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
Much like the Halo franchise itself, Red Vs Blue definitely started to branch out around the time of Halo 3’s release; not just because the engine allowed for much greater control and possibilities for the show to work with but because Rooster Teeth themselves wanted to start fresh and gave us its best work after breaking away from Blood Gulch. Can they continue that success going forward, or will the temptation to return to what worked in the past be too great for them to resist? Let’s find out!!
Red Vs Blue: Relocation
Relocation is a four part mini-series to bridge the gap between Reconstruction and the next season Recreation as it follows Red Team trying to establish their new base while Caboose is working on some secret project at his new base. If you’re really in the mood for some breezy Blood Gulch comedy then it does the job fine and frankly holds up better than a lot episodes from that original run, but by going back once again to the two teams in a valley setup (this time they’re using the Valhalla map instead of Blood Gulch) it feels like little more than filler to tide fans over while they work on the next season.
The key takeaways from this mini-series is that Command has given Red Team and Blue Team a place to just kinda do their thing out of the way of everyone else but that the greater machinations of the world they’re living in can’t be held at bay for long. It’s clear that Caboose has something he shouldn’t have and is being very secretive about it, and the final episode has the surprise return of Donut who has a dire message to give to the red team before passing out as the mini-series comes to an end. There’s nothing particularly memorable or important about this mini-series that couldn’t also have been tackled at the start of the next season, but it’s got a few moments that work and is FAR from the worst that this series has produced. It’s just kinda middling which is a shame considering how fantastic the last season was, but it’s also just there to be a prelude for what comes next.
Red Vs Blue: Recreation
After Donut’s mysterious arrival at the Red Base, he informs Red Team and Caboose that he was sent to get help for Tucker who’s holed up in the desert fending off some sort of threat, and since Donut was unable to find anyone actually competent it’s up to them to launch a rescue attempt. That’s not all at stake however as Caboose has the Epsilon AI unit and is hoping to find a way to bring Church back. His attempts so far have failed and usually ended in fire, but the AI unit manages to get a message to him that the desert might hold the secrets to restoring Church. Sarge and Griff join Caboose to find Tucker for their own convoluted reasons while Simmons, Donut, and Lopez stay behind and watch over the base. Everything is not sunshine and roses for them though as Caboose having the AI unit has put them in the cross-hairs of some very dangerous people who may not be won over by their witty retorts and obnoxious charm. For the most part it’s a pretty standard setup as far as Red Vs Blue goes with one team going on a dubious mission while the rest bicker back and forth at the base, but rarely have they pulled it off so well. Reconstruction is still my favorite season because of how effectively it built drama and character arcs into a series that until then had mostly gotten by on goofy set pieces and dialogue heavy humor. It was a maturation of the entire Machinima genre that I’m not sure has been replicated elsewhere (my knowledge of Machinima outside of Halo is pretty sparse), so needless to say there were some very high expectations going into this season. For me it just isn’t quite as good as Reconstruction, BUT I will concede that if you prefer the Blood Gulch style of humor and writing then this is a darn good evolution of that formula. What it lacks in depth it tries to make up for by pushing the Halo 3 engine to its limits and coming up with some clever new set pieces for the Red and Blue teams to bumble their way through and it’s up there with the best that the Blood Gulch seasons had to offer.
The mission is definitely the stronger of the two, though the stuff back at Red Base is still quite funny with Lopez in particular getting a lot to do and stealing many of the scenes he’s in. He’s often been little more than a bit part in the seasons where they bothered to even use him, so giving him an expanded role here is a breath of fresh air in what could have been an overly familiar setup. This season also marks the return of Donut who isn’t much better than he was in previous season, but the overt mockery of him being framed as a gay character feels a bit toned down as they focus more on his naiveté and emotional openness.
Still, it’s the mission that ends up taking center stage here which takes place in one of my favorite Halo 3 maps; Sandtrap. The new setting as well as the benefits of using the Forge features to add vehicle and items definitely allow the set-pieces to speak for themselves, and the mystery surrounding the new characters they find while looking for Tucker does make it one of the more engaging storylines of the series. Unfortunately once they DO find Tucker is where things start to waiver as the guy is SO obnoxious and downright hateful at times. He uses some harsh language to describe people and too much of his dialogue is simply put downs of others which grows old IMMEDIATELY and was a constant weight around this season’s neck. Fortunately the more interesting story involving ancient alien artifacts and the reappearance of Church in the form of a Monitor kept my interest through to the very end and it ends on one heck of an action scene!
Aside from Tucker’s lousy dialogue where Recreation falls short is when it comes to Agent Washington. He was the glue that held Reconstruction together; the foil for the rest everyone else’s goofy antics, the voice of reason while everyone else was bickering, and the grounding element that gave the drama the weight it needed. When he reappears at the end of the season with Agent Maine (the Meta) and proclaims himself to be a bad guy feels like a slap in the face and a twist for twists sake. Washington spent the ENTIRE last season working to take down the Freelancer program because he had a genuine objection to it as well as a personal grudge for what they had done to him and the other Freelancers. Not only that, the framing device of Reconstruction made it clear that the government (and by extension the UNSC) were working to stop the program as well; so to have the season start with him in a UNSC jail cell before cutting a deal with the director of Project Freelancer (who is NOT a government official as far as the show has told us and so shouldn’t have the power to cut ANY deals) feels less like a betrayal of a character who tragically turned to the dark side and more of a half-assed attempt at a shock ending.
It’s disappointing that such a solid season ends on such a sour note, but I’m sure not everyone is going to be as bothered by the twist as I was and aside from that I can say it was a darn good season. Perhaps it fell back into old habits a bit too much, especially with Tucker’s character and how they chose to write him, but if nothing else it does confirm that there is plenty of creative energy left in this series and that jumping away from Blood Gulch was a great decision on Rooster Teeth’s part. We’ll see if that spark can continue, but I’m at least grateful for what they’ve been able to accomplish here so far.
Red Vs Blue: ODST
Rooster Teeth likes to make a lot of one off episodes with many of them done to advertise Bungies products, and while we looked at a few of them when covering the Halo 3 bonus features, they haven’t been a staple of these retrospectives. During this season though, they managed to release two separate three episode mini-series so I figure I there’s enough material there to make them worth talking about. Consider this more of a bonus for the retrospective than anything else, and we’re starting with the ODST episodes which are non-canon and are explicitly an advertisement (BROUGHT TO YOU BY GAMESTOP) for Halo 3: ODST. They show some footage of the Red Vs Blue guys reacting to the new gameplay mode Firefight which is a four player fight against waves of Covenant. I played it for a bit and found it pretty solid, though the difficult ramps up a bit too much at the end when every enemy just starts throwing grenades, but the guys they have playing here were clearly better at it than I was and the Red Vs Blue guys are very scared to try the mode themselves which is how the first episode ends. The next two episodes are to sell us on the pre-order bonus of Sargent Johnson as a playable character in Firefight mode (in the Master Chief Collection you have to jump through some hoops with season passes to get him) and for Sarge to reminisce about his own days at the Sargent Academy. For commercials they are fine I guess, but there was a HUGE missed opportunity to have David Scully do a guest spot in the episodes rather than just show silent footage of Sargent Johnson shooting aliens in Firefight mode and a brief wordless cameo at the very end. Would it have been THAT hard to get the guy in for a few lines; especially since it’s official marketing for the game!?
Red Vs Blue: Holiday Plans
Thankfully this series is much less of an advertisement (they only mention Halo Waypoint at the end of the episodes) and it’s a fun little tale that as far as I can tell doesn’t actually take place in the canon either. Sarge has some bad news for Griff and Simmons as he’s being forced to take some vacation days while they get relocated to a more “festive” base for the holiday season… which turns out to be an icy and nonfunctional metal hunk in the middle of a snow storm. Since Caboose, Tucker, and the Monitor form of Church are supposed to be fighting them, they get sent to the unforgiven tundra as well and start attacking the Reds out of spite. It’s not much more than what it’s advertised as which is a collection of mini-episodes as a fun little bonus for the holiday season, and it even ends on something of a cheerful note with the Reds and Blues struggling for warmth around the burning remains of a warthog! Plus, we get to see Sarge on vacation and it’s what I believe to be the series’ first use of pre-rendered animations which would become a staple of the series in future seasons.
And with that we are once again with Red Vs Blue, at least for the time being! The next season isn’t TOO far away, but we have at least one Halo game to play between now and then and something I’ve VERY excited to talk about right after that! Next week however we will be talking about two of the graphic novels, Helljumper and Bloodline which I’m also excited to talk about, so join me next time as we dive once again into the world of Halo comic books!
Next: Coming Soon!!
Previous: Halo Wars & Halo Wars Genesis