Video Game High School: Game Over?
I would like to take back some of what I said last week about a lack of character development in Video Game High School. Turns out I'm just impatient.
This week's look into Video Game High School is so far the second best of the entire series, but even that praise isn't totally accurate. Call it instead the dark mirror of the triumph of episode 4. Whereas that viewing experience was an orgasmic rush of triumph, music, and full-on personal empowerment, here the makers of VHGS show that they are not one-trick geek comedy ponies. Here they show that they are visionaries.
Much of that greatness comes from a more full exploration of Ted (Jimmy Wong) and the fact that he is expected to follow his father Freddie Wong (Played by himself) into the world of music and rhythm gaming despite having zero aptitude. Ted perseveres in an effort to win his father's approval, but the desire to drift race instead is making him insane.
Insane enough, at least, to hop into a trash can rather than confront him. In the end though, he is supported by Ki (Ellary Porterfield) to stand up and declare why he doesn't want to follow his father's dream. The elder Wong turns it around and manages to convince Ted that all his harshness has been tough love designed to bring out the greatness he sees in his son.
Once Ted leaves, though, he reveals to Ki that he is like so many other people at VGHS, a cold, defeated man that exists only to keep others in his shadow in order to bolster his own feelings of accomplishment. The scene give Freddie a chance to really show off the power of his acting talent, something that was buried in his previous brief appearance under a bad pratfall. Here, he is the living embodiment of the worst aspects of gamer culture, that of the snarling manchild who defines his wins as the losses of others.
The fact that Ki, the acme of sweetness and an unconventional genius to boot, is caught between such cold disdain is a pain that Porterfield brings to perfect life. As someone who has been nurtured and encouraged since early childhood in her pursuits, she is the appropriate anchor of the entire episode, a firm place to watch the juvenile madness explode.
And the madness, she do explode, brothers. Despite a final rejection from Jenny Matrix (Johanna Braddy) because she doesn't wish to jeopardize her place in the first-person-shooter teams through antagonizing the Law (Brian Firenzi) by hanging around him, Brian D (Joshua Blaylock) is determined to continue his quest for FPS greatness.
Firenzi manages his best bully scene yet, a long, drawn out recitation of his belief in his own awesomeness and a reveal that he deliberately keeps Jenny on the junior squad to allow himself ever more spotlight. At the end of his tether, Brian launches himself at the Law, and a full-scale riot ensues culminating in the greatest homage to classic games ever. Brian, backed by Ted and the Drift King (Rocky Collins who as usual manages to be unforgettable with a single line, "To war!'), Brian wins the battle, but loses the campaign. He is expelled for fighting and Jenny calls him an asshole.
With two episodes left, surely Brian finds a way out of this, but part of me wishes the season would end right here because it is just so damned good it's hard to imagine the final act topping it. Will the last two weeks makes us cheer like a Final Fantasy, or curse like Mass Effect 3? God, I hate waiting.