Video Game High School: S3:E6 – The N64

The Barnstormers have won. The days tick by as VGHS is slowly dismantled to make room for a new strip mall. All hope for the school rests on one last-ditch plan to wrest ownership back into proper hands and save VGHS.

Which would be great if someone could think of one.

After the cliffhanger of the last episode I wondered what loophole or contrivance the writers would invent to put the contract of the school up for grabs. The answer is, it isn't. VGHS is closing and Ki Swan's maneuver to pit the FPS teams of VGHS against Napalm Energy Drink High School is just to allow the gang to play one last game together before they go their separate ways. There are no stakes, no prize, just competition and the pride and joy of play.

Still, the match is no small affair. Having slowly built up the scale of the FPS sequences from the first episode throughout the show, 'VGHS' needed an end cap bigger than the rest. How does 32 players on 32 sound? Yep, pretty much every student that's ever gotten a line of dialogue in VGHS suits up for this big finale, a surprisingly effective thrill to see, as most of the VGHS cliques rarely cross paths in the show. It also results in giving everyone a Big Bad to tackle, resulting in some pretty satisfying confrontations after a whole season of getting kicked around.

Despite being a series finale, this episode was surprisingly light on character moments. Most of the episode is the climatic match, a rip-snorting blend of choreographed violence, slapstick humor, and emptying out whatever money was left in the budget for pyrotechnics and assault vehicles. It's as big as you could hope, both tense and cathartic.

As expected, we also get the resolution of The Law's arc, facing off against the Bieber-esque Neo Law. It isn't quite what I expected, but it does wrap the character up in a neat little bow. Season Three had been the weakest season for The Law yet, but seeing as how it wasn't about him it was good that the writers didn't bring him back to completely derail the show in the final moments.

As for the very end, it's fitting but abrupt (suspiciously so if you ask me, but I digress). When we do cut to black for the last time I was honestly surprised and kind of flabbergasted about the note they decided to end it on. There are so many things you expect to see upon the resolution of a story like this, and we get almost none of them. It's not by any means a bad ending, just one that seemed like bits were missing and plot threads left unresolved. It's a finale that both ramps things up to appropriately epic levels but then also flips off the light switch before it feels quite done.

As implied, I have read a little into what this could mean, but that kind of speculation is unfair after this kind of conclusion. At the same time, I also did consider what this ending could have meant if this truly is the last we'll see of 'VGHS' and how it relates to the story they told this year. While he never felt like the protagonist this season, the story of VGHS has always been Brian's, a coming of age about the trials and responsibilities that come with growing maturity and duty. The ending is a bit bittersweet maybe because accepting certain consequences to help people you care about is the hardest and last big lesson Brian needed to learn. It's not a tragic ending, just maybe a more complex and honest one, and one that seems to have been foreshadowed in an earlier piece of dialogue.

In thinking about the show and reflecting on its quality, something became rather clear. The show was made with effort, sure, but effort is easy. If anything, effort is the bare minimum anyone should put into anything. The reward for effort is you end up making something admirable. 'VHGS' on the other hand pushed well beyond admirable. Rocket Jump and their creative team took a Youtube fanbase, experience shooting action sequences on a budget, and a cast of not-particularly famous actors and built a world of characters that you felt you could care about and be affected by. There's a certain richness required in creation to extract that kind of effect, where you can go all over the emotional spectrum and never feel like you are over extending. The cast is a spectacular ensemble, the writers wield extraordinary command, and the direction trumps their wealthier contemporaries. That kind of quality is a product of love and care, a skimpy resource these days which makes it all the more precious. To think of where VGHS started to where this season ended on is kind of mind-blowing, a creative journey I feel grateful to have witnessed.

Score: 4/5