Video Game High School: King of the Hill
Here we are at the end of another season of Video Game High School, and hopefully it won't be quite so long a wait until we get into Season 3. Considering that the last time we had a finale it was truly triumphant, a victory that left everyone watching cheering at their screens, it was a tough act to follow. Did they?
In many ways, despite being a very action oriented episode much of the pulse of play comes to a slow stop. Everything is focused on out four main characters coming to certain realizations, and on almost all cases those realizations are taking them someplace sad and different.
First among those is Ted. He's always been a somewhat weak character. He almost slavishly attached himself to Brian at the start of Brian's tenure at the school, and Brian, then under constant attack, was grateful for Ted's support and encouragement. As the show has progressed though, Brian has come out of his own shell to be a confident leader while Ted still struggles to stand up for himself.
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This comes down to a race with Drift King, after Ted discovers them gambling on races. He's dismissed with a condescending "Go get us some sodas," but comes back eventually to win respect after a hard fought and inventive duel. There's one thing that it teaches him, though, and that's that as long as he willingly stands in Brian's shadow for support he will never be his own person. Heartbroken, he moves out of their room and leaves his homemade Best Friends badge behind.
Ki is on her own path. Even more than Ted it's a mystery what she's supposed to do in the school. Objectively brilliant, but frozen out of every team by close-minded bullies, she's found most of her solace in running the dorm floors with efficiency and warmth. She's at her best when helping people, which is at odds with her skills as a fighter.
It takes a wandering opponent named Ronin to teach her that, played with great effect by stuntwoman Tara Macken. She shows up ostensibly to beat down and expose an off the grid gamer, but she perks up when meeting Ki. Ronin lives to fight, and wonders what it is that gets Ki out of bed in the morning.
The fight scene between the two is one of the most impressive bouts yet in the show, and could even give several Mortal Kombat: Legacy fights a run for their money. That's to be expected from the physically gifted Macken who has been doing stunt work since she was a child, but Ellary Porterfield looks like she's never had a bruised knuckle in her life.
Nonetheless, she holds her own in a grueling contest of fireballs and high kicks that is a jam to watch. It's almost Scott Pilgrim in execution... almost. It was done no favors by the constant shifts to other action, and maybe a more driving rock soundtrack would have gotten the blood flowing a bit better. Hopefully they'll work on that for next season.
As for Brian and Jenny, they're once again up on the FPS front, and this time they're teamed with The Law. If there was a failure of the episode, this was it. It was a real missed opportunity. There's nothing I had been looking forward to more than the return of Law as he badass he truly is deep down. Awful guy? Absolutely, but under that is a gifted gamer.
While there are brief moments of genius in the scene from the three main players' interaction, for the most part Firenzi is wasted in the name of a puke joke, an ass joke, and a bizarre pointless scene where he shoots peaches while waiting to respawn.
See also: Video Game High School: Play to Learn
Everything has been building to this... Jenny and Brian being truthful about their relationship to themselves and to Jenny's mother and Law coming back from a frame job that took everything away from him. It was an opportunity to see the three of them in truly amazing form. Maybe not as a well oiled machine, but definitely as a ragtag group of three different types of genius improvising off of each other to a Hail Mary victory.
Would that have messed up the ending with Law turning his back on the team for another school? No, it would have made it even more like something he would do. What better way to assert that old villainous superiority than to not only prove he still has a unqiue gaming acumen, but to at the same time leave the team he is surely to face in the playoffs dejected by pulling an emotional rug out from under them?
Instead, he runs off into a firefight holding two grenades in an almost pointless death.
I love this show, and look forward to next summer when it returns for the final chapter of Brian, Ted, Ki, Jenny, and The Law. No other show has explored game culture and it's affect on growing up like the makers of VGHS have done. It's a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience, even when it misses a mark here and there. Oh well, no one has a 100 percent kill rate.
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