It's been far too long since the end of Season 1 of Video Game High School, and finally it's back. The first episode was plagued by server issues requiring redoing VFX shots at the last minute, but eventually the first episode got up and running. Question is, can it keep the magic going?
Right off the bat the creators show just how much they've grown as filmmakers. We open in a terrific MMORPG setting, which is a welcome change from the almost exclusively FSP rounds from the first season. Don't get me wrong, nothing will top that moment Brian D walked away from The Law after handing him a grenade, but the world of video games is so vast that every once in a while you felt the show was hamstrung by it's reliance on the FSP genre.
The effects have really stepped up a notch, and it's nice to see Ellary Porterfield's Ki getting more screen time as she was severely shafted last season. In addition to her trademark quirky brilliance this time around we get to see her sporting archery skills and dissolving enemy knights with ice arrows. Of all the characters to watch this season I think Ki is going to be it. She's still struggling with her incarceration in Ted's father's rhythm gaming course, but finds her way out after she saves the school varsity FSP team from a non-season.
You see, the humiliation of The Law by Brian D wasn't enough last season. Turns out that Law is also on trial for hacking (With Stan Lee himself guesting as a judge!). The verdict comes down and The Law's guilty verdict bans the entire VGHS from further participation in competition until Ki comes through with a loop hole.
Most of the episode is given over to Brian D trying to rekindle a relationship with Jenny Matrix, which while less completely awkward than last season does still put some drag in the episode considering the last time we saw them they had just shared one of the sweetest kisses ever shown on screen.
Johanna Braddy is a phenomenal actress, but sometimes I think her Jenny is just a little too hung up on being hounded by her Type A overachievement to 100 percent achieve pure likability. She's funny, she obviously has a heart underneath the typical VHGS bravado and smack talk, and she's just pretty as a picture. It's just that you want to shake her and until a decade of parental bullshit falls out.
It's not likely to happen, though. Her mom, a bigwig in the professional FSP circuit, has been made the school's new coach in hopes of recouping some of the prestige lost by The Law's defeat and subsequent legal troubles. In addition to shifting the focus more onto Jenny's personal issues with her parents, Cynthia Watros' place in the role is a blow to the show as it means no more Zachary Levi as Ace, who turned in an understated and frankly brilliant supporting performance as the FSP coach last season.
Still, I'll admit that Watros brings a more personal touch, and lends a more sober adult foil for the cast that the show sometimes lacks among all the trash talk tropes.
It's hard to judge the second season of the show at all so far. Season 1 opened with such monumental achievements in portraying this odd world where video games are more important than almost anything else that its very novelty made it addictive. Now that world has been established, and we're seeing honest character arcs being set up for the future of the emotional narrative. There's far fewer moments of the unique gamer-centric moments of humor (Though, also, thankfully fewer jokes like "I've wanted to go to VGHS since I was rated E for Everyone.)
Certainly none of the gaming sequences matches the white-knuckle duel between Ted and Drift King or the epic final battle. The FSP match in this episode felt more like a forgone conclusion, and you wait in vain for one of those Brian D moments where he pulls it off by thinking outside the box for an unorthodox solution. Instead, they win because they memorized a play by Jenny's mother, which if you think about it is the exact opposite of what made us love Brian D in the first place.
All that aside, I want to state with 100 percent serious that Video Game High School is the best web series on the internet. It is John Hughes for the modern generation (Meaning there are explosions and not everyone is white). It's a truly tender show that proves how powerful the episodic medium can be online, balancing perfectly between character and action. I can't wait till next week!