Friday, December 8, 2017

Rhett and Link's Buddy System Review: Missing Link

"My entire life's work for naught. My friends left, my family abandoned me. Why? All I ever did was spend every moment of my entire life trying to make myself happy." "I know what you mean. My friend left me just because I said he wasn't my friend." "People."

All good things come to an end, but thank all that is holy that Buddy System went out in a blaze of glory. We've seen Rhett and Link's relationship blossom over the course of the series, but "Missing Link" is the final episode that allows us to see just how important it is to them, and more importantly, the consequences of its collapse.

The first act is the show at its most narratively-elaborate; Link, without the partnership of Rhett, finds himself briefly dragged into the sign-spinning business under Maxwell, making his triumphant return as what I can only describe as a sign pimp, and after Rhett accidentally runs over him, he starts hanging out with Roberto. Meanwhile, Rhett goes to a Kenneth Kenneth discussion group at the community center only to meet the man himself. Up until the midpoint of the episode, both characters use these interactions to distract themselves from their true feelings regarding their split-up, and it plays out like tragicomedy. The two try to fill the emptiness that they didn't know they even had by re-inventing their lives, but painfully enough, it's clear that they're new friends are nothing if not hollow substitutes (especially Roberto. Because he's Roberto).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rhett and Link's Buddy System Review: Silent Fight

[Rhett!] [Bagel!] 

"Silent Fight" is interesting because it's a considerably less full-fledged experience, but that's kind of the point. It lacks the outright quirkiness of episodes like "Spa Trip" or "A Frontier Story" because it has to do a very specific job at laying out the foundation of "Missing Link." It can't go for broke if it wants to communicate its message, so it doesn't, and that's why it works.

The basic premise is that Rhett and Link get into a spat and decide to never speak to each other, or anyone else, ever again, and it's a silly idea that slowly drops the harshest reassessment of the duo's friendship yet. To it's credit, though, it's a very meticulously-done episode. It doesn't feel rushed, which is especially surprising coming hot off of a string of light episodes, and it's necessary for it to buckle down on some more essential plot points instead of go full-on crazy. Even when doing so, though, it works surprisingly well.

This is largely in how much it pulls from its supporting characters, all of which shine. Dylan, a vastly underrated character this season, finally gets his due with a large role in the episode's proceedings as the manager in his repackaging of Rhett and Link's nonverbal communication as an avant-garde performance and as Rhett's defendant in the trial, both being golden opportunities for the character (and actor Tobias Jelinek) to shine through - dude was on fire. Ignatius, likewise, was put to better use than ever; upon discovering via news of their new double act that Link was taking residence with Rhett, he takes the two to his own version of court to rule over who's the rightful tenant of the house.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Cage

"I thought you were gonna teach us how to be tough fighter guys." "But if you rearrange the letters of 'tough fighter guy,' you get 'tighter of hug guy.' Coincidence? Yes, but a useful one."

Season 6, y'all. We made it. And already, with "The Cage," things are starting to feel amazingly back in-the-groove. Don't get me wrong, "The Cage" isn't the sort of traditional show-stopper to welcome the show's final season - it's not even the first episode so much as the first released - but it's a delightful, low-key affair to remind us that the show is back and is great as it always was.

No, it's not the most creative - you can pretty much predict the ultimate outcome based off of the first minute and a half of the episode (that is, Mr. Corneille is not actually a wrestler and that he's gonna get pummeled), but there's an important distinction, I should think, between the plot of an episode and the meat of it. At the expense of a surprising narrative - which the show clearly wasn't trying to do in favor of a more simplistic one - "The Cage" was full-on-meat.

The most glaringly smart touch is the use of Mr. Corneille, the school's underused, laid-back geography teacher with a sense of suave, as the subject of our underdog wrestler story, and the beauty of it is the sheer incongruity. I don't think there's a better moment than Corneille breaking down "tough fighter guy" as an anagram for "tighter of hug guy" to demonstrate how hilariously bad he fits the character mold he's assigned. He abides by a pacifist philosophy of tiring the other person out while simultaneously not doing anything at all - not only does he not embrace his forced archetype, he couldn't care less about it.

Rhett and Link's Buddy System Review: A Frontier Story

"I think we passed that tree before." "Nope, new tree. Trees tend to imitate each other, it's a common tree tactic to confuse explorers."

It's always in the middle of a season that shows get their most experimental and play around with novel ideas the most. Sure, that may prompt a misstep here or there, but it's when shows don't have any mandatory exposition to work through and get to experiment that we get to see things at their most ambitious and potentially-rewarding.

Among one of the most popular ideas is that of flashing back to the olden times, and it's also an idea that yields the most iffy results; more often than not, there's just nothing fun about it, and it becomes an episode of the show that just feels deprived. So it was a pleasant surprise that "A Frontier Story" not only pulled through, but executed the idea flawlessly.

Expectedly but still enjoyably, our frontiersmen protagonists Fairweather Linkis and Billiam Rhark are, in fact, stuck in the same character dynamic as Rhett and Link are. They're two explorers bound together by circumstance, in this case Zachary Taylor sending them off to expand downwards, believing the world to be hollow and contain more land to manifest destiny the crap out of. They repeatedly try to outdo each other only for it to be made hilariously clear that they're both equally inept, and it eventually drives them to team up, however briefly.

This finds them on a strangely quixotic adventure to, again, find the center of the earth, filled with three-eyed Natives and bounties to exploit, but it quickly detours into a hilariously microchastic nougat feud almost immediately. Leading up to that point, though, is equally fun.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Rhett and Link's Buddy System Review: Virtual Rhettality

"It's almost a certainty that we're already living in a simulation." "How can you know that?" "Well, you know when you tickle yourself it doesn't tickle? That's proof." "But it does tickle!" "Well that's because the technology's getting better all the time."

Well, it seems like, with "Virtual Rhettality," we've officially gotten Buddy System Season 2's first miss. Let me try to defend my position a bit.

As this episode's song, "Family Man," hammers in, Rhett and Link both desire the domesticity of family life, so Link runs off to make amends with Vanessa (and hilariously shove Roberto out of the picture, though it's not like he has feelings anyway) while Rhett doubles down on his new Occular Thrift playing BarnTown as Beth, a virtual farm-lady. Issues arise, however, when Vanessa inevitably becomes tangled with both Link in real-life and Rhett in virtual reality.

For what it's worth, the ultimate reveal was a surprisingly well-executed twist. Sure, there's a few holes in how Rhett and Link somehow never caught on to coincidence up until Link virtually jams his hand up Rhett's... hmm... but the slow burn is hilarious as our heroes react in horror at the realization. On one level, Link's virtually violating Rhett, but on the other, Rhett's destroyed Link's deep, deep like for Vanessa. And amazingly, in hurts both in equal parts, if not out of their universe's peculiarities wherein both Rhett and Link make equally insane progress with Vanessa within a matter of two days.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil Review: Stump Day / Holiday Spellcial

"Tell us the story of Stump Day, Uncle River!" "Ha ha ha, you don't tell me what to do!"

"Hey Matt, didn't you say you were going to stop doing this?" I don't know, man, I just like keeping myself busy...

The holidays are always an interesting time for shows to create episodes because there's a very distinct vibe that they elicit: one of festive cheer to hold over fans for the next year and fill us with warm, fuzzy feelings for all of the characters. In that regards, Star vs. does everything right.

But, because I'm a jerkish reviewer who has to look at the other side of the coin - the merit - I'm going to cite some issues. That's not to say the episodes were bad, because there's plenty to like... but I have a self-important job to do.

"Stump Day" was at its best in making fun of holiday traditions. Think about it: the belief is that there's a gigantic, not-even-anthropomorphic stump that comes and strangles bad children to death. It's criminally absurd and dark as a visual, and then seeing that in practice makes it all the more hilarious. It's a gigantic stump. How utterly menacing of a sight. I hope the bark isn't too prickly. Making Star believe in its existence, too, was delightful in the insanity of her worship, and finding it to be well-reasoned pushed the joke even further when her paranoia checks out. (Having the intense climatic score accompanied by sleigh bells was the icing on the cake.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Rhett and Link's Buddy System Review: Spa Trip

"Did you know that Dayton has the fewest surprises per capita of any American city?" "I'm not surprised."

Please, please, please make sure you watch "Spa Trip" before reading this review. As an episode, it's a gift that just keeps on giving, slowly but fantastically evolving as it spirals out of control into surrealism. Through it all, it's one of the most captivating episodes of media I've seen all year.

At its initial core, it's about personalities clashing. Rhett is a man of luxury, and as such, he imposes on Link for every minor, self-proclaimed transgression, be it the way he sleeps or the way he cuts his toast. On top of that, too, he's self-serving - note the two tickets to Spa Chula he gets himself, only relinquishing the second and advancing the plot to Link once he feels marginally guilty.