Video Game High School - Season 2: Episode 3

It's Parents Day at VGHS, and as expected nobody is having an easy time of it. Jenny finds herself unwillingly drafted to give an introductory speech for her cold emotionally unsupportive mother's 'Parent of the Year' award, Ki finds herself having to make a case for her continued enrollment to her bureaucratic father, and Ted...well, Ted's situation made me laugh harder than any other moment in the show's run. Meanwhile, The Law finds himself immersed in Ki's new video game based on Brian D's  trials from season one, which leads to catharsis, perhaps for the wrong reasons. Episode Three marks the halfway point for Season Two and delivers up the best developed character study of the show's run. It's a common tool in the screenwriter playbook to use parents as a way of easily delivering exposition and 'ah-ha' moments about a lead character, but the use of the trope here is more sensitive than you'd think. Ki's dad is the cliché you'd expect; bow-tie, academic, Von Trapp structure, but he shares a genuine paternal chemistry with Ki's Porterfield and is given space to be more than a cartoon. Also, since we've already met Ted and Brian's parents they get to play support staff to the main story, preventing the episode from becoming too top-heavy with character screen time.

In a first for the show, the main plot is given to Jenny, who finds herself emotionally tested by the seemingly simple task of writing about her mother. Johanna Braddy gets to play with some of the more emotionally heavy material 'VGHS' has attempted and sells it wonderfully, the show finding a natural point to push Jenny and Brian's relationship to a head. It was a risky but necessary choice to play Jenny and Mary's harsh bond straight, one which I almost thought the team was going to bungle with an unearned happy ending, but at the last-minute a wise knife-twist is delivered proving a trust in the characters by the writers that's authentic and refreshing. I can say for the first time this season that I'm actually interested in Mary Matrix's role, if only for how Jenny's relationship with her will pan out in the end.

Meanwhile, Gollum-like laundry pile dweller The Law hijacks a copy of Ki's pixelated playable adaptation of Season One and finds himself in the virtual shoes of the kid he harassed an entire semester; The Law is getting bullied by himself. It's a clever way to deliver a turning point for our demoralized nemesis, but his revelation isn't quite what one might expect leaving us again with the great motivating question of 'what is The Law going to do next?'.

For the third episode in a row 'VGHS' keeps shedding the webby feel of Season One for more narrative quality and character depth. While so far lacking the overarching structure that the previous season benefited from, it's a real joy to watch the show trust it's characters enough to let them take the weight of the second season, rather than tacking them to an anted up repetition of the former. Having crossed the threshold into the final stretch we'll no doubt start to see the beginnings of the big challenges facing Brian D. and crew in the finale, but for now it's satisfying to see Rocket Jump's ambition for more than just bigger action pay off.

Watch The Episode Here!

Play Ki's Video Game Here!