Video Game High School: Room for Improvement
Up until this point, my opinion of Video Game High School is that it's so awesome I have had to sew other words onto "awesome" against their will in order to create the appropriate hybrid needed to describe it. Episode 6 was certainly no slouch, but I think the time has come to address a few of the points that could stand to be improved in the show.
First, the plot and how it thickens. Brian D (Josh Blaylock) is one point away from expulsion, and school management asks him to simply quit rather than embarrass the school at the live-streamed tryouts that will be viewed all over the world. His name has become a byword for failure, he is surrounded by detractors and the Law (Brian Firenzi) punches him in the nuts because why not?
Still, in the end, with nothing to lose he manages to take on three players at once with a little help from Jenny Matrix (Johanna Braddy), and the episode ends not only on a victory, but with a sense of personal peace.
I like the journey of Brian a lot. He's an everyman who works best when he finds ways around the system rather than excelling with parameters. Nonetheless, the past two episodes have been basically one long wedgie for our hero, and it gets a bit overplayed.
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Especially since it doesn't seem to leave much room for the side story of Ted (Jimmy Wong) and Ki ( Ellary Porterfield). In the past I've referred to them as Brian's Ron and Hermione, but that's not really accurate because one thing J. K. Rowling knows how to do is flesh out her supporting cast until they're as real as the main star.
Ki, even with the gifted acting done by the pixie-ish Porterfield, barely has a story of her own outside of being a kind of game designer royalty offspring full of quirk and genius. She's a joy to watch, and sells her role to the hilt with a kind of Jayma Mays charm that is impossible not to love.
Ted has more going for him, but it lacks the nuance and depth of the main storyline. Despite his being the son of a famous guitar gamer -- series creator Freddie Wong in a hilarious cameo last episode -- Ted's true gift is in racing games. He denies this, and instead lives in the shadow of a famous and disappointed father who comes across as a combination Hiro Nakamura and the Asian Father meme.
Luckily, he has a strange but incredibly entertaining guardian angel in the Drift King (Rocky Collins). He blackmailed Ted into a match during the incredible duel scene in episode 4, and makes his triumphant return during a lunch break. His majesty knows that Ted has been hallucinating about racing since the duel, and gives a speech of such motivational genius I decided to transcribe it.
"You've got the bug, Ted. You can't escape this now. Cast off that silly little plastic guitar and grip the steering wheel of destiny. Even a man as fast as you can't run away from himself forever!"
Collins is a gem, and the King is a gift of a character. Like most of the people at VGHS, he is an overblown caricature, but he is a benevolent one with a fierce code of honor and a true desire for real competition. Every appearance by him has been more and more memorable, especially this time as he calls Brian Ted's vassal and hurls a drink in his face when Brian asks who the King is.
Even though, yes, it was exhilarating as always to watch Brian D pull off the win one more time, it's moments like these with the supporting cast that really fill up the space in a show. A lack of them, and a lack of the same push that's given to the main story when they do show up, is the only flaw in an otherwise perfect experience that I impatiently wait for every Thursday.
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