(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “The Only Me I Know”)
“The Only Me I Know” is the sixth episode of Rooster Teeth’s mecha anime web series, gen:LOCK, released on February 23rd, and is twenty-five and a half minutes long. Simple to say, this episode is thrilling from start to finish with its insightful development of the main protagonist’s backstory, the impressive and well-choreographed battles, and a few dark plot twists that leave my brain bursting with fan theories.
The first thing I need to point out is the slight change in the opening credits. At the point when it normally shows the protagonist Julian Chase in his preserved state, it shows a flash of him in this Terminator-like form instead — pale skin, black eyes, a glowing red mark on the side of his face. This only made sense to me after I finished the episode, and it makes me wonder how things will pan out in the future for Julian.
The first scene involves him talking to the uneasy Miranda Worth, who’s mulling over Nemesis, the terrifying mech that not only attacked the Vanguard twice but also spoke in a warped version of Julian’s voice and said some unsettling things that made it sound as if he were actually Julian (e.g. quoting “Let the good times roll” and calling Miranda by her name). Julian refers to himself as “the only me I know,” hence the episode title.
When everyone returns to the Anvil, the Polity scientists whom the gen:LOCK team rescued from the Union base last episode are being flown off again for a debriefing. Leon August informs the team that they have to be debriefed as well to review their mission performance. Meanwhile, Julian meets Dr. Rufus Weller up on the observation deck and questions him about Nemesis. Dr. Weller saying “You ever wonder why we’re here?” is a reference to a line in the first episode of Rooster Teeth’s Red vs. Blue web series.
Dr. Weller confesses that, after Julian’s maimed body had been recovered from the remnants of New York, the gen:LOCK program made backups of his mind; they uploaded copies into a data box while the real Julian was sent out on missions. The Union gained knowledge of the program and kidnapped his Holon on a mission, and with that they had taken his mind, too. The Experimental Science Unit still had his physical body in a tank, so they were forced to upload it with the backup of his mind and then shut down the copying technique for all the other recruits. This is such a powerful scene, what with David Tennant’s understated voicing of the monologue, the time-lapse still shots used to animate the accompanying flashback, and the mellow score composed by David Levy. The end result is a scene that makes me much more emotionally invested in Julian than before. Now that we know he’s a digital clone, it makes sense as to why he has acted so aloof since his “revival” in the second episode, “There’s Always Tomorrow.”
Then the Behemoth, a gigantic arachnoid vehicle introduced in the first episode, “The Pilot,” materializes in the distance. An astonished Dr. Weller asks what it is, and Julian grimly answers, “Karma.” Nemesis, AKA the real Julian Chase, appears next, contacting the Anvil with a furious request that they “kill the copy” and that the Union will return him to his body. Dr. Weller tries talking him down, to no avail. The battle officially starts once Julian’s Holon attacks Nemesis. The rest of the Holons and the Vanguard’s tank pilots subsequently join the fight, providing plenty of action that’s reminiscent of the best of RWBY’s high-energy fights. And as I’ve said before, the Holons are animated like agile humans, not clunky mechs, which is why their movements look and feel so natural.
My favorite part here is when Valentina Romanyszyn mind-shares with Kazu Iida once he has been trapped by Union troops and spider mechs. The two recruits engage in a sort of dance sequence in their digital space with swords in hand, perfectly in sync so that Kazu’s Holon stabs and slashes at the Union forces. On top of that Valentina had short hair and may have been present in the digital space in a male form, which would fit with the gender-questioning facets of her character design. I’m trying to think of a ship name for them, maybe something related to the purple and red hues of their bodysuits or Kazu’s electric guitar. It’s also notable that Julian rejected Yasamin “Yaz” Madrani’s offer to mind-share; Julian is the only recruit who hasn’t used this tactic.
Once Union troops and drones end up intruding into the Anvil, Dr. Weller orders the team to return to their bodies so they can escape with Julian and Dr. Weller’s android unit Caliban. A Union drone hovers into the lab, but Caliban promptly pulverizes it. Quite a few things happen when the recruits head into the lab, including Dr. Weller’s brief but emotional goodbye with Yaz, Cameron “Cammie” MacCloud’s impatient cursing when Kazu makes a point of retrieving his guitar, and Caliban wheeling Julian’s tank into an elevator with the team. However, Dr. Weller stays behind to impede the Union troops that storm the lab, and he sets off a bomb to prevent them from stealing gen:LOCK intel, sacrificing himself in the process.
In the middle of the team racing through the Anvil, they discover a room that Leon had set up for their “debriefing,” which was actually going to be a surprise party. A banner across the ceiling reads their call signs: “Wraith” for Valentina, “Huma” for Yaz, “Chaser” for Julian (cornball, in my opinion), “Trix” for Cammie (as silly as the rabbit-themed cereal itself), and “Shogun” for Kazu (how much more on-the-nose can they get?). In spite of those call signs, this bit is a nice break from the nonstop action. And then they jump back to the escape, concluding with a knife that Valentina hurls at a Union soldier’s face (strangely enough, she doesn’t bother to pick up the knife while running past the unlucky soldier).
As Miguel “Migas” Garza escorts the team to a Hornbill plane, we get a snippet of the Julian-Nemesis brawl, and then the Anvil fires a cannon called the Hammer that destroys the Behemoth. But its wreckage releases a giant nanotech cloud that engulfs the entire base with the Vanguard members inside. Julian’s Holon has flown up to the roof, and as he’s unable to contact the control center or any of the ground forces, including Miranda, there’s nothing he can do but join the rest of his team in their escape.
This is one of my top two favorite episodes alongside “Training Daze.” It continues to advance the story with efficient writing that keeps things speeding along, especially with the revelation that Julian represents both the hero and the villain. I predicted this earlier, that either he or Nemesis was the clone, and I’m very excited to see how this will unfold. I noticed that Dr. Weller and others refer to Julian as Chase and Nemesis as Julian; there may be an important narrative element in this differentiation between names.
When that bomb exploded in the lab, I initially thought, “No, no, no, Dr. Weller cannot die now.” After considering the fact that he created a digital clone of Julian, though, it seems plausible that he would do the same for himself. He certainly strikes me as the kind of person who would prepare himself for this kind of emergency. And did the nanotech kill off Miranda, Colonel Raquel Marin, Migas, Leon, and everyone else inside the Anvil? They have to be alive; I find it hard to believe we’re going to lose that many main characters.
The only issue I have is pretty small, but it has to do with Miranda. Rooster Teeth had promoted her as a main character, yet she’s being pushed off to the role of a side character. Fortunately, there are strong and complex female figures like Cammie, Yaz, and Valentina to compensate for this. Still, Miranda has a lot of potential, and I’ll appreciate it if Gray Haddock fleshes her out in the second season.
Boy, only two episodes are left. If you haven’t watched gen:LOCK yet, then start now. My confidence is growing that the finale will blow us all away.
Windup score: 94/100