The Guild cast dressed in the costumes of their in-game avatars
If you’ve somehow missed the phenomenon of The Guild
, the brilliant thing is that there is no bad time to get into it. All five seasons and their extras are available online at www.watchtheguild.com
The Guild is the epitome of geek-indie. It’s a webseries consisting in short (typically 3-8min) episodes about a group of online gamers known as the ‘Knights of Good’. Our window into their lives is a video-blog by Codex (Felicia Day), who chats about her insecurities and game-centric life, but the series also follows her ‘off-camera’ interactions with other guild members and their lives.
The Guild started out on good will and imagination, funded via donations and filmed in what is visibly someone’s bedroom – which works perfectly for the set-up, of course. It quickly gained a following, but its popularity exploded following Felicia Day’s starring role in Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, rumoured to have been inspired by The Guild‘s video-blog format. (Day has denied this, but the story has a ring of truth and its denial the ring of modesty.) Its success garnered a deal with X-Box for early streaming of episodes, but The Guild can’t be said to have ‘sold out’ (although, I’m not sure what would be wrong with it if they had). Episodes still appear online for free, available worldwide. I can’t say I mind waiting a day or two for my free, funny, geeky content.
Day has built on her fame and moved beyond Dr Horrible. Few would deny that she’s now known for The Guild (which she writes, as well as stars in) much more than her role as the love interest in Joss Whedon’s cult hit. As well as many cameos across geek-favoured shows like Lie to Me* and Dollhouse, she also makes regular appearances in Eureka, is a voice-actor for several computer RPGs, and (as mentioned last week) is working on a new webseries based on the game Dragon Age. In short, she’s a geek hero, living the geeky-dream. What’s more, she’s a geek lady who not only produced a popular show aimed at dispelling the idea that all geeks are unwashed Worf-T-shirt-wearing obese men who live in their parents’ basements*, but is actually making a success of her life in a number of male-dominated arenas.
Beyond Day’s individual success as a person and as an icon for geek guys and ladies alike, the show itself has much to be admired for. Day’s quick wit and obvious thorough knowledge of geek-interests make the short episodes wonderful bites of sunshine on days when the ordinary world is getting you down. When I first got into The Guild it was the perfect punctuation for late-night studying. But as well as being light-hearted fun, the range of the cast is a wonderful thing to be admired. I love The Big Bang Theory, but it took them a good while to fully integrate some geek-ladies into the regular cast, and they still tend towards stereotypically ‘girly’ behaviour; even the wonderful Amy Farrah Fowler yearns to emulate girl-stereotypes of being ‘besties’ with Penny, and has not been allowed to be quite as emotionally and sexually aloof as the iconic Sheldon**. Whereas Codex leads a cast split evenly between men and women, where each character is rich, believable, and different to the others, not defined by their gender, yet also identifiably geek. I’m also pleased to see that a third of the cast is non-white, including Codex’s sometimes love-interest, Zaboo. The show has also addressed disability issues with the wonderful introduction of the beautiful and bitchy Venom – wheelchair-bound member of rival guild the Axis of Anarchy. And all in a series whose total runtime would equal one normal TV episode per season.
It’s like visual haiku, or something.
Anyway, that’s the general geek-squee over with. How was season five?
Awesome, that’s how it was. One might expect a certain rockiness over the course of five seasons, but I honestly can’t detect one. I struggle to think whether any of the seasons come out as my favourite or least favourite. They’re all sufficiently varied and engaging to make it very difficult to judge. Season five differentiates itself by launching the Guildies off to a new kind of setting: a convention. This seems particularly appropriate in a year that has seen a strong presence of the Guild cast at many real conventions. This also offered the opportunity for what must have been a record-breaking number of cameos. Never have so many geek idols been brought together in one show. If I tried to name them all I’m sure I’d miss someone’s favourite, but highlights include Neil Gaimon, Stan Lee, Nathan Fillion, and, my personal favourite, Erin Gray.
Who’s Erin Gray, you say? Hand back your geek-pass at the door! Erin Gray played Colonel Wilma Deering in the classic sci-fi series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Yes, I have it on DVD, why do you ask? If your memory is still itching you on this one, http://www.wilmadeering.com/ may help. Anyway, in The Guild Erin Gray has the grace to play aging actor Madeleine Twain, who played ‘Charity Maddox’ in fictional televison cult classic Time Rings. Madeleine is overlooked by most younger fans, but not by Vork. Vork is the oldest member of the group, a middle-aged man with an aversion to spending money on anything he doesn’t have to who was obssessed with Charity in his youth. Pleased by his attention, she invites him and Blades (who has gained minor celebrity as the ‘Cheesy Pirate Kid’ advertising a local fast food restaurant) to a star-filled party, jam-packed with famous geek-stars. Cameos are always a delight, but it’s particularly pleasing to see that so many famous people are clearly fans of The Guild themselves (or at least, have agents who recognise its popularity) and have been willing to (one presumes) donate their time. Madeleine and Vork’s up-and-down relationship is sweet and a real highlight of the season.
Other highlights include Zaboo’s invention of a seat-saving scheme for convention panels and the over-plot in which Codex accidentally says something negative about The Game (the MMORPG they play) in the presence of its creator, Floyd Patrovski, unwittingly prompting him to consider selling The Game. Codex’s plot is then largely concerned with trying to convince him not to sell. Floyd himself is a delight, turning out to be every bit as neurotic and insecure as Codex herself, leading me to the fan theory that romance may be in there somewhere down the line. I also adored Clara’s sub-plot discovering steam-punk, which simultaneously presents its exquisite appeal and satirises the slight air of ludicrous pomposity that can occur in any genre where fans become a bit too serious… especially where beautiful costumes are involved.
It’s not all perfect. There was a higher quotient of embarrassment-comedy, which I, personally, find difficult to watch. The sub-plot with Tinks’ family was somewhat predictable, and not especially engaging in itself. Still, when any scene is unlikely to last more than a minute or two, it’s easy to move past the weaker elements and enjoy what is otherwise simply enormous fun.
If you haven’t yet caught up with this season’s Guild, or if you’ve never seen it at all, do yourself a favour and high-tail it over to their website. You will not regret it.
*Not that these men don’t exist. They do, and in my experience most of them are really nice guys, they’re just nothing like the whole picture, and the predominance of negative presentations of geekdom that focus on this image is both unfair to these guys and a big challenge for people like me who don’t fit that description and want to get invited to LAN-parties.
**Not that I’m demanding she be a Sheldon-clone with girl parts, that would be incredibly dull and token in and of itself. The Big Bang Theory is wonderful in many ways, but I did feel it took a long while to admit the existence of girl-geeks properly. They’ve come along leaps and bounds from the original set-up, with Penny as the alien girl-creature looking in from the outside from atop her fashionable shoes. I’m just saying that at first my initial response of ‘Oh hey, a show about my people!’ was undermined by the fact that the makers didn’t seem to think I was the type of person (the type of gender) to be part of such a group.