The season closes with a bang as VGHS bows for the year, promising after the credits that a third season is indeed on the way after a well-earned siesta. From the opening moments everything you wanted to see this year happens; Brian and Jenny kick FPS ass, Ted gets to drift, and Ki gets a full-fledged martial arts throw down. Despite the action, the real drama this Season has been in the real world, and the finale is no different with emotionally heated theatrics that will have ongoing consequences well into next year.
It’s all on the line for VGHS FPS as the game that could end the team’s season looms on the horizon, but Jenny faces an unforeseen complication when Brian blurts out the ‘L’ word (Zip it ‘Scott Pilgrim’ fans) and she doesn’t know how to respond. Not only that but the recently exonerated Law is back on the team, unpredictable and out of practice. Meanwhile, Ted finds his friendship hasn’t fully healed from Brian’s painful blow-out in the previous episode and channels his frustration into the illicit gambling races put on by his drift team. Ki is feeling despondent as well as her passion for her RA position begins to weaken to boredom. When a chance encounter with an eccentric champion of fighter games interrupts her day she finds herself forced to face the demon of her own spiritual lethargy.
Again, the stakes really come from the relationships this year as Brian and Jenny’s comes to a critical head, and again Johanna Braddy and Josh Blaylock do a wonderful job making their onscreen romance (married in real life) genuine and believable. Special credit goes to Braddy who again gets to delve emotionally into her character during a confrontation with her onscreen mom, securing Jenny as the most fully developed character on the show. The FPS action is tightly shot and features some of the best of Rocket Jump’s signature imaginative gunplay choreography this year, punchy and creative.
Ki’s action sequence is similarly fun, one of the rare non-FPS action set pieces in the show, and concludes with the start of a conflict of great promise for Season Three involving Shane Pizza’s machinations. Ellary Porterfield has been one of the season’s greatest standouts and her end of season set up only suggests her participation will be even more fun when the show returns.
Of course Ted’s strained relationship with Brian is an important emotional focus of the episode, giving him material more serious than has been written for the character in the past. Ted, despite the wonderful efforts of Jimmy Wong and the Drift actors, has been a bit of the weak link in the writing this season as his solo stories seemed stuck in place with even his drift action in the finale feeling very similar to the challenges he’s faced all year. Still, even with all of the high-octane gunfire, revelations, and betrayals the dramatic crisis of Ted and Brian’s friendship is what left the fan’s talking and more than anything else this episode set up the most interesting shift in dynamic for Season Three, maybe exactly what Ted needs to really evolve.
As anticipated the finale showed The Law’s dramatic return to ‘Field of Fire’, sharing a team with his rival and ex-girlfriend. Alas, to keep the episode intimate between Brian and Jenny, his participation was funny but startlingly brief, but a bizarre scene featuring The Law regaining his powers with some ‘Fruit Ninja’esque carnage was worth the season long wait. The surprise conclusion of his arc also comes off as a slight disappointment considering my hopes for his character, but with the writing staff’s ability to surprise me with The Law’s antics even his new direction should be a blast.
Looking over this season it’s remarkable how much Rocket Jump Studios improved in all departments, taking one of the finest examples of free web media and making it more dramatically mature, technically proficient, and excellently performed. However, beyond their proficiency for making great entertainment I think ‘VGHS’ represents something even more.
Some media is created from a place of passion for a subject, and if the media is well made it can communicate to its audience in a way that makes them understand that passion on an emotional level even if they were uneducated or apathetic to the subject beforehand. The way ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ made me feel about street art, and ‘Ratatouille’ made me feel about fine food, ‘Video Game High School’ makes me feel the passion for video-games.
Now one might argue it isn’t hard to drive someone to play video-games, but in my case I was a very casual gamer. Besides the occasional ‘Smash Bros.’ and ‘Halo’ with friends I’d play about one video-game a year, and usually only in a franchise I had a previous love for like ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘Mass Effect’. When I finished the first season of ‘VGHS’ I became inspired to develop more of a relationship with the gamer arm of geek culture, listening to Let’s Players while I did my comic work and finally installing Steam on my computer and getting involved in ‘Team Fortress 2′ online. A lot of my affection for ‘VGHS’ stems from this, that Freddie Wong and crew could create something that instilled a greater appreciation for geekdom, something very valuable in a time when quite a bit of comics and film seem designed to blacken and crush my love for the mediums. That goes beyond making great media and is something I’m genuinely grateful for.
Directors: Matthew Arnold & Freddie Wong
Writers: Matthew Arnold, Will Campos & Brian Firenzi