In the previous two seasons of their high-school comedy series, 'VGHS' has never done a prom episode. So how do they tackle it in their third and final season? By having none of their characters go to prom. Having established the current conflicts in the premiere, the second episode surprisingly jumps into anthology style. While it seems to just be an opportunity to goof off and indulge in roleplay, it actually does a better job of setting up what the characters are personally going through then the previous episode. From genre parody to a literal exploration of the unconscious, the episode is reminiscent of the delicate balance Dan Harmon and crew found on 'Community', staging a cartoon and then unexpectedly having it reveal the human fears of our characters.
As I mentioned, the episode is laid out in anthology style, complete with title cards. The stories somewhat interconnect, but unlike what I expected there isn't a 'Go' style woven narrative here. Events you expect to get callbacks are dismissed, giving each story a freedom to breathe completely on their own, making an experience that feels much larger and longer than its actual efficient 42 minute runtime. The first story involves Ki Swan investigating the kidnapping of Brian's cat Cheeto, allowing for a VGHS parody of noir storytelling, complete with hard-boiled narration, red herrings, and foot chases. In the second, Jenny Matrix is too sick to prom it up, spending the entire episode in bed, giving us a literal fever dream look into her psyche. Brian, left stag on the night of the prom and still hurt over his seemingly unsalvageable break with Ted, finds himself going to a frat party held by Games Dean's older brother. Finally, Ted is reluctantly made the wheelman for his drift buddies, resulting in...well...the unexpected.
It's a dark episode, it's a funny episode, and it's an insightful episode. There is respect here for characters and for the story that the RocketJump team is trying to tell. Yeah, it's a show that knows people squee when you slip a 'Toejam and Earl' reference in there, but by this point of 'VGHS' the video game element seems secondary to the damn good high-school comedy/drama it's become.
Everyone here is on their A-game, and the whole cast gets to have fun without it ever feeling like it's selfish or unwarranted. I'm tired of praising Johanna Braddy, she's too consistently good to review. Her segment is the shortest but easily leaves the longest impression. Josh Blaylock brings back the awkward and shares a wonderful scene with Harley Morenstein that practically demands a series just about Brian and Dean Calhoun. Ellary Porterfield gets to do what she does best, facial and gesture comedy, emphasized by the amount of acting she does silently during her segment's narration. Finally, Jimmy Wong gets his crowning moment, putting out his best performance of the show so far. Ech. You know your ensemble is shooting on all cylinders when a review is more like a damn list because everybody needs to get name checked for excellence. Benji Dolly's butt slide was amazing. Okay, now I'm done.
This is arguably the best single episode 'VGHS' has so far. It is indulgent yet ties everything into how the characters are currently feeling and hurting as to make it feel not only natural but indivisible from the jokey premises each story originates from. It's great storytelling and makes me proud to be a fan.