Out of both seasons, Episode Two of 'VGHS' Season Two may be the most complete single episode Rocket Jump Studios has ever produced. It's actually quite remarkable how much is fit into the zippy 30 minutes, establishing direction, expanding the world, and delivering their signature special-effects laden action. Oh, and of course there is the Return of the Law. As expected, life gets tougher for Brian D., now training in the high stakes world of competitive FPS, which doesn't just mean keyboard time but also a strict diet and exercise regimen. If that wasn't bad enough, The Law's public disgrace has revoked the program that gave Brian his scholarship, leaving him no other option than to perform work-study as a janitor. What once was no time for love has now also become no time for food or sleep either. Ted still finds himself struggling in drift class but is given a chance to prove himself by raiding soda for the team fridge in a 'Metal Gear Solid' themed ninja mission. However, his plan is thwarted by The Duchess, leader of a ruffian gang of Kart racers that are the arch-rivals of the Drifters, leading to a virtual confrontation. Free from Rhythm Gaming, Ki finds herself adrift, unable to break into her desired RTS class, and is by chance tapped to replace Ted as the RA for her floor. With her proper sensibilities and obsessive-compulsive personality it seems like a good fit until she finds herself the target of The Law's wrath.
The great potential of 'VGHS' was the opportunity to define a world built around the various flavors of video game genre, exploring and parodying game culture in specific and creative fashion. Staying close to their central theme, Season One rarely strayed far from the world of FPS, with only occasional nods to other genres. With Season Two's expanded scale and budget, the goal is clearly to stretch the world's legs out, and Episode Two gives us both a peek into VGHS's RTS class and a climactic live-action battle in an asphalt Mario Kart game. While it's not clear if The Duchess and her Kart racers will play a larger role later in the season, Ki's antagonist Shane Pizza (“The name's not dumb.”) and his snobby prep school RTS class are a welcome new shade of the student body and one that I look forward to spending more time with.
Meanwhile, The Law has returned, and despite his seemingly confident persona in front of the Courts, the Big Bad has self-imploded. It turns out his supernatural powers of intimidation and evil from Season One go both ways as he devolves into a malicious childish mess of burrito juice and failure. Brian Firenze is a human special-effect but is incredibly matched by Ellary Porterfield's Ki, who is quickly becoming the breakout star of Season Two. While clearly The Law's renaissance is coming, for now it's enough to bask in the glory of his new lows.
Rocket Jump Studios is known for their live-action visualization of game tropes from their long running YouTube channel and the experience is put to good use during the Kart Racing, including some nice sound design and cleverly mashed theme music. There's a certain kinetic quality to the comedy that actually feels reminiscent of 'Spaced', filling the runtime with strange and memorable color like The Law's internal perception of a world against him and Brian's food deprived in-game hallucination. While Brian and Ted's stories are predictably familiar, this energetic creativity gives even the most transparent tropes style and surprise.
'VGHS' steps it up for the second episode, delivering big developed entertainment. With the pacing and streamlined storytelling everything feels more assured, perhaps a sign that Rocket Jump is starting to get more confident as storytellers. And maybe maturity is a strange word to apply to something containing this many fart noises, but it does mean that an already great product is getting even better. Game on folks.