Reading Between Reviews: Red Vs Blue, Season 15!

Now we gotta wait for Season 16, huh?

Well, Season 15 of Red Vs Blue was certainly an interesting ride.  Between Joe Nicolosi’s role as the director, the new Halo 5 game engine, and the one season story format, season 15 was…rather unique, to say the least.  It did a lot, innovated in many ways, but was it good?


1. Story: (6.2/10)–Average

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The Reds and Blues have been doing quite a lot, for being only “simulation troopers.”  From saving the planet of Chorus from a self-destructive civil war, to taking down badass freelancers, these bumbling idiots have made quite the name for themselves.  A true rags-to-riches story, the sim troopers of Project Freelancer have achieved some measure of fame–but all this fame is put to question, when out of nowhere, the group is reported to be attacking UNSC bases at random, leaving no survivors.

Something doesn’t add up.  So reporter Dylan Andrews is determined to find out exactly what is going on, and in her quest to do so, she discovers a lot more than she bargained for.  That the Reds and Blues aren’t quite the heroes she imagines them to be.  That the scars left behind by Project Freelancer run quite a bit deeper than she imagined.

And here’s the interesting question to consider: who the hell are the “Blues and Reds”?

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It’s Red vs Red, and Blue against Blue…I against I and me against you…

Season 15 presents a story that, similarly speaking, revolves around a single question.  What would happen if the Reds and Blues had gone down the path of villainy, rather than the path of good?  And, furthermore, what shenanigans could potentially happen if these evildoing counterparts…ran into our lovable protagonists?  It’s a fun scenario, one that provides no shortage of unique, ridiculous moments, but sadly, this situation is a rather sharp double-edged sword.

On one hand, although we were given fantastic individual character moments, and unique situations that were a pleasure to watch, the story as a whole…lost cohesiveness.  Its narrative was extremely limited in scope, as we basically watched the Blues and Reds, in particular, Temple, act as stereotypical, James Bond-esque villains for a full season.  They didn’t feel threatening, especially compared to previous heavy hitters, like the Meta and the Mercenaries, and worse, they didn’t explore many of the unique themes that previous Red vs Blue seasons have been able to delve into.

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Temple was an interesting villain at first–but ultimately, just didn’t have the time to grow into anything near what past villains were.

What we received instead, was a story that felt very contrived, in various aspects.  Everything worked out, just because, and by trying to acknowledge how cliched it was, the story just felt unconfident.  It seemed to exist for the purpose of a singular idea, and when a story feels like that, it’s never a good sign.

Now, that being said, this idea of pitting the Reds and Blues against evil counterparts wasn’t done badly, by any means.  It was relatively entertaining at points, and presented some rather good ideas.  In particular, the general theme of moving on, and accepting the loss of Church, was explored in a really, really nice way.

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A bit contrived, a bit cliched, maybe?  But still doesn’t take away from how great this moment was.

However, sad to say, the story itself didn’t seem to hold much weight.  Nothing felt very important,  There were no emotionally charged confrontations, the season made use of much more blatant cliches than others, and the plot twists were hit or miss.

Overall.  It was alright.  But just lacked that extra punch.


2. Characters: (8.0/10)–Great

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Heyo, the old crew, back at it again!

Thankfully, Season 15 did a pretty good job at giving us some great character moments.

Red vs Blue, at its heart, has always been about the shenanigans of its main characters, the Reds and Blues.  Tucker, Caboose, Sarge, Simmons, Grif–these guys have been the heart and soul of the series for years, and what Season 15 does well, is emphasize that.  It emphasizes their characters, and beyond that, gives them all moments that develop them even more.

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A rather unprecedented situation, but funny, and providing great character insight.

The Red team as a whole, after many seasons of being simple comic relief, got to enjoy some time in the spotlight, as Sarge, Grif, and Simmons all received exceptional character development.  From Grif’s hilarious mid-season insanity, to Sarge’s devotion to his men, the Reds’ relationships were explored in a funny, yet somehow, very significant way.

Although, this isn’t to take away from the other characters either–the rest of the Blood Gulch crew, Freelancers included, got some fantastic moments of their own as well.  Genuinely heartwarming, tear-jerking moments were presented to grow everyone’s character in a small, yet consistent way.  Stand out characters, in my opinion, were Locus (freaking Locus was great by the way) and, surprisingly, Caboose.

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Caboose, you precious soul you.

This being said, Season 15’s new characters…well, I honestly didn’t mind them too much.

While many people criticized Jax’s incessant movie references, as well as the somewhat bland personalities of the Blues and Reds, personally, I enjoyed them all, in their own way.  As grating as Jax was at times, basically existing to spew bad pop culture references, he and Dylan provided a rather entertaining stooge/straightman dynamic that was rather fun to watch.  And of course, the Blues and Reds, as simple and plain as they may have been, they did what they had to do.

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Dun dun dun.

The interactions between the two teams was interesting, and ultimately, you could see exactly where Roosterteeth was going with these evil counterparts.  And of course, as bond-esque as Temple appeared, his character was relatively engaging–suffering more from cliched writing than anything.  Perhaps the idea was not explored in the best way, but all things considered, they could have been done a lot worse.

Overall.  I’d say it’s a net win for Season 15.


3. Art/Style: (6.9/10)–Average

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Remember when RvB was just blocky, regular Halo?

When considering the stylistic nature of Red vs Blue, one has to consider numerous factors, that most mediums don’t ever really heavily rely on.  From the implementation of CGI, to the musical score, camera angles, and writing, Red vs Blue as a whole has been distinguished for its rather…creative methods of storytelling.

That being said, Season 15 was both brilliant at points, and also…lackluster.

Considering the overall look of the series, one might ask, how exactly Roosterteeth is able to improve the quality of a machinima?  Well, through some creative usages of green screen effects, great awareness of cinematography, as well as one of Red vs Blue’s best soundtracks yet, Season 15 pulled off a far more “cinematic” experience than any season before it.  Experimenting with different styles, taking influences from horror movies, news reels, spy movies, and others I’ve probably missed, one gets a feeling that Season 15 DEFINITELY knows what it’s doing.

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It’s all in the little details.

It had total command over the tone of the story, and made clear that Joe Nicolosi was aware of what he was doing.  But, ironically enough, that’s part of what made its style rather bad, compared to previous seasons.

Red vs Blue has always prided itself on its dialogue, its pacing, and the feel of its story.  Shifting from hilarity and action, to heart-wrenching emotion in the blink of an eye, the series  has always had exceptional writing, that endures, even many years later.  However, while the cinematic quality of Red vs Blue appears to have shot up, its writing feels a lot more gimmicky than usual.

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Jax, lampshading cliches DOES NOT make them okay.

Red vs Blue was never a series that needed to address the obvious cliches it used.  Rather, it simply presented a story, showed us why it was important, and played off the characters’ strengths, to create a diverse, and entertaining narrative.

However, Season 15 seems to have forgotten that formula.  Joe’s style of writing, relying on pop culture references, political jokes, and lampshading his cliches at every opportunity, would certainly work elsewhere–but not for RvB.  It’s a style of humor that loses its punch after a few months or years, perfect for comedy clubs and routines, but not a web series like this.

Overall, it feels like Season 15 was created in order to show off how cinematically, technically diverse it could become, without focusing on Red vs Blue’s standard thematic and comedic strength.

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As amusing as this was, there were about ten movie references too many for my taste.

From calling out every single odd coincidence, to actively acknowledging its over-the-top corniness and predictability, Season 15 just feels stale.  It doesn’t keep us guessing much, but that’s not because of the story, which honestly had potential.  Rather, it was because of a narrative, and writing style that, simply put, wasn’t classic Red Vs Blue.

It can’t be said by any means, that the season was bad.  It had all the hallmarks of a rather good series, with enough quality to show that it was a good effort.  But, sadly, that quality doesn’t matter much in retrospect, only emphasizing an underwhelming narrative that, as time goes on, will continue to get weaker and weaker.


4. Personal Enjoyment: (7.5/10)–Good

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An apt way of describing the season really: two great characters, and something unnecessary in the middle.

All things being considered, Season 15…wasn’t bad.

It was adequate–able to show us the adventures of our favorite simulation troopers, while also providing insights to their characters that we haven’t seen before.  In fact, I’d say that some of the most memorable character moments of the series are packed into Season 15!  Caboose in the last episode, Simmons and Grif’s relationship, Washington and Carolina’s relationship, these were all fun, extremely enjoyable moments to watch.

Shout outs to episode 5 for being one of my new favorite RvB episodes, by the way.

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Oh, how about Malarkey?

That being said, there was a LOT about Season 15 that simply wasn’t that good, especially compared to other seasons.  The humorous writing wasn’t the best, the story progression was rather odd, and some characters, namely Jax, missed the mark by a sizable margin.  Themes of letting go of the past, of revenge, of good and evil, were hinted at constantly, but never felt like they had true significance.

Season 15, in short, was an experiment–a short project so the RT crew could try new things.  It is very clearly a standalone story–one that, ultimately, won’t have much relation to the future plots that RvB decides to delve into.

But because of this, nothing felt significant.  Character moments, as nice as they are, feel isolated to Season 15, the themes explored here, felt like they wouldn’t be expanded upon later, which is a shame.  Even the Blues and Reds, as potentially interesting as they could have been, were delegated to this role of “one-off” villains.

Personally, I enjoyed the season, and what it did for the Reds and Blues.  I’ve got to give kudos to Joe, for all the things he did that made Season 15 an enjoyable watch; but moving forward, there certainly feels like it could be improved on quite a bit.

Final Rating: (7.15/10)–Average

 

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