Judge Patrick Rogers melts faces with his long diatribes about the creative sublimeness of Zul'Gurub.
"Yes, her hair is extraordinary, the color of espresso-enriched Belgian chocolate!"
The Guild has proven you don't need to go through the regular channels to get your idea out there. In this technological age, with high quality, low-cost cameras, user friendly web tools, and a plethora of alternative distribution platforms, you can conceive, shoot, and distribute without having to answer to anyone. And that's exactly what Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) has done with her small web series that explores geekdom and the inner workings of an MMORPG guild.
The story centers around Codex (Felicia Day) and her daily struggle with an MMORPG addiction. Without any real friends, Codex spends her nights raiding dungeons with guildmates, trying to take down fire breathing dragons and rogue elves. There's a teenage jackass named Bladezz (Vincent Caso, Humble Pie); a snarky little Asian girl with an attitude (Amy Okuda, Californication); the guild's resident mage Clara (Robin Thorsen, Perfect Combination) who might just win the World's Worst Mom award; and Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh, Community) the guild's warlock who has an almost criminal obsession with Codex. This cast of social misfits is headed by Vork (Jeff Lewis, Glee), a strange micromanager who views real life expenditures as a sinful hindrance of his ability to play The Game. We follow these characters on a weekend long gaming convention where they must save their beloved MMORPG from a dreaded future as a free-to-play casual game with microtransactions.
The Guild is obviously Felicia Day's passion project. A self-described nerd with a penchant for World of Warcraft, Day crafts a niche series that relies on the viewer having a strong knowledge of geek culture. Much of the core comedy plays to a subset of nerds experienced with MMORPGs (if you don't know what that acronym stands for, don't even bother with the show) and the intricacies found within gaming guilds. Luckily, having shamelessly played World of Warcraft off-and-on for years, I found The Guild to be one of the more irresistible nerd creations. It's a show that crafts an eclectic mix of zany characters with recognizable traits and patois. Be it that first awkward real life meeting between guildmates or the familiar mayhem and entertainment of a Friday night raid, the show provides a comedic platform for an ever-growing geek culture to latch onto.
The problem is this fifth season is by far the weakest, even though it has so many geek cameos. I used to say the introduction of Nathan Fillion (Firefly) into any piece of media automatically increases the quality of the product tenfold, but that's not the case here. Season Five is aimless in narrative, listless in execution, and uninspired in most all other areas. So many of the jokes only get faint chuckles and the rest fall flat.
It's an interesting conceit to center this season around a convention for all things geek, but it's just not utilized to its potential. One of the few interesting plotlines is Zaboo's transformation into a caffeine fueled geek mafioso who holds the power over who gets into what panel. Flanked by two ever-present Master Chiefs only adds to the effectiveness. Besides that, Bladezz exploiting his meme status for cold hard cash, and Clara's run in with a snooty band of Steampunk enthusiasts feel stale and half-assed.
On top of that, Felcia Day's writing and general geek dialogue feels forced and phony. She has the obvious passion, but it's apparent her focus is getting stretched thin and she's running out of ideas. Still, for a low budget independent web series, The Guild delivers a brand of comedy warmly welcomed by a culture which, for the longest time, had been neglected.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the obvious low budget transfer is noisy and saturated, skin tones are unnatural, and definition is far below average. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is similarly underwhelming, but dialogue is crisp and background noise unobtrusive. For bonus features, we get a commentary track with the cast that is informative and funny, three making-of featurettes, a recap of Season Four, a gag reel, cast interviews, a PDF script, and a quick table read with the cast. It's a nice collection of material that covers all the angles and helps convince fans to buy the DVD rather than streaming the episodes free online.
The Guild: Season Five limps past the finish line on an uninspired mess of intentions. Here's hoping Felicia Day can get return to the show's core and refocus her aim.
Three months probation on the grounds of creative lethargy.
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