Coming off the unbelievable euphoria of the last episode of VGHS took a solid week, and frankly I didn't think that the show could top such an incredible high...And I was right, but maybe not in the way I was thinking.
Is Episode 5 as much fun to watch as the dancing/driving duels of the last episode? No, in fact, not fun to watch pretty much defines Brian D's (Josh Blaylock) adventures in his first scrimmage on the junior varsity first-person shooter team. Up until this point, Brian's existence at VGHS has been one of unorthodox victories, of triumphing over the odds through a combination of inventiveness and simply not being an overbearing asshole like a good portion of his ego-driven classmates.
This time, though, he makes the cardinal mistake of believing his own hype. The scrimmage against the varsity team is hyped all over the school by bookies as a death match between Brian and varsity captain the Law. Once again, Brian Firenzi takes the Law to a whole new level of bully.
Brian is psyching himself up in the locker room when the varsity team walks in. Hiding in a locker, Brian overhears the Law telling the team that Brian's place on JV was part of his plan. Opening the locker Brian is in, but keeping the door in a position so that the rest of the team doesn't know he's there, Law proceeds to explain in loving detail how much he is looking forward to shooting Brian over and over again.
It's a fantastic scene between Firenzi's over-the-top delivery and Blaylock's absolute mastery of the reaction shot, and it accomplishes exactly what the Law wants. Once the game starts, Brian is so thoroughly rattled that he decides to take the match to the Law...which is a big mistake.
I've said before how the message of the show is that the rules of the game are set up by people who are very good at playing by those rules and winning using them. It's when Brian breaks from the set formulas that he shines and shows his mastery. But here, in this important first game, he seeks to try and match the Law on his own turf and is thoroughly humiliated. There is just no competing with someone who controls the parameters of the game if you insist on following those parameters.
In the end, Brian's score in the school drops to just above the expulsion threshold, and the Law celebrates with one final silent pistol shot at our dejected hero. It was an oddly transitional episode this week, with a few good moments but otherwise serving as little more than an ease-down from episode 4. We're halfway through the series, so I expect that the action will begin building to the third act very soon.
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