(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “It Never Rains…”)
“It Never Rains…” is the seventh episode of Rooster Teeth’s mecha anime web series, gen:LOCK, released on March 2nd, and lasts twenty-four and a half minutes. This is, simple to say, a slow-paced transition episode, but there are many terrific moments, including the team-centric scenes and the Cammie gags.
When we left the gen:LOCK team in the previous episode, they were flying away from the Anvil, which has been consumed by Union nanotech with all of the Vanguard personnel inside. Now, the first scene rejoins the team as they try to contact the Vanguard, but no one is responding. Not only do I appreciate the ruminative guitar chords that accompany the scene, but also how it’s slyly revealed that the music is actually coming from Val/entina Romanyszyn playing Kazu Iida’s guitar. They have hazy memories of learning the guitar in Japan, which they gained from their mind-share with Kazu in the previous episode. This makes him uneasy, although Cameron “Cammie” MacCloud is quite comfortable with the experience, having done it with Yasamin “Yaz” Madrani. She jokes that Kazu’s head would explode if he had to handle her seventeen-year-old mind.
Moments after Julian Chase uploads himself to his Holon unit and patrols the night sky around the team’s plane, he begins to hear Nemesis taunting him for not being a real human. The line I find most meaningful from Nemesis is, “Are you still human if you can’t cry or sleep or dream?” This plot device is still so compelling, the Julian we’ve known being a digital clone of the real Julian, whom the Union has twisted into an evil Holon — even when it’s difficult to understand Nemesis’s garbled chatter. The team has an aerial skirmish with Union drones, and when they realize Nemesis keeps monologuing to Julian, Cammie hurriedly advises them to land the plane. She explains that Nemesis is connected to the gen:LOCK network and therefore able to track them whenever they use their Holons. In other words, none of them can upload themselves to the Holons. Julian lets his Holon get hauled into the plane before it takes off again.
As the recruits mull over their next move, with Yaz and Cammie keen on moving forward and Val/entina and Kazu more inclined towards splitting up, they bring up the death of Dr. Rufus Weller. This activates something in the android unit Caliban and makes him ask Julian for his password. He hesitantly responds, “Let the good times roll.” Caliban boots up the Omega Protocol and speaks in Dr. Weller’s voice, then projects a hologram of the good doctor. The message begins with him welcoming the gen:LOCK recruits and pointing out that he must be no more if they’re seeing this. Caliban was one of his initial gen:LOCK experiments, possessing a copy of his neural pattern and all the knowledge he had about the program. But he has horrible wit, as Dr. Weller says. Then he ends the message with a stirring bit about letting the team know they were important to him and he’s sorry for not sticking with them to the end. Yaz instinctively reaches out for Julian’s hand but is unable to hold it because he’s a hologram; this is a great moment that touches on the distance between the two recruits and implies the grief she feels for Dr. Weller. After his hologram disappears, Caliban informs the team that the gen:LOCK program’s next destination is the Rogue Technology Aeronautics and Space Administration (RTASA) facility for further R&D. I laughed out loud when he said, “The only disability in life is a bad latitude,” paused, and then added in a monotone, “Holding for laugh.”
While everyone else is sleeping, Yaz has a private talk with Julian, where she attempts to comfort him as he questions whether he, the digital copy, or Nemesis, who has been drawn into the Union, can be considered the real Julian. Yaz tries to convince Julian that he’s real to the team, but he says, “I don’t know if that’s enough,” and his hologram vanishes. The tone of this reinforces their relationship alongside the superb voice acting and writing, continuing to make us even more sympathetic for Julian; remember, he also rejected Yaz’s offer to mind-share in the previous episode.
I love it when the recruits arrive at the RTASA facility located somewhere in a desert area and Cammie says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” (Star Wars, obviously) to which Julian immediately responds, “Don’t even.” This is possibly the best gag for the entire episode. And because nobody is there initially to greet them, Caliban remarks that he’s received colder welcomes: the cemetery, the Arctic, the ex-wife. However, a security force quickly arrives to surround them, but they’re ordered to back down by Dr. Henry Wu, one of the scientists that the team rescued in Atlanta. He leads them into the facility (the entrance hall has a nice sprawling openness) and introduces them to Dr. Fatima Jha (Anisha Nagarajan, Outsourced, Bombay Dreams), one of the first collaborators on the gen:LOCK program. She’s incredibly sad when they tell her that Dr. Weller died, and as it turns out she’s his ex-wife. Amazed that the Holons are ready for being dispatched on missions, she leads the team to the hologram of Marc Holcroft (Matt Hullum, co-founder and current CEO of Rooster Teeth), the head investor for the ESU and RTASA.
Holcroft gives a brief overview of each recruit, and for the most part we’ve known the info. The exception is Yaz, who apparently was a Union member until she outed her parents as intellectuals, at which point the Union took them. The circumstances of what motivated her to do this and what role she played in the Union are left for us to theorize, but this does give one more nugget with which to piece together Yaz’s nebulous background. We also find out that Val/entina moved from Russia to Ukraine because of “societal pressures” — perhaps in relation to their gender-questioning status? It’s great that Rooster Teeth is an indie studio and is free to comment on the real world like this, contrasting with major animation studios who have to promote their films in China, Russia, and other countries who aren’t too friendly towards the LGBTQ community. This is why I don’t believe Elsa will have a girlfriend in Frozen 2, by the way.
Holcroft decides to allow the team to stay at RTASA in exchange for catching or wiping out Nemesis. Cammie has the CAD (computer-aided design) files for her design mods integrated into the Holons during the repairing and upgrading procedure, making each mech look unique. Yaz’s has wings reminiscent of Julian’s Holon. Val/entina’s has the long tails of hair flowing behind the head to resemble their real-life hairstyle. Kazu’s is inspired by RoboShogun, a manga he loved as a kid, for which he profusely thanks Cammie, saying his “ten-year-old me” is really happy right now. And Cammie’s, as expected, is a rabbit. When Val/entina questions the design, Cammie replies in a cheeky, Ruby Rose-esque fashion, “It me!” The episode ends perfectly with Julian appearing in the gen:LOCK uniform for the first time with a comment that it’s been four years and it’s time to change his look. It looks like he’s ready to accept the recruits as his partners.
The first half of “It Never Rains…” is excellent, giving insight on the team dynamic once again and then hitting home the emotions with Dr. Weller’s goodbye message, voiced marvelously by David Tennant. I had truly thought the doctor would have prepared a digital clone for himself in case of an emergency, but I guess he really is dead if they’re making this big of a deal about it. I’ll miss his sharp, bright wit, but on the bright side, Caliban does introduce a new brand of witty humor. And I wonder if the nanotech killed everyone at the Anvil, too. Miranda hasn’t been given much focus in any episode except the first one, so it will be very crushing if she turns up dead.
The second half, starting when the team lands at the RTASA facility, is basically an exposition dump. “Mediocre” is too strong of a word, considering it was interspersed with Yaz and Val/entina’s bios, the unexpected return of Wu and his funny lines, and the unveiling of the jazzed-up Holons. Holcroft feels secretive and shady like Dr. Weller, but there’s also an instinct loftiness in his personality with the way he basically sends out the recruits to rub out Nemesis. This is a bare-bones plot device; it isn’t great, but it’s acceptable. Now that we know Dr. Weller was once married, it makes me wonder what other parts of his life we don’t know about. Those matters could become the basis for future story arcs. But overall, the writing could have been much more energetic for this whole second half.
I’m intrigued by the fate of Nemesis; will Julian or one of the other recruits defeat him or will he live on into the second season? And will the Union’s goals be revealed or will that be saved for the second season as well? Nemesis is already sympathetic because it’s the real Julian, who has been tortured by the Union and mutated into an angry, damaged mech, but I hope we’ll also be able to sympathize with the Union. After all, there are enough stories with wooden antagonists who mwa-ha-ha as they conquer or annihilate the world. If only the sharp, staticky noises didn’t break up Nemesis’s dialogue, forcing me to replay specific lines. This is frustrating for a lot of people, and I recognize what the distorted voice is meant to communicate about Nemesis, but the execution is very, very off. His voice should have been designed differently so that he sounds villainous without making us struggle to understand him.
I think Julian and Yaz are capable of maintaining a close friendship without treading into romantic territory, especially since that would lead to an annoying love triangle with Miranda Worth. Val/entina and Kazu are definitely shipping; I’ve heard someone call them “plums and cherries” because of their purple and red bodysuits. Somebody else wants to call Julian and Yaz “Quidditch” because he has the Chaser call sign and she has a golden color theme. Personally, I think that’s too far-fetched. On a side note, Rooster Teeth is an expert at body language animation, as seen in gen:LOCK and the fantasy-action anime-style web series RWBY. Whether they hold hands, touch their shoulders, exchange significant looks, lean towards each other, et cetera, these little visual details make the characters and their relationships feel natural.
My last point — I’m crazy about RWBY, but it is not perfect. One of the flaws is its tendency to stretch the “finale” through three or four episodes, which drains much of the climactic energy. But gen:LOCK is so tightly written, which not only serves the overall story well but also allows the finale to take place exclusively in the eighth and final episode. Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross should take a cue from Gray Haddock and write RWBY in a snappy style.
Every episode up to this point has spent time on fleshing out the story, the characters, and the gen:LOCK tech in such enthralling ways, so my expectations are extremely high for the finale this weekend.
Windup score: 93/100