Red vs Blue is a seminal part of original content being created for consumption on the internet. Created in the era of machinima shows and arguably one of the most predominant in terms of remaining one of the highest regarded shows of its nature. A show created from footage shot within a game? It sounds outrageous right? Something that would never catch on, yet with a surprising amount of comedic wit and originality managed to create a series that carries on to this day and age. Whereas today there is CGI animated sequences incorporated into the story, the original Blood Gulch Chronicles started with just footage captured in game. The question remains if the original season that started this whole franchise still stands up?
Red vs Blue helps to settle the most important question in the game of Halo…why do the red and blue teams fight each other in multiplayer mode. Okay so they never really explain any of that in this season, but still this concept is what initially drove the first season. The red and blue teams are stationed in the Blood Gulch Outpost in order to fight a war against one another. That is as much plot as you need for this series as more often than not this season will seem more like a proof of concept than anything. They proved that this form of storytelling and medium actually was accepted warmly with much success. The first season to me lacks a cohesive story as I never thought it was meant to be more than just the two teams fighting. It is a generic set up, with good comedic banter and characters.
There are plot points, such as the freelancer Texas, but nothing is ever truly explained and just taken as bluntly as it presents itself. That is where this season seems more random in the context of a standalone first edition to the franchise. Not having much of a plot allows them to be freer with their comedic banters, yet it also hinders it from being truly memorable in the long run. Yes it is funny, but without lasting power of having the jokes coincide with interesting plot points it lacks oomph and ultimately a lot of it is forgettable. After watching a lot of the series, I had to go back and rewatch what exactly happened in the first season as it and the second often meld together in my mind.
While the style may be newer for the time it was created, they took Red vs Blue in a very safe route in cementing its character’s main traits and getting a feel for how they want to progress with them. Sarge the gruff commander with a hate on for Grif, Simmonds is the know it all, Grif is the slacker, Lopez is the Spanish speaking robot, Donut is the new recruit, Church is the other jerk CO who is as hilarious as he is snarky, Tucker is a womanizing failure, Caboose…is Caboose, Sheila is the tank and Tex is the abrasive lone wolf. Being able to sum up each of these characters is good, as it makes sure that the personas of its cast are memorable for later seasons. The problem is we lack anything nuanced to the overall banter since you know how a lot of the dialogues are going to go down. Sarge will hate on Grif, Grif will not care, Simmonds will ask to kill Grif, Sarge will decline but thank Simmonds for his loyalty. Most of the Red Team dialogue revolves around those dynamics and never really changes it up. Donut is really the only entity that can cause more confusion than Grif and sometimes the insults are more directed to him, but that is more of a rare occurrence. This general stream of dialogue is both a detriment and what holds it back as the writing keeps the joke from getting too old, yet the scenarios never really give them a chance to change up anything.
The opener to the Blood Gulch Chronicles is flawed and noticeably so. With the technology of the time, they managed to position and stage the scenes in a way that make them feel more like footage rather than people playing a game. That being said it is quite dated for this day and age and it is sad to say that because it is a bit of a detriment to the enjoyment. The freedom used in future seasons with the animation only shows how much the show evolved, but also reminds us how constrained Roosterteeth were in the beginning regarding equipment. The story is nothing to write home about and since I watched this as the one continuous stream of footage on Netflix, there is a distinct problem with editing. The fade outs of each episode is changed in later seasons, but most of the time it hinders the flow of the continuous narrative having to wait consistently in short segments. Many of the shots had to play off of the in-game features and it always felt like they were constantly trying to maneuver around the game rather than cohesively utilizing it in every scene. This however is more of the case in the beginning of the series as the end offers one of the more classic scenes from the series involving Donut in multiple sticky grenade incidents. The physical humour is minimally used and not the best utilized with jokes as much as later seasons.
Red vs Blue is funny, there is no mistaking that the humour is the major factor the series has going for it despite it only having a few laugh out loud bits of dialogue in the first season. I think though, because of the limitations of both the technology and the overall world lacking importance to the overall narrative in the first season truly limits the amount of comedic scenarios that truly land and are memorable. All the characters are cemented, but some lack the ability to truly stand out in this season. Church, Caboose, Lopez and Donut are the only ones that had moments come out of nowhere and surprise me enough with the humour to get me to laugh. There is only so much of the same delivery you can take before it grows stale and that is kind of what happened.
The reason why I compare this season to the second season is that it tries to change it up within the confines of its still growing style. The second season tried to execute a more interesting story while giving some mystery to the overall narrative of the world. It managed to change up the scenarios by defining other personalities that never really had a chance to shine in the first while incorporating new characters that give us a bridge between the teams like Doc. All of this was done within the same limitations. In essence, the second season does make the first season feel more archaic then the others and it should, but that unfortunately makes it one of the most forgettable additions to the franchise. In order to best understand the first, making comparisons to the future seasons especially in the Blood Gulch Chronicles is essential I feel. I can get many of the characterizations from other seasons and you can jump into season two without truly needing season one. The gist of it is all still there and they haven’t left Blood Gulch. As funny as the first season of Red vs Blue is, it lacks in too many categories and has aged too much in comparisons to its later seasons to truly be a memorable addition to the franchise.