The best shows have a way of making you not want them to end. The writers do their best to make the plot satisfy you so you will close the book and feel like it has finished its course, but you never do. That is the boat Video Game High School is in. The characters are so lovable and memorable that the show could have gone for another five seasons, but the creators were tasked with finishing all of their stories in this season. This was a big challenge.
Many shows that garner popularity tend to go out on a victory tour, giving fanfare to the viewers and highlighting the most lovable points of its characters. This is not the approach VGHS takes. This season, all of the characters hit some of their darkest times. I won’t spoil anything, but all of the major characters go through life-changing events that make them look at their lives from a different angle. Even Ki, the unwavering bastion of caring and righteousness, finds herself questioning whether good always wins. VGHS swung for the fences with the story.
This is a good thing. These actors and actresses really have come into their own and it’s noticeable as they flex their acting muscles. After seasons of Ted Wong goofily deflecting anything that might hurt his feelings, he finally hits his breaking point and shows a wide range of emotions. As the show digs into his relationship with his father, it creates some very powerful stuff. Ki also creates some moving work as she is put in a position where she can’t fix everything with both her life and friends. It’s one of the few times in the show that “life happens” for her and she is not used to be powerless to it. Brian, who has carried the show at times from an emotional standpoint, continues in that regard. While he steps back as the main character and lets his friends join him in the main narrative, he continues to be the glue that holds the group together and finds himself in tough situations because of it. His friends need him even when they don’t realize it. Brian, or Josh Blaylock rather, deserves awards for his parts in this show as a whole.
The one character I was a touch disappointed with was Jenny Matrix. Don’t get me wrong, her acting was solid and I like her as a character. However, her desire to be a professional gamer is a huge focus during this season. The viewers always knew that Jenny was the player in the school that had the best chance of going pro and it was her lifelong dream. I find this a little strange because Brian actually carried the team on his back quite often and was shown to be on Jenny’s level throughout the show, but the writers made it obvious that he didn’t have a chance of going pro. We always knew that this would inevitably lead to a conflict between Jenny and Brian. Well, that conflict happens in this season and it absolutely tears Jenny apart. She has to come to terms with who she is and what she wants. After this issue seems to be resolved, later in the series, she does something that completely contradicts this in a matter of three seconds. It seemed the character hadn’t really progressed at all and it was disappointing to see, but the writers knew what they were doing. It was destined from the start.
The show also adds some new bad guys, which was refreshing. At the end of Season Two, Ashley Barnstormer and his Napalm Energy Drink High School pop up and nab The Law in a seemingly random move. This story arc is fleshed out and you realize that this energy drink company/high school is gunning for VGHS. Dean Calhoun has made some powerful enemies, one being Ashley and another being a known face I won’t reveal. Napalm Energy Drink High School has an unlimited amount of money, as does its two leaders, and that money allows them to do anything they want, which puts the protagonists in bad situations over and over again. Ashley Barnstormer is absolutely hilarious. He calmly connives and picks people apart. He is very similar to The Law from Season One. The scene where he is a “captive” was particularly funny to me. Napalm also picks up a new face, who you will recognize from Disney’s iCarly, and he brings up one of the most random plot twists in the show to date. It is pretty funny and he immediately becomes mortal enemies with The Law for more reasons that one. He is a man of few words, but gets some very memorable scenes, especially closer to the end. Ki’s old rival, Shane Pizza is also a blast to watch. He never loses and so calmly buys his way out of every challenge and problem. He also has a much bigger role in this season in ways you wouldn’t even imagine. His condescending tone is hilarious and how he has kept it through three entire seasons without letting a smile or chuckle slip is impressive. Snaps, Ki. Snaps.
That brings me to one of my biggest disappointments. The Law is practically not present in the entire season. I know Brian Firenzi, the actor who played The Law, moved to London after Season Two but I still find the aggressive phase-out of The Law disconcerting. While every character has a special place in my heart, The Law has always been my personal favorite character of VGHS. His romance with Shotbot and the narrative of him uncovering his framing by Shane Pizza in Season Two carried the show for that stretch. The Law was eccentric and ridiculous, but was human at the same time. I would go so far to say that he was so humanized in the later part of Season Two, he was turned into a good guy and the viewers were rooting for him. Of course it was a “Law” move to immediately go against Brian and his friends at the first chance he got to join Napalm, but what followed wasn’t. He immediately became a subordinate to Ashley and allowed himself to be pushed around, which doesn’t fit his character at all. Then he practically disappears for the rest of the season to then pop up for an anticlimactic finish in which he doesn’t get revenge or even try to against any of the people who wronged him. He was turned back into the comedic relief character who pops up a handful of times that he was in Season One. It was just so disappointing because in Season Two, he really was fleshed out and became a driving force of the show. Maybe I just love The Law too much and am the only one who cares he was gone. While I’d have a beer with any of the cast mates of this show (except the girl who played Sushi Princess, of course), Brian Firenzi would have to be on the top of that list. Look at his Twitter account. He is a complete hoot.
Season Three featured all of the side characters we have come to love from Wendell to Games Dean to Clutch to Jumpin Jax to Drift King to the Duchess. It was wonderful to see, but I wish the show could have gone longer so that we could see their stories drawn out more. How did the Duchess of Kart and the Drift King get to their respective roles as the lead of each racing team? How did the two racing teams come to hate each other? Many of the side characters could have had their own stories, or at least origin stories, and I felt like there were opportunities left on the table, but this was likely due to resource restraints. They were very clear about this third season being the final season so they obviously couldn’t travel down too many avenues. At the closing of the season, I felt unsatisfied with the endings of the side characters, They just basically disappear into the woodwork after the climax of the entire show. I was hoping for Wendell getting the respect from his peers he worked so hard for; Drift King and Duchess excitedly hugging and showing that there is hope for a racing-based friendship; A real showing of friendship between Games, Jax, Brian, and the other FPS players; or just maybe a small montage showing what happened to everyone. I also was a bit saddened by Drift King sliding back into a villainous role towards Ted as I thought Season Two hashed that out, but he redeems himself. There are many great things done with the side characters, though. I won’t tell you it, but one of the best scenes of this season involves Dean Calhoun. You’ll know it when you see it.
Those complaints are so miniscule towards how amazing this show is, though. The action scenes are better. The acting is better. The story is real and makes the characters suffer to come out stronger in the end while peppering in the trademark VGHS humor. This season even adds in MMO, JRPG, and social gamers into the school’s cast, which was hilarious. Season Three was a great tribute to not only VGHS itself, but gaming as a whole. Plus, it features one of the craziest final scenes of a show I’ve ever seen.
One other thing that I personally enjoyed about this season was the adult theme. Season Three starkly deviates from its more kid-friendly past. There are jokes about sex and cussing. This doesn’t seem like a video game-based Disney show anymore. This is a thought-provoking, roller coaster of emotions that keeps true to its fun and giddy nature while taking you to places you never thought VGHS would. I loved it. Its cheesiness is a big part of my love for VGHS, but this move towards adult content was a great one that paid off. I won’t mention the ending of the show, but even that isn’t the Disney perfect ending we would expect from VGHS, but instead follows in the footsteps of other emotionally driven shows like Friday Night Lights. VGHS brings it.
All in all, Season Three of Video Game High School hits big. While I wish the show could go on for another ten seasons, this is the finale we get and it does more than enough. We learn who Brian, Jenny, Ki, and Ted really are as they, as well as the whole school, are tested by these new evil forces represented by Napalm Energy Drink High School. We go to both the bottom and top with these characters by the end of the season and it is an incredible and rewarding journey. My lone complaint that I will carry over is the lack of The Law, but that doesn’t detract much from what is otherwise a near perfect closing to one of my favorite shows ever. To those of you who didn’t donate to the show and have only seen Episode One:
‘LAW READY FOR THIS?
To watch Episode One of Season Three of VGHS, go here.
-Marty F. Nemec