The Guild, Seasons 1 & 2
directed by Jane Selle Morgan, Greg Benson
(independent, 2009)

I am comfortable enough with my fanboy status that I can admit, up front and without shame, that I discovered The Guild solely through writer/producer/star Felicia Day's involvement in the trendsetting webshow, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which itself came into my field of vision because it (Dr. Horrible, not The Guild) was conceived and directed by Joss Buffy the Vampire Slayer Whedon and his creative kin.

So, that's how I got here. Was it worth the trip?

You betcha. The Guild is, in this case, a tightly knit band of Internet gamers who battle the forces of evil in a fantasy MMO. They've never met, however, consorting solely through their online avatars. Then Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) breaks the rules by showing up at the home of Codex (Day), convinced that her online flirtations are reflected In Real Life. She, alas, is not nearly so enamored of him as he is of her, and she proposes a group meet to sort it all out.

But these people, who boldly sally forth to battle ogres and dragons online, are not quite the same in person.

The story works because of the quirky characters at play here -- I'd call them caricatures, but I fear they are all too representative of their actual MMO-playing ilk (of which Day proudly declares herself a member). Eccentric doesn't begin to describe it. Besides shy Codex and overly amorous Zaboo, the Guild includes leader and control-freak Vork (Jeff Lewis), the anti-social Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda), anti-Mother of the Year candidate Clara (Robin Thorsen) and unrepentant rule-breaker Bladezz (Vincent Caso). Their interactions are a hoot.

It's a strong cast, especially considering there's not a lot of professional acting experience among them. Lewis in particular is a treat; his bent views on society and his deadpan delivery is a constant source of amusement. The dialogue is immensely memorable.

Because The Guild, like Dr. Horrible, is a webshow, the framework in which it is presented is a little looser than a standard TV series would be. Episodes (10 in the first season, 12 in the second) vary in length; none, if memory serves, crosses the 10-minute mark, and a few are closer to 3.

The point is, this series is clever, clever stuff, and Day proves once again to be an endearing actor as well as an imaginative writer. Although episodes are available online -- for free, no less -- the DVD sets of The Guild's combined seasons include a lot of extras for the devoted fan.

Although I initially watched the series in installments, I've since enjoyed them again in their collected forms. They actually flow together quite well. Here's a look at each season.

Season 1: The crux of the first season is Zaboo's infatuation with Codex, her desperate attempts to fend off his affections and get him out of her apartment and his mother's sudden, angry appearance at Codex's doorstep. There's a significant subplot involving a rift between Bladezz and the rest of the group.

Season 2: Codex gets Zaboo out of her apartment and into Vork's, where Zaboo learns how to be a man from a questionable teacher. Tink plays on Bladezz's youthful lust to get stuff, in-game and out. Codex flirts with her stunt-guy neighbor Wade (Fernando Chien) with disastrous results.

Season 3: Tension among Guild members blossoms when another Guild -- less good, more chaos-driven -- muscles in on their territory. Tink defects to the new group. Vork abdicates his leadership role, leaving an unprepared Codex in charge as he goes on a personal journey for self-understanding. Zaboo's new girlfriend Riley (Michele Boyd) inflicts unequal doses of pleasure and pain, and Clara tries to save both her marriage and her game time.

This season introduces a whole new array of fascinating characters. The rival guild, Axis of Anarchy, is led by Fawkes (a kilted Wil Wheaton), with cohorts Valkyrie (Mike Rose), Venom (Teal Sherer), Bruiser (J. Teddy Garces) and Kwan (Alexander Yi).

A brief high point in the season is a series of audition tapes from various game adventurers applying for Tink's spot in the Guild. The finale -- a no-holds-barred battle royale between the Guild and the Axis -- is great climactic fun ... as is Codex's unexpected encounter with her own alter-ego.

Season 4: The fourth season focuses on a pair of unusual relationships -- Codex and Fawkes, Vork and Zaboo's mom -- as well as Codex's new job, working with Bladezz at a pirate-themed burger joint. This is the weakest season to date -- the restaurant schtick got old fast -- although any Guild is better than no Guild at all.

review by
Tom Knapp

29 August 2009

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