Red vs Blue and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Rooster Teeth
The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios
We’re back with our Halo retrospective, and once again we’re talking about something that isn’t technically part of the series! After the success of season one, the folks over at Rooster Teeth knew they had something big on their hands and started right away on Season two. The second and third seasons both released in 2004 (season 3 finished up in early 2005) so we’ll be looking at both back to back as the Blood Gulch Chronicles grows from a bunch of people bickering in a canyon to those same people bickering in different places! Let’s get started!
Red vs Blue Season 2 – 2004
By season two they had a better grasp on the concept and the characters which leads to some fun and unexpected story beats, but for every place that they manage to improve it just shines a spotlight on the places they don’t budge an inch. I wasn’t keeping count, but they did lessen their overall use of the R-word and the more mean-spirited bickering is less omnipresent. However, there are still some issues throughout the season that hold this series back; particularly the way they pumped the gay jokes up to eleven. Donut is not without his fun moments, but the joke being that he embodies what the writers think is funny about gay people (the pink armor, jokes about girly things, etc) is a constant thorn in this series’ side throughout its first five seasons.
Still, a lot of great running themes throughout the series get their start here and everything feels a lot more structured. Not only are we introduced to Doc who’s a lot of fun as the neutral pacifist medic, but we also get the introduction of O’Mally who eventually takes over Doc to become EVIL Doc. Oh right, O’Mally. I suppose the double-edged sword here is that as the series grows and comes up with more and more fun concepts that the continuity gets all the more unwieldy and requires further explanation; mostly in the form of rather long exposition dumps which are peppered throughout the second season. Following the events of season one which left Tex dead and the ghost of Church in the body of Lopez the robot, they start to tangle with a new threat which is the Artificial Intelligence that was in Tex’s suit; a concept clearly based on Cortana from the games and I’m guessing the writers read The Fall of Reach which foreshadowed her eventual instability. Their version of it in the form of O’Mally is a being of pure malevolence who initially jumps into Caboose’s head and from there causes shenanigans that Blue Team has to fix while Red Team… you know, this season ALSO kind of foreshadows that Red Team are kind of a secondary fixture of this series with so much of the plot involving Blue Team and Church specifically.
Growth really is the best word to describe season two because there are a lot of changes and tweaks to make the whole thing that much more sophisticated of a production. The voice actors are definitely much more comfortable in their roles, they come up with some interesting concepts like when Church and Tex go inside Caboose’s head (she’s also a ghost now too and apparently this is something that ghosts can do), and while Red Team are playing second fiddle they do get most of the big laughs this season to counterbalance the much more plot-heavy Blue Team segments. Probably my favorite segment was when Sarge was getting attacked by his own Jeep, but there are some fun gems like Simmons being turned into a cyborg and the ballad of Lopez the Heavy. It also ends on a VERY strong note that indicates just how fast and boldly Rooster Teeth wanted to take this series which is as good a point as any to jump to the next season.
Red vs Blue Season 3 – 2004-2005
Through a series of convoluted plans, half-baked ideas, and ludicrous schemes that KINDA worked out, O’Malley is now inside of Doc’s head and he critically injured Tucker on the Blue Team. Doc/O’Malley have also escaped through a teleporter with Lopez, so now Red Team and Blue Team have to work together to hunt Doc/O’Malley through whatever worlds the teleporters take them so Doc can fix up Tucker and the Reds can get Lopez back. It’s a darn good idea that gave Rooster Teeth a convenient excuse to use OTHER multiplayer maps in the game than just Blood Gulch, and they really start exercising their creativity with some out-there sci-fi concepts that work well enough I suppose. I mean I like all the various plot turns throughout this season, but it’s also the one that creates the biggest headache for future seasons which is the time travel storyline. In a rather clever way of explaining the upgrade from the Halo: Combat Evolved engine to the Halo 2 one, they have the characters travel far into the future at about a quarter through the season due to a massive nuclear explosion. Church initially gets blown to the past while everyone else is sent to the future so they can do a CAN’T CHANGE THE FUTURE storyline for a good chunk of the season about Church trying to fix bad things that happened in previous episodes including his own death. If it wasn’t clear enough already by this point, this is what cements Church as the main character in the show, and while characters like Tucker will get their own quest storyline in the next season and Tex and Wash will have their own mini-series (we’ll get to ALL that soon enough) at least as far as I saw which was somewhere around season seven or eight, it always came back to Church as the most important character with the most significant things to do.
He eventually gets to “THE FUTURE” as well and it just ends up complicating things for future seasons; ESPECIALLY where they end up going after season five. I believe the consensus is that the time travel storyline didn’t actually happen and they were just blown somewhere else; or if they DID go forward in time it was a trivial amount, like a week or something. In any case, they’re in “THE FUTURE” for the rest of the season and the Blue Team gets involved in some prophecy story regarding an Energy Sword while the Red Team… once again doesn’t do anything of particular significance. The whole time travel thing is wrapped up with a half-hour to go in the season and now they’re just kind of IN THE FUTURE without much to do but go back to what they were doing before; hating the Blues and bantering back and forth. Sadly that kind of foreshadows the rest of the Blood Gulch Chronicles which we’ll get into when we talk about seasons four and five, but it’s still pretty funny even if it feels like we’re returning to the status quo almost as soon as we left it.
This is not the best that we’ll get from Red vs Blue as the gay humor REALLY drags things out and I think the season ends on a lackluster note, but it’s probably the most interesting of the Blood Gulch seasons and still remains entertaining; especially a siege toward the end involving Doc/O’Malley, the head of Lopez, and a VERY slow army of killbots. Rooster Teeth will do some pretty amazing things with this series down the road but it’s still fun to see how swiftly things are changing; not just in terms of the graphics, but how complex the backdrop of this universe is becoming for is ostensibly a silly cartoon with dad jokes.
We may have jumped the gun a bit here by discussing the Halo 2 season of this show before getting into the game itself, but it was fun little detour and I feel is just as relevant to the story of Halo as anything that was officially released. We’re not quite at Halo 2 yet as we’ve got ONE last thing to talk about before jumping into that game, and boy is it a doozy! Join me next time as we dive headfirst into I LOVE BEES; whatever the heck that is!
Next: I Love Bees
Previous: Red vs Blue Season 1