I’m going to start with a disclaimer that I love Red vs Blue and I’m about to be really mean about it and it’s brand new writer and I feel really terrible. BUT I also feel obligated as an armchair narrative critic to call out its shit so it can be better next time. This post was constructed over a few hours with no editing, in classic narrative word vomit style.
In any narrative, for things to feel really good when it all comes full circle, you have to earn it. As a writer this can be easy to screw up because there’s a lot you need to juggle, especially with a large cast. Things have to be seeded, called back, developed and wrapped. There’s a lot of work involved in good character development.
In Red vs Blue Season 15 there is a lot of this happening. In fact, I would say, too much. Actually what I mean is that it was a goddamn disaster. Things were built, developed, and paid off with a fart sound (Grif and Simmons). Some things came up as payoff completely out of nowhere (Locus). Characters were developed who have already been developed, didn’t need development, and the development they got was shit that had already happened to them (Tucker and Sarge). There was some interesting stuff in Season 15 and some really good jokes, but in the end it feels like it was a waste of time and accomplished nothing.
In order to discuss why, let’s talk about character arcs with this handy chart!
|Dylan & Jax||Wanted to solve a mystery.||Solved the mystery.|
|Temple||Wanted revenge against the UNSC for betraying military recruits and selling them to Freelancer.||Failed because he was the Bad Dude.|
|Washington & Carolina||Were sent apart from the party and started a potential romantic subplot.||Did nothing except operate as plot devices.|
|Grif & Simmons||Having canonically fucked in a closet, the two separate and try to navigate who they are without the other.||They reunite and everything goes back to normal.|
|Sarge||Searches for meaning on a battlefield that no longer exists.||Everything goes back to normal.|
|Tucker||Tucker thinks he’s the main character superhero and doesn’t know what to do when things don’t work out for him.||He punches a tank until it explodes.|
|Caboose||Realizes that death is permanent||Says goodbye to Church and steals a scene that should have belonged to Temple.|
|Locus||Comes out of nowhere.||Leaves out of nowhere. He’s just here for fanservice and adds nothing!!!!!|
|Vic||Lives on, and just wants to die.||DIES.|
Let’s unpack this.
Dylan & Jax
I’m quite fond of these characters as they are, but I don’t have a lot to say about them in the end. They came in to do a job, and they did it without becoming a meaningful part of the cast or contributing much. In spite of the first few episodes being from their perspective during their research, they unite with the Reds and Blues and then slip into a more passive, outsider role. This is pretty typical journalist behavior, so it works, but I think it leaves something to be desired.
Temple & Company
The existence of what my friends and I refer to as the “Shelbyville Red and Blues” added a large complication to the cast. By being so close to our familiar characters, they were easy to keep track of. Unfortunately, they didn’t all serve a purpose except for operating as the imposters that were ruining the reputation of the boys.
Temple himself and his relationship with his best friend Biff was very good and played on narrative parallels that probably could have been milked more. The loss of Biff is felt by the Blues like how they lost Church, how Carolina lost York, and how Simmons lost Grif. Temple redirects his frustration against Project Freelancer and the UNSC for using them and taking Biff’s life.
Temple and co’s plan for revenge is so dumb and I don’t even know how the writers came up with it except that maybe they thought of something over the top and stupid and figured they might as well do it. The icing on the cake is the finale, where a window through time gives Caboose time to gain closure and say goodbye to a Blood Gulch-era Church. BUT WHAT ABOUT TEMPLE??? This scene recreated with Temple and Biff may give him the emotional closure he so sorely needed. The scene with Church and Caboose reads as fanservice rather than narrative fulfilment, and Temple’s plot is wrapped and tossed in the trash.
Washington and Carolina
There were a lot of characters flying around in this arc who were new, so I respect the choice to put Wash and Carolina on the sidelines for this one. Carolina does no wrong literally ever, but I do have some stuff to say about these characters’ romantic development.
So in the scene where the team splits up, Wash and Tucker have a conversation where Washington expresses concern and Tucker gets exasperated. Tucker calls Wash “dad” for worrying so much. It’s a cute scene that highlights their fondness for each other, but it raised some red flags for me. The fandom loves Wash and Tucker as a romantic pairing, and to me this line made me worry that it was a “no homo” being placed between the two of them. This is further evidenced by a few episodes later, when Carolina discusses closure from York and Wash takes her hand.
I like Wash/Tucker so you could argue that I’m just being a wanky shipper, but as a writer I see how rude this is being to your audience. When you know (and they do) that this pairing is popular, it takes a lot of balls to spit in the faces of those fans and go out of your way to no homo that away. In my opinion, the best thing that you can do for a controversial romance in a story that means a lot to people is: don’t. What you’re going to do is hurt feelings and upset people and it’s a bad choice. If you want to make your ship canon now that you’re the writer, you have to put the work in and earn it. But this season is just one example after another of how they couldn’t do that.
In the end of course Carolina/Washington doesn’t go anywhere and then Wash gets shot in the neck to remove both him and Locus from the scene, and to incite Tucker’s anger as if his girlfriend was fridged. Where the hell is Miles Luna? Isn’t there any oversight here at all?
Grif and Simmons
OH BOY GRIF AND SIMMONS, HERE WE GO.
The relationship development here was handled so well. It was a slow burn that lasted the whole fucking season. They canonically fucked in a closet, folks. They canonically fucked in a closet, refused to talk about it, and were suffering some emotional fallout from not doing so. It all culminates in Grif walking away from the job while Simmons looks on and says nothing. The entire season is asking: who are they without the other? Even going as far as Simmons making explicit romantic comparisons. And then!!!
They have a very sweet conversation that brings everything back to the way it was. The framing, the acknowledgement and discussion of their relationship throughout season 15 was coached as explicitly romantic. And then we get nothing.
Wash and Carolina have never been coached as romantic until season 15, and now they’re holding hands. Grif and Simmons have been dating for FIFTEEN FUCKING SEASONS. JUST DO IT, YOU COWARDS. THEY’RE IN LOVE. JUST SAY IT. JUST FUCKING SAY IT.
Rooster Teeth was like “here’s the one thing that could have been resolved with satisfaction, but I think we won’t because that’s gay haha.”
Sarge and Tucker
After my above rant I’ve made myself tired. TL;DR of it is they both undergo character development that they’ve been through already. It’s like a Drizzt novel up in here.
Caboose loves Church the most, and so when they hear the recording with him in it, he and Tucker are the first to run screaming to the rescue. I think I – and a lot of viewers – were with them in that and eager to see what was up while also knowing that Church was dead. Caboose’s arc in this season of coming to terms with the fact that death is permanent was good. However, I feel that it would have worked just as well without the goodbye to Blood Gulch Church. Getting it is be nice, but he could learn to be okay without it. Most people don’t get to say goodbye in war.
Give Temple the end of his character arc. I wouldn’t have been mad if we could have also gotten the scene with Caboose and Church, but because Temple didn’t get his, I’m still mad about it.
The writers seem to have a plan for Locus, but that plan could have waited. Locus did not need to be in Season 15. Hire me, RT. I could undo him from the script for you in ten minutes. He could be replaced entirely with Spencer Porkensenson (I want more of him) and we wouldn’t lose anything. Except Locus.
I love Locus and I love the Chorus Trilogy, but what would have been really valuable, I think, was to leave it. That way, in another season or two when Locus did reappear, it would be ten times more exciting. Narratively, since season 14 is an outlier, it had been less than a season since we’d seen Locus last. I’m actually excited to see what Joe Nicholosi will do with him, but the reappearance of Locus so soon made me feel like I was looking at the work of an amateur.
Vic’s character arc was the most nuanced, gentle, and self-contained arc in this season. Vic was perfect. He came, he had a role, he performed the role while being himself and dishing out jokes, and then he left how he wanted to leave. I’m sorry to see him go. Vic was ideal plot device material who moved things forward with a price, and left the scene with character resolution. I find it pretty weird that I’m here saying Vic had the only cohesive plot in the season.
Joe Nicholosi, you have a lot of promise. I enjoy you and your jokes are good and I sense a fascination with characters’ relationships that I share. Dial it back a little next time. Hold your cards a little longer. You don’t have to be doing every single thing. Pick your battles and make em count.
Also you don’t understand Tumblr because Tumblr people would love Sarge’s war against the Whites joke. Get good.