union.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • In Episode 3, Madrani refers to her Holon as "Huma". In Iranian mythology, the Huma is a bird that is commonly theorized to be similar to a phoenix.
    • While being held hostage, Weller cheerfully addresses Yasamin as "Yaz-e man". Rather than a mispronunciation of her name, it's actually Farsi for "my Yaz".
    • When Cammie is learning how to walk in her Holon body she tentatively takes her first steps while singing "Happy Birthday" in Gaelic.
    • Much of the cast offers this - Cammie frequently peppers her dialogue with Gaelic, Valentina, and Col. Marin have slipped in Russian and Spanish phrases, respectively, and in an unusual inversion, the Japanese-speaking Kazu exclaims "Woaaaah, Yes!", first when he crashes through a security wall and then when Chase's newly wing-suited Holon launches from a cliff right in front of him.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Though Kazu speaks only in Japanese, it appears he can both understand and be understood by the rest of the cast, who speak English. This is done through Universal Translator AR technology.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite both Union and Vanguard troops being shot at, with some guns very capable of turning a normal person into glue, the only blood seen so far when "Sinclair" tries to steal the Holon technology and is killed in a particularly gruesome manner to illustrate the consequences of being gen:LOCK incompatible. This seems to only apply to gunfire, however – Valentina's knives create visible blood spatter when she throws them into a Union soldier.
  • Body Horror: During the Battle of New York, several Polity pilots are lost to the Union attack. The only one shown afterwards has suffered debilitating injuries. The Experimental Science Unit recovered Chase's body after his plane crashed because finding experienced pilots who are gen:LOCK compatible is too rare to dismiss. While Chase is alive, he's lost his entire lower body and right arm. He's confined to a life support tank, and the only way he can move around is by either mixing or uploading his brain to his Holon. Dr. Weller isn't certain whether Polity science will ever advance enough to help Chase fully recover, partly because of some nasty side-effects the Union nanotech caused when it ate away at his body.
  • Book Ends: The first season begins and ends with Chase making a Heroic Sacrifice to buy his teammates more time
  • Brain Uploading: The goal of Project gen:LOCK: digitize a human consciousness and upload it into a computer brain inside a Humongous Mecha. Chase was the first subject to successfully undergo the process, Yasamin was the second.
  • Brutal Honesty: When the new recruits comment on Dr. Weller's excitable personality upon first meeting them, Yaz bluntly informs them that they're Weller's new "lab rats". Left behind with the new bemused recruits, Chase indicates that this is a normal part of Yaz's personality.
    Julian: It's cool. Once you get to know her, she's ... nah, she's pretty much the same.
  • The Cameo: In the first episode, Julian hides his jet between two buildings, and sees an old man in a wheelchair. Burnie Burns stated "that's my cameo", given the elder is an aged caricature of himself (in 2068 that is the setting, Burnie would be 95).
  • Casting Gag: Rooster Teeth's CEO Matt Hullum voices the guy who financed the gen:LOCK project.
  • Child Soldier: Discussed. Dr. Weller explains that gen:LOCK pilots must be below a certain age because human neuroplasticity decreases with age. Past a certain age, even gen:LOCK compatible pilots cannot safely use the technology. However, to make use of the technology, pilots need a certain level of combat and pilot training which means they won't be the teenagers that are common to most mecha anime. Of the core team, Chase and Yaz came into the program as fully trained pilots; the remaining recruits are all military trained, and old enough to drink. Cammie is the exception; as the youngest member of the group, she is only 17 and therefore underagenote . While she has no combat experience, she is a hacker and very skilled with technology. When Colonel Marin refers to the recruits as children, Dr. Weller is offended and objects to that description.
  • Color-Coded Characters: As seen on the official poster and the image at the top of the page, all of the confirmed gen:LOCK pilots are associated with a color - specifically, the dominant color of their mecha armor, as well as the color they prefer to wear. Julian's color is cyan, Yasamin's is gold, Cameron's is teal, Kazu's is red, Valentina's is purple, while Rob's is dark blue. This also extends to the two commanders; Colonel Marin's hair and uniform are both grey, while Dr. Weller chiefly wears brown.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During a mission briefing in Episode 4, Cammie's swearing causes Weller to complain about her language. She decides to ignore the point of his complaint in favor of a cheerfully sarcastic retort.
    Weller: Cammie! We have GOT to work on your cursing!
    Cammie: Why? I curse pretty well already.
  • Couch Gag: The opening credits of every Season 2 episode end with a map of the United States displaying how much territory the Polity and Union respectively hold at that moment, followed by the episode's title card in the five protagonists' native languages: Farsi for Yaz, Japanese for Kazu, English for Chase, Russian for Val/entina, and Scottish Gaellic for Cammie.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Averted but discussed. The cyberbrain is the most vulnerable part of the Holon technology. There are no back-ups for a pilot's mind, so if the cyberbrain is damaged, the pilot is doomed. The brain unit is not stored in a Holon's head, but inside a module that's placed in the center of the chest behind an armored entry panel. The Union initially appears to believe that the head is where that brain is located, but it quickly becomes clear they know exactly where the chest module is located. The fact they have somehow obtained this knowledge concerns both Chase and Weller. When the Nemesis mech first makes its appearance, it goes straight for Cammie's head, ripping it from her shoulders. It then pins the body to the ground and goes straight for the chest module. If it hadn't wasted time blinding Cammie by beheading her before going for the chest module, Chase would never have arrived in time to save Cammie's life. As it is, Nemesis still manages to rip open the entry panel before Chase arrives.
    • However, It's later revealed that Nemesis is itself a Holon, albeit one that's been heavily modified by the Union, based upon the original Proto-Holon that Chase was piloting during the earlier testing stages of the project and captured by the Union to be reverse-engineered into Nemesis's current form, meaning that the Union was already aware of the Brain's location. It's implied that Nemesis going for the head was both to incapacitate Cammie enough so it could easily remove the Cyberbrain with minimal resistance from her, and indulging in the pilot's desire to hurt the Gen:LOCK team like he had been, due to his Ax-Crazy mental state. Notably, despite not containing a weak point, the team are able to majority disorient Nemesis by Val/entina landing headshots on it with her BFG, implied to be due to the Nemesis copy's unstable mentality and the Synchronisation between the mech and the pilot, as Nemesis is shown to be clutching it's head afterwards as if in pain, showing that it might be capable of surviving what would be otherwise fatal attacks to the head, but they still hurt and are effective at disrupting its focus.
  • Crapsack World: The world of Gen:Lock is effectively one. It's the year 2077 and destructive climate change has caused droughts and famine, destroying crops and drying up nearly all usable water reservoirs, leading to animal extinction, almost universal poverty, nd eventual war as humanity fought each desperately for resources. The fighting caused constant political upheaval, leaving a two final world superpowers. The first, the Polity, consisting of a organized empire formed from the remaining nation-states that remained and drains the world's already dwindling resources and the second, the Union, a brutal theocracy spreading widespread death by nanomachines in its crusade for planetary conversion. As of current events, the Union has effectively pushed the Polity into a corner, converted much of the world, and is pushing for mankind to effectively accept death with promises of Brain Uploading.
  • Creative Sterility: According to Holcroft, the Union is incapable of innovation, resorting instead to stealing technology developed by others. The fact that the regime targets "intellectuals" might have something to do with it. However, this might not actually be the case with the revelation in Season 2 that the founders of the Union were all a diverse set of brilliant but amoral scientists who created the nanotechnology that serves as the crux of their Transhumanist Cult.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: An incompatible subject attempting to undergo gen:LOCK, as stated by Weller, "might as well put [their] brain in a microwave." A Union spy who attempts to steal a Holon discovers this the hard way.
  • Crossover: Has a crossover with Paladins, of all things, with Chase, Cammie, Kazu, Valentina, and Yasamin being added as alternate skins of Viktor, Maeve, Zhin, Kinessa and Lex respectively.
  • Cyberspace: The Ether, a virtual world that has evolved from the internet. Individuals access it with VR headsets, have customizable avatars, navigate it like a giant city, and use pop-up menus to interact with it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 2 establishes its significant Tone Shift from Season 1 by introducing more mature content. Including the gorier deaths of civilian casualties, doubling down on it's War Is Hell themes and how it takes a physical and mental toll on the protagonists, the revelation that the setting is more of a Crapsack World suffering from a climate change crisis, and an explicit sex scene between Miranda and Jodie.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Union is depicted with a dark color scheme. Their signature weapon is "smoke", nanotech that manifests as a black cloud. Their technology is dark, so even when there are red or yellow accents, they're dull colors, combined with metal that is so dark it's either charcoal grey or black. By contrast, the Polity forces use paler colored metal and more pastel-toned colors.
  • Drone of Dread: The signature musical score that accompanies Union attacks and technology is a menacing, discordant, electronic drone.
  • Electronic Telepathy: With enough practice, Holon pilots can learn to communicate with each other instinctively as a result of how the Cyberbrain they're all using works. Unfortunately, Nemesis is also able to communicate with the Holon pilots because he is Chase's original mind, captured while on an early Holon mission, and therefore running permanently on the GL network. It means he can track any of the other Holons whenever someone is uploaded.
  • EMP: The Polity's main defense against Union technology is an EMP weapon known as the Electronic Signal Disruption (ESD). In the show's opening battle, it is deployed to shut down the nanite swarm and a massive Union walker, while having a much more mild impact on the Polity's traditional military. However, the Union has learned how to detect the build-up of an ESD and can intercept them before they detonate.
  • Evolving Credits: The Title Sequence briefly flashes from Chase to Chase's actual body before the "Created by" credit. That is, until Episode 6, where instead it's a Chase clad in black and red, foreshadowing the reveal that Nemesis is equally powered by Chase's mind. And by the season finale, it is the eventual holographic form Nemesis has in the episode.
  • Explosive Overclocking: The Holon pilots can take advantage of their Holon's cyberbrains to enhance their reaction times, but doing so uses uptime significantly faster as a cost.
  • Exty Years from Publication: Likely the original intention, as the story begins in the year 2068, almost exactly fifty years after the show's release (in the first month of 2019). Subverted midway through the first episode, which has a four-year time skip to the year 2072.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: The primary weapons that the Strider mechs use are heavy machine guns or small autocannons. They are almost completely ineffective against Union spider tanks (they can only reliably penetrate the underside) but they're never refitted with heavier weaponry. The infantry on both sides also tend to spend far too much time standing around firing their assault rifles at enemy armor.
  • Flawed Prototype: Gen:LOCK technology was being developed to advance humanity, but the Polity insisted on weaponizing it while it was still only experimental. Dr. Weller was forced to a single model design that was based on idealized ratios and therefore isn't guaranteed to suit individual pilots. Very few people are compatible with the technology; those who aren't will die, and even those who are will eventually age out of compatibility due to their brains no longer producing the neurotransmitters needed for the technology to work. Uploading to the cyberbrain is only safe for a short period of time (approximately 33 minutes), after which a brain is no longer neurologically compatible with the body it was uploaded from; pilots must physically travel to the combat zone to avoid wasting uptime on the commute. Overclocking to boost performance burns through uptime very fast, as do pilots modifying their own mental parameters to convey temporary stat boosts. Great emotional stress can also burn through uptime.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In one of the character reveal trailers, Colonel Marin is aghast that Dr. Weller is having Chase perform operations in the field, out of fear of the consequences should the Union discover "what he is." Aside from foreshadowing the revelation that gen:LOCK allows humans to download their brains into a robot body, this also sets up for the revelation later on that the Union eventually did discover what Chase was, and abducted the robot body with his original brain download inside it.
    • In the first episode, Julian's sister is live-streaming herself performing a song called "Who Do You Think You Are?" This song title foreshadows the question of personal identity that underpins one of the major subplots later on.
    • When the team and Dr. Weller are meeting for the first time, Valentina gently corrects people when they try to shorten her name to "Val." Later, it comes out that "Val" is the name Valentina goes by when they are male—hence, "Val" is their (current) deadname.
    • In various episodes of Weller's lab, a scribbled note saying 'Ship of Theseus?' can be seen. After Weller's presentation at the start of Episode 2, various Vanguard members can be overheard wondering whether Chase's holographic avatar is an AI based on him or the real Chase mixing in from elsewhere. Nemesis' appearance reveals that Chase was once captured by the Union during an early Holon mission. His original mind was captured and now pilots Nemesis while Chase's real body was reunited with a back-up copy of his mind that Weller had been keeping. Weller's 'Ship of Theseus?' scribble suggests he's been struggling with the concept of what makes a person really them while Miranda openly asks the question: who is the real Chase?
    • The title sequence lists David Tennant's name over a shot of Dr. Weller elbowing Caliban to catch the robot's attention. The seventh episode reveals that Caliban is also voiced by Tennant.
    • When Sinclair breaks into the gen:LOCK lab and sees Chase's inert body, he says "I know someone who'd love to meet you." foreshadowing Nemesis and its true identity.
    • Nemesis starts to show up whenever the team goes on a mission. Episode 7 reveals that he can use the mindshare network to track them when they upload.
    • When Cammie and Valentina mindshare so Cammie can spot for Val's sniper rifle through the smoke, Cammie uses a Russian epithet. When Valentina and Kazu mindshare, Valentina gets Kazu's memories of learning to play the guitar.
    • When Yaz first Mindshares with Cammie to share her Holon's optimal sensors after Nemesis decapitates Cammie's Holon, she's ecstatic that the mindshare worked, which Vel/entina shows confusion at, asking why she's never mindshared with Chase before. Episode 8 reveals that Chase has hang-ups about mindsharing, noting that after losing his body and his life outside of gen:LOCK and experiencing the world through a Holon, if he starts Mindsharing with others he could start losing his mind and sense of self as well, which is about all he's got left of him.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Colonel Marin receives a report on a possible intruder situation, the report she receives describes the incident that has flagged up the concern. It mentions how one SPC R. Sinclair failed to report for the gen:LOCK program. It sets up the reveal that Sinclair is actually a Union impostor sent to steal a Holon.
    • The second season shows how much American territory the Polity/Union has at the start of each episode.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "Second Birthday", Weller resents Colonel Marin referring to the recruits as children. Cut to Caliban having to hold Cammie in place as she demands that they let her out.
  • Global Warming: The second season reveals that this is an impetus for the conflict between the Polity and the Union - climate change has reached a point of irreversible societal collapse, so the Union and Polity are now focusing on ways to escape the dying Earth and find a new way to survive, the Polity via space travel and the Union via an Artificial Afterlife. The war started because both sides had massive philosophical issues with the other's plan for survival.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: While the show is by no means averse to showing people being killed by nanobots, the camera usually cuts away before their bodies are completely dissolved.
  • Graying Morality: The first season largely showed the Polity's hopeless struggle against the ruthless Union. But The First Strike shows that the Polity struck first and critics of the Omnifaith went as far as to commit terrorist acts against them, so it gains quite a few sympathy points.
  • Grey Goo: The Union's signature weapon, nicknamed "smoke" in-universe.
  • Happy Ending Override: Where as the first season ended on a positive note with Chase and the Holon pilots defeating Nemesis and the Union being dealt a decisive blow by Polity forces, Season 2 opens up with a Time Skip revealing that the Union succeeded in making a massive comeback by mass producing Nemesis units (collectively referred to as the Nemesii) who begin to exponentially outnumber the heroes with every skirmish. As consequence, the Polity is pushed all the way back to the state of California as the rest of the North American continent is now under Union control.
  • Hologram: Referred to as "mixing" in-universe, individuals can project a 3D digital image of themselves into an area, sometimes over great distances, and can see, hear, & speak through it. Since Julian was crippled in New York and is confined to his Holon tank, this is mainly how he interacts with the world.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kazu has a knack for disobeying orders, and talking back to his superiors. It got him demoted down to kitchen staff before he was recruited by the ESU. Colonel Marin even suggests this is likely why his unit is so supportive of transferring him.
  • Hour of Power: The pilots can only maintain gen:LOCK for a certain amount of time before it becomes too dangerous for them and they have to be downloaded back into their bodies. Overclocking the Holons or extreme emotional stress can eat into their time even faster. Once this limit is reached, the Holons will forcibly download the pilots back into their bodies, leaving the mechs useless.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: The suits the Gen:LOCK team wear boost strength, speed, and confer a number of other abilities as well as protecting the wearer from small arms fire. Kazu doesn't know that when he tries to take down a Union agent and ends up speed-boosting right past his target to make an undignified face-plant into the wall behind him. Cammie also has trouble walking in her Holon at first because its proportions and center of gravity are significantly different from her real body.
  • The Infiltration: In "The Third Way", Chase, Yaz, Val and Migas work to infiltrate the Anvil after being declared as rogue military personnel in order to secretly destroy the mass-produced Holons.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: A number of the characters appear to be physically modeled after their actors, most notably Cammie (Maisie Williams), Yasmin (Golshifteh Farahani), and Dr. Weller (David Tennant).
  • Invaded States of America: The first episode shows the Union launching a full-scale invasion of the continental US in 2068, with New York being one of the first cities to fall. The rest of the show occurs after a four-year Time Skip, where they've managed to claim about a third of the country, from the east coast to the 88th meridian.
  • Inspired by…: According to Gray Haddock in interviews, the show is inspired by various works done by Gen Urobuchi and various Super and Real Robot shows like Gundam and Aldnoah Zero. This also includes Kiznaiver and Ghost in the Shell.
  • Kill and Replace: When a Union spy posing as a Vanguard operative takes Dr. Weller hostage, Weller speculates that the only way this was possible is if the Union agent killed the real operative and replaced him. Sinclair is recruited to the gen:LOCK project, but the man who arrives at the Anvil is not Sinclair. After being discovered rather quickly, he takes Weller hostage in order to obtain Holon technology. While the spy becomes visibly annoyed by Weller's assessment of him, he neither confirms nor denies that he killed the real Sinclair. The Stinger to Season 1 reveals that Sinclair is still alive and has managed to escape captivity, but he's currently Trapped Behind Enemy Lines.
  • Made of Iron: The Vanguard's Hornbill Dropships, seriously. They've been shown to take pretty much anything the Union can dish out, short of Nemesis, and still fly, fight, and drop off their embarked troops. It's entirely likely the Hornbill design itself is a large part of why the Vanguard's managed to hold the line as long as it has. Pretty much the definition of Awesome Personnel Carrier.
  • Madness Mantra: Nemesis has two. "Want out" and "Kill the copy".
  • Mecha: Miranda is introduced piloting a "Strider" mech which wouldn't look out of place in BattleTech note , whereas the gen:LOCK pilots upload their minds into Humongous Mecha which are fully humanoid in design. And then there's the Spider Tanks driven by the Union...
  • Mechanical Monster: The Union's "motherships", A.K.A., The Behemoths. They're the size of skyscrapers, can shield themselves and have turrets that will attack anything that gets too close. In addition, they also serve as carriers for tanks, drones, troops, and are the primary delivery system of the Union's nanotech swarms. Did we also mention that they will automatically target anything that's charging an EMP? They're also capable of quantum cloaking, making them impossible to detect, with one of them managing to get right up to the Statue of Liberty before being spotted. And, as a final kicker, they will release their nanotech swarms if crippled.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: The gen:LOCK recruits are introduced to their Holons when they're fresh off the assembly line and therefore haven't been customized. Although the Holons are given armor for their missions, they don't begin to receive customizations until after they encounter the Union mech, Nemesis, in the middle of the season. Only after the Union destroys the Anvil, forcing the gen:LOCK team to flee to the secret RTASA R&D base, are they given the full customizations that appear in the opening credits.
  • Missed the Call: The level of neuroplasticity required to pilot a Holon means that the pilots could end up having to leave the program after a certain age because the level of neuroplasticity decreases with age. Leon is gen:LOCK compatible, but Weller didn't recruit him because he's above the safe age-range. Subverted at the end of season 1, when Leon temporarily uploads himself into Sinclair's Holon and manages to save the team. Unfortunately, as predicted, this has dire consequences when Leon downloads back into his body, causing severe brain damage, a coma, and very nearly his death.
  • Mo Cap Mecha: Considering the pilots are controlling the Holons through Brain Uploading while wearing a bodysuit that molds itself to their bodies, the mechs essentially operate as if the pilot is wearing mo-cap clothing. It enables the mechs to smoothly run, jump, and otherwise function like the human body.
  • Multi National Team: The main heroes and their commanders consist of members from many different nations: Julian and Rob are both American (Brooklyn and Kentucky, respectively), Yasamin is Iranian, Kazu is Japanese, Valentina is Ukrainian, Colonel Marin is Puerto Rican, and Cammie and Dr. Weller are both British (Scottish and English, respectively).
  • Mundane Utility: The team is shown to use their state of the art gen:LOCK pods as beds while on the run from the Union.
  • Musical Spoiler: The presence of the Union on screen is usually accompanied by a trademark drone. When the drone makes a slow, menacing crescendo, it's a hint that the Union is about to do something unusual. It heralds the first appearance of the Nemesis, a mech capable of fighting the gen:LOCK team.
  • Mythology Gag: A few jokes about Rooster Teeth and their work occasionally appear in the show.
    • The global map in a preview shows the United States without Florida, in a nod to the Red vs. Blue show. Also, both "ever wonder why we're here?" and "it's one of life's great mysteries", referring to the very first scene of that show, have appeared as lines of dialogue.
    • When Cammie drags the team into the Ether for some VR gaming, she tries to encourage them to apply theme skins to the group's avatars. When she suggests a 'fantasy warrior' theme, she clothes the team in costumes found within the RWBY show. Also, the extras in the background are recycled from the Mercs trilogy from Red vs. Blue: Season 14.
    • The research base RTASA has its logo written in the exact font used by the RTX convention; this is exactly the same 'worm' font used by NASA, which is the organization RTASA appears to be based on.
  • Nanomachines: The Union uses advanced nanotech swarms that can be controlled by individuals or used on a much grander scale. While used in either manner, the swarms will consume any non-allied organic matter they come in contact with, leaving structures in tact for the Union to use later.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: The setting is revealed to be events occurring post a number of bloody Resource Wars in the wake of a Gaia's Lament that wrecked much of the Earth's ecosystem and left it most uninhabitable for humans. It was the result of these wars that allowed the Union to gain traction among the millions of broken and disenfranchised and convert 2/5 of the planet's human population to their cause.
  • No-Sell: Being autonomous units with no external input, Holons are immune to the Union's standard form of drone-subverter hacking.
  • Not the Intended Use: Dr. Weller repeatedly points out that gen:LOCK technology was never meant to be militarized, and that he had a number of other intended uses for it related to communication and helping humanity advance. However, the Polity stepped in and forced him to weaponize it in order to better fight the Union.
  • One Head Taller: Of the six heroes, five are roughly at the same height - and then there's Cammie, who's at least a foot shorter than them.
  • Perplexing Plurals: The multiple copies of Nemesis in Season 2 are referred to as "Nemesii". The plural of the word "nemesis" is "nemeses", and even knowing that, "nemesi" wouldn't be spelled with a double-i.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements: Very few people are compatible with the experimental titular gen:LOCK technology. Those who are not compatible will die painfully if they try to use it. As a result of the rarity, the Polity is stuck with the people it can find who are compatible, hence the undesirable group of individuals that have been brought together to pilot the Holons. All the early trailers involve Colonel Marin complaining about the science division's choice of pilots.
    Dr. Weller: Each of these recruits is one in a million!
    Colonel Marin: If you could improve gen:LOCK compatibility, we wouldn't have to rely on such sorry candidates!
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Union's tactics are designed to eliminate enemies, but leave infrastructure relatively undamaged so they can use it themselves.
  • Race Against the Clock: The Polity's best estimates give Colonel Marin only 6 months before the Union completely pushes them out of North America, but the gen:LOCK program is so experimental that only a few compatible subjects have been found to pilot the Holons, and none of them are desirable to the colonel. As a result, the ESU has recruited a Union defector, a disillusioned ex-spy, a teenage hacker, a rebellious cook, and a Vanguard pilot whose injuries are so extensive that he's required to live inside a life-support tank full-time.
  • Recruiting the Criminal:
    • Dr. Weller tells the Colonel that Yasamin Madrani is a top potential pilot, but she has to be signed to his custody from the Mesa Detention Center. The Colonel is not amused.
    • Happens again when Rufus identifies Cameron MacCloud and Iida Kazu as the next two recruits. Despite Madrani proving to be invaluable to their program, Colonel Marin is less impressed than before and flat out calls the pair "a hacker and a cook".
  • Rogue Soldier: The gL team goes into hiding after an arrest was attempted on the surviving members during Kazu's funeral just for criticizing Marin in "The Grand Guignol".
  • Sarcastic Confession: Leon orders Team gL to report to a debriefing session, and when Kazu bristles at the idea, sarcastically asks if he's expecting a party with confetti and the team's names on a banner. The "debriefing" is, in fact, a party celebrating the team's new callsigns, complete with banners and confetti.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several characters are named in reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest. The only female in her Strider squad, Miranda is named after Prospero's daughter, the only female in the The Tempest; her call-sign is "Tempest". Dr. Weller's robotic assistant is named Caliban, named after Prospero's slave.
    • In Episode 2, Doctor Weller is annoyed at Chase jumping ahead in his presentation, reprimanding him for 'spoilers'.
    • An irked Weller threatens to re-write ABLE to speak only in Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics. He makes good on it, too; ABLE later informs the Colonel in sing-song about a "message from a modern major general."
    • Cammie is prone to making pop culture references. She accuses Weller of wanting the gen:LOCK recruits to "Luke Skywalker the war" for them and compares Holcroft to the "Great and Powerful Oz" when he rattles off the history of each recruit when he first meets them.
    • In the Ether, one of the games is themed around 'fantasy warriors' and monster hunting; the outfits the team manifest when this setting is activated are from the fantasy, monster-hunting show by Rooster Teeth called RWBY.
    • Cammie's rabbit theme carries over to her Holon, which is given the callsign Trixx.
    • The comic spin-off shows Roboshogun on a poster. It's a recolored Raideen.
  • Spider Tank: Seem to be one of the main weapons of the Union. The end of the official trailer shows a gigantic one as well. Refreshingly, the regular-sized tanks lack the "pointy ballerina feet" common in most examples of this trope.
  • Spoiler Opening: The Season 1 opening gives away a few plot points and appearance reveals. For example, the team discovering the Holons is customizable is treated as a reveal in the show, but the customized Holons are shown in the opening credits. Nemesis is also visible in the opening but comes out of the blue for the characters in-universe. Sinclair is not shown as one of the core five pilots, but separated from the others; the shot of him is shown while the opening theme sings about a "lesser evil". In the show, he's the sixth pilot recruited to the gen:LOCK program, but is quickly revealed to be a Union spy who dies after a botched attempt to steal a Holon.
    • notably subverted in the last shot of Julian; his appearance initially flickers to reveal his life support tank, only changing to reveal Nemesis after their true identity is revealed.
  • Stealth Pun: Cammie's Holon deploys drones to augment her targeting system, making it easier for her to shoot on target. She's literally a hacker using aimbots.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Dr. Weller refuses to relocate to the safety of the Anvil until the Colonel approves his candidates' transfers, effectively holding himself hostage. Colonel Marin is utterly flabbergasted at this and has no choice but to accept the new recruits in spite of their...unique backgrounds.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Caliban follows orders in absolute silence and gives no sign that it can talk until the seventh episode when it suddenly starts to speak. The gen:LOCK team learn that Dr. Weller has been keeping it on a mute setting until that point. Caliban is one of Weller's earliest gen:LOCK brains and contains a sliver of Dr. Weller's mind. When it speaks, it sounds like Dr. Weller. Its attempts to mimic Weller's sense of humor is the reason why Weller activated the mute setting.
  • Super Robot Genre: Played with in regards to the Holons. While the regular military is firmly set in the Real Robot Genre, with conventional uniforms and fairly realistic "Strider" walkers, the Holons are superpowered machines piloted by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in sentai-colored uniforms, because the latter are the only people who can fit the gen:LOCK system. The reason it's played with is because, as shown in episode 4 and on, the Holon's armor have a "Camo" mode to at least make them somewhat less visible, and Val/entina's has a giant "Active Camo Cloak" for her upgraded Holon to wear, befitting her role as the team's Recon specialist and sniper. Also, the Holons original armor were more, as Dr. Weller put, utilitarian. The upgraded armor design by Cammie has a more Super Robot vibe but are still somewhat realistic.
  • Switch to English: Averted; Kazu speaks only in Japanese. The rest of the cast is able to understand him because their cybernetics provide subtitling. He does switch to speaking english only once in season one, and it's easily-missable unless you're listening specifically for his voice because he's speaking in unison with the rest of gen:LOCK during their 5-way mindshare against Nemesis.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Justified. Since the gen:LOCK pilots communicate using direct mindsharing, they're essentially exchanging thoughts instantaneously. This allows for seemingly drawn-out arguments and strategic deliberation in the middle of a fight.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: In Episode 6, this is written on one of Dr. Weller's whiteboards. Dr. Weller copied Chase's mind and stored it in a back-up module. When the original mind of Chase was captured by the Union, Weller downloaded the back-up to Chase's body, leaving Chase none the wiser. The question of who is the real Chase, therefore, becomes a plot point between Chase and Nemesis, who is the original mind of Chase; the issue is lampshaded by Miranda bitterly observing that she doesn't know who the real Chase is.
  • Time Skip: The show starts in 2068 when Chase and Worth are both 21. After the events of the first episode, there is a four-year skip to 2072, which is when the majority of the rest of the show takes place.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Chase is actually a consciousness backup uploaded to the original's body after the original Chase was captured by the Union.
  • Toppled Statue: The pilot sees the Union launch an attack on New York. When a Union Behemoth walks into New York Harbor, it cements its threat by toppling the Statue of Liberty as it walks by.
  • Transhuman: Under all the mecha action, the series takes a shot at all the various sci-fi tropes of how humans can be enhanced or modified and what makes a person themselves.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: The Polity was originally the UN, before it "rebranded" and combined with various Mega-Corp companies to reach its current status. It now appears to more or less function as a unified political entity, headed by a President.
  • Visual Pun: Cammie's signature color is green. She's also the youngest member of the team with literally no combat or military training at all prior to being recruited by Weller. In military slang, "green" (short for greenhorn) is a term for a raw recruit with no combat or military training at all.
  • Voice of the Legion: The team speaks in perfect unison during their five-way mindshare against Nemesis, giving this effect.
    Team gen:LOCK: You have something we need.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Anvil's command tower contains two massive, airliner-sized railguns called HAMMERs. It can two-shot kill a Behemoth in TEST mode! It can also fire ordinance over transcontinental distances.
  • Wham Line: The final line of the Season 2 premiere changes everything the audience and Chase knew about the moral dynamics of the war.
    Dr. Weller: '"The Battle of New York was NOT when the war went hot. Contrary to popular belief, the first strike was struck by the Polity twenty days prior.
  • Wham Shot: The post-credits scene to the Season 1 finale shows a Union soldier fleeing his patrol. He removes his helmet, revealing a badly-beaten Sinclair, having survived his Union abduction.
  • World War Whatever: The world is currently engulfed in a global war, and the preview mentions that the enemy, the Union, is gaining more territory, and the Vanguard has been reassigned to running defense only.