It’s been five years since Felicia Day premiered The Guild back in 2007. One of the most prominent live-action web series, Day helped legitimize the format and convince people in the industry to both take her and the concept of running a series online seriously. Day was no stranger to genre entertainment, first coming to prominence with an arc on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since The Guild premiered, though, Day has found herself in far more demand, and respected as a creative force, as well as a talented actress.
She’s currently enjoying a recurring role on the final season of Syfy’s Eureka, but through all of her successes in television and film, Day has never abandoned The Guild or the web. She even recently wrote and starred in another web series, this one an adaptation of a video game she particularly enjoyed. Dragon Age: Redemption continued her string of success, as well as her status as one of a few key geek goddesses.
Her love for The Guild has never wavered, and it shows in this fifth season, which saw Day and the cast taking chances and tackling their largest storyline yet. Perhaps the idea of Codex (Day), Vork (Jeff Lewis), Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) and the rest of the guild going to a gaming convention doesn’t seem very lofty — The Big Bang Theory could probably do it as a single throwaway episode — but the economics of a web series are entirely different. Nevertheless, Day manages to squeeze as much as she can out of every dollar, making this season one unexpected pleasure after another.
While most seasons have followed the typical sitcom format of juggling varying storylines and character arcs, having all the action take place at the MegaGame-O-RamaCon created a sense of cohesiveness that served the series well. For that, the season holds up as a single entity perhaps better than prior seasons. The only thread from prior seasons that could have perhaps used a little bit more explanation for people just starting here is the genesis of Bladezz’ (Vincent Caso) viral video success as the Cheeseybeard pirate.
But even though it takes a little extra time for that to make sense, the way in which the fame goes to his head is something everyone can understand and enjoy. Plus, there is a recap of Season 4, so people new to The Guild can at least know what they missed more recently. That said, what would have been the harm in a quick recap of the entire series? It wouldn’t have taken too much longer to tell.
Long-time fans are treated to a major character reveal, as the secret history of Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda) is finally revealed when her family shows up at the convention. Finally, her own guildmates learn her real name, as well as what kind of a family experience she’s coming from. One of the extra features does a great job of spotlighting the actress who wound up playing both of Tink’s twin sisters. She originally showed up as just an extra at the con, and suddenly found herself performing in a key role. It was a genuine and honest vignette of someone getting “discovered” in the most unlikeliest of ways.
This season also saw Clara (Robin Thorsen) discover a new obsession when she stumbles across a steampunk booth. This was an opportunity, as explained in another featurette, for Day to give legendary make-up actor Doug Jones a role to play in which he is not buried under prosthetics and make-up, and he took to it with joy and aplomb.
Day has recently cast Jones, under heavy make-up and prosthetics, for a prominent role in the aforementioned Dragon Age: Redemption series, so she figured it was the least she could do. Here, his steampunk group was so committed to their act, that it was hilarious when Clara excitedly tried to be one of them, but could never quite match their gravitas.
Aside from Jones, the convention format allowed this fifth season to have plenty of other guest stars, including the return of Wil Wheaton as Codex’s (Day) former one-night stand Fawkes. He can’t seem to get over her. Other genre celebs, some portraying themselves, proved very funny, including Zachary Levi, Erin Gray, Grant Imahara, Nathan Fillion, Brea Grant and Richard Hatch.
For added value, the entire season can be rewatched with hilarious commentary by the cast. And these are genuinely funny people, who clearly have developed quite a rapport and friendship over their years working together. For people interested in the production side, there’s a nice video short on how Day and her team were able to create the convention on such a short budget — key word: borrow, borrow, borrow!
The bottom line is that while most series might seem prohibitive for new viewers in their fifth season, this may well be the most accessible season yet. It’s certainly the most ambitious, as well as the one with the highest production values. In other words, this is the best The Guild has ever looked, and it’s a must watch for anyone who’s ever spent time sitting in front of a video game, or even played tabletop games. In fact, geeks and genre fans of every kind will probably fall in love with the show, if they haven’t already.
As for people who don’t subscribe to geek culture, Day continues to balance that fine line of poking fun at this oft-misunderstood world, but clearly doing so from a place of love, rather than ridicule. It’s a tremendously difficult thing to accomplish, but it keeps The Guild brilliantly entertaining without being insulting or condescending. Fans of character-driven humor will find plenty to appreciate here, and may come to understand why those people in strange costumes can become so passionate about these alternate realities they visit so regularly.
[amazon_link id=”B005YFGIWK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Guild Season 5[/amazon_link] was released on DVD March 13, 2012 from Flatiron Film Company. It’s not rated, but ok for kids 14 and older. Includes some innuendos and making out, as well as a few language issues and lots of bleeped-out words.
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