After the destructive last episode, the big question was how do you follow up and address the wreckage? The answer is...
We're on Episode 4 of 6 right? When do we get to catharsis?
Ki Swan has moved home after her self-inflicted personal humiliation, avoiding her friends and the questions of her parents, deep in denial. She even built herself a laugh track robot that turns conversations into an impromptu sitcom parody. Brian, Ted, and Jenny all show up to the house and are ambushed by Ki's parents, wrangled into a 'Couples Therapy' board game. Everyone is on their hammiest behavior, cracking weak jokes followed by canned laughter. It's terrible, and felt like an awkward inappropriate way to address the bleak conclusion of Episode 3. Then, midway through the game, someone receives a phone call. The laugh track robot is turned off. There has been an accident.
If you didn't think life could get any worse for the VGHS gang, it can and it does. What follows is an emotionally brutal follow up to an emotionally brutal episode. Everyone wanders around hollowly, trying their best to show support or handle their own reactions. It's red eyes, awkward silences, and horrible social blunders wall to wall. There are little touches of detail that are really uncomfortable for anyone who has ever experienced a close personal loss. It's not funny. Sometimes it's damn hard to watch.
Honestly, nothing in the rest of 'VGHS's catalog ever hinted towards episodes like this. Remembering back to Season Two it feels kind of quaint considering what has been attempted in the third season. I remember thinking the episode where Jenny had to write a nice speech about her abusively emotionally distant mother was going to be the dramatic peak of the show. Now, midway through this episode we have one of the best television format portraits of mourning since 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 'The Body'. I'm baffled as to where the team was hiding away all of this talent for straight-faced drama.
I won't spoil with specifics, but the performer who plays the griever in question nails it. The performance is frankly incredible, doing a lot with a little, never devolving into cliched gestures of grief and beyond what I could have expected from them. The other actors do amazing jobs as well, their roles reduced considerably to allow for the central story, but even when the camera isn't focused on them they exacerbate the sense of helpless sadness. Episodes like this show exactly how strong this ensemble really is; with no weak links the emotional tone is painful. A specific nod to John Ennis for reprising his role as Ken Swan, Ki's father who first appeared in Season Two's “Double XP Weekend”. I liked his performance in that episode and in this return he is the glue that helps tie the episode together and a welcome expansion of his already likeable character.
This Season has just been on a constant climb, inarguably the best season regardless of the coming conclusion. This creative team is uncommonly talented. Somehow they've pulled a TARDIS and fit a television season's worths amount of conflict and plot development into 4 episodes, about 40 minutes a piece without it ever feeling cramped or forced. How the hell did they do that? 'VGHS' is a world now, and will be missed after the final episode plays, now more than ever, leaving us just with the hope that a 'VGU' is a possibility in the foreseeable future. And if it doesn't happen? Well, I'll have to watch this cast and crew's future projects with great interest, because 'VGHS' was a unique platform for them to show us exactly what they are capable of, which is to say, a fucking lot. That said, could we get a happy ending please? I don't think I can take another episode like this.