by Ian Pemberton
RedVsBlue(RvB) continues its tradition of being the longest-running video game series on the web, and it’s one of the few shows I know that has made a successful transition from a largely character-based absurdist comedy to a serious plot and back and forth again. But its latest season took a different approach to Season 14: for the first time ever, it would be a series of shorts taking place in the series’ universe rather than a consistent narrative.
“I’ve been here before.”
And then I got this sinking feeling of, ‘I’ve been here before.’ In kind of a bad way.
As a fan of the series from Episode 1, I hungrily waited all summer long, holding off on watching any of it. Eventually, the last few episodes came out, and I binge-watched most of the entire season, start to finish.
And then I got this sinking feeling of, “I’ve been here before.” In kind of a bad way.
It’s not as though the series has changed so much that it wasn’t the same comfy blanket that I love cuddling up with on the start of a new school year; all the characters have the same sparkle of sarcastic loathing that the series is known for, and all the jokes hit their marks in the same way they always have. Rather, it’s just that this season bounced ideas off of a wall to see what stuck.
Many stories to tell
Every episode begins with a narration from Vic, the saucy (but helpful) AI from Red and Blue command, but that’s about the only similarity between episodes. From there, different characters and stories get their chance to shine.
Many of the episodes are quite charming in their own ways, and provide origins for some of our beloved space-trooper idiots. Simmons, Grif, Sarge, and Tucker get their own episodes showing how they were specifically picked for being the worst soldiers that ever joined the RvB corps, allowing for a bit of one-on-one screen time. They’re put in situations where they expose their entire character in a nutshell, such as Sarge’s complete commitment to duty and ‘killing the Blues’ unintentionally killing his entire training squad, or Tucker’s interview to join the Blood Gulch squad (“[Where do I see myself in] 5 years? Ugh, hopefully I’m not dead.”).
The episodes showing Felix and Locus as bounty hunters wanting to make a difference in the world are especially of note, having some fantastic fight choreography and spectacular music choices. As well, references to other RoosterTeeth shows are plentiful for any RoosterTeeth junkies to pick out.
A little unfocused
I kind of miss that ‘RvB feeling’…
Every episode has a different story to tell, and that made the focus of the entire season feel diluted and unfocused.
Because of the anthology narrative and the same basic character beats every episode, it feels like the entire season is the same episode with a different flavor. Every single episode is a different genre and tone, but the characters’ lack of change makes the entire season feel weightless. And because there’s no gravity to the situation, unlike previous seasons, it takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. A lot of the charm of the show is the fact that these bumbling buffoons of soldiers are put into such dangerous positions that were out of their control.
As a whole, I felt disappointed by Season 14. The bar had been set so high by the previous seasons not only in their unique sense of humor, but also by the smart narrative. Every single part of the story wrapped with every other part of the story, and nothing was taken for granted. There was always an inherent understanding of peril in the show, but none of that really impacted their shenanigans. They were trapped in war zones and still trying to kill each other instead of their actual enemies, almost in spite of the seriousness of the situation!
And all of that is still there, and I still admire the show’s willingness to experiment, but I kind of miss that ‘RvB feeling’ of having a uniquely twisted story tossed between these incompetent imbeciles. Taking out the intricate narrative makes this entire season feel like it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the show. Not to mention that a lot of the ideas for the episodes have been borrowed from pop culture (including a stop-motion episode).
While this season demonstrates the humor just as well as every other season, the humor by-and-large doesn’t really change: Grif is still fat and lazy, Sarge is still gun-ho to everyone he meets, Tucker is still a lady-killer, Caboose is still an idiot, Donut is still fabulous, etc. Yes, it’s still funny for fans of the show, and if you liked it before, you’d still like it now. But because there’s no change, it risks getting stale and predictable.
I got the feeling of “I’ve been here before” not because of the show getting stale, but more because the entire season was inconsequential: nothing changed. The main characters didn’t grow or learn anything, and nothing was at stake. You could not watch season 14 and still be at pretty much the same place in the story you were before you watched it.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like Season 14 overall; it’s still RvB, and it’s still got that charm and wit to it that not a lot of other shows pull off. While I don’t like the show getting repetitive, I called it a blanket because it is one: it’s a nice, comfortable show to watch with characters that I already like. It’s more that the blanket’s getting a little dirty, and it could probably use a wash to freshen it up.
Despite the difference in structure and style for each episode, it takes away from the show by adding more, like if you had a blanket that was two hundred feet longer than it needs to be. The same characters that you know and love are here, but don’t expect them to change anytime soon. But the good news is that if you really don’t like it, you can simply not watch it and still be caught up for Season 15, assuming they go back to a traditional narrative like Seasons 1-13. Even still, I’d say that Season 14 is worth your time, even if it is padding. If you’re a fan of the show (and I am), you’re gonna like it. If you’re not, it’s probably not going to change your mind.
All images from: RooseterTeeth and Red vs. Blue: Season 14
Red vs. Blue Season 14
+Keeps the same comedic vibe that the series is known for.
+Offers to fill in some of the gaps in the RvB universe.
+Brings the RvB charm to other aspects of pop culture.
-A very disjointed overall narrative.
-Largely inconsequential to the current storyline.
-Full of incomplete, borrowed ideas.
-Many repeats of past character tropes and events played out unironically.