It can’t be easy writing a Web series. Think about how long you’ll stay watching a single YouTube video. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably click away after a minute or two, and that’s only if the first few seconds interest you. Even though Netflix and Hulu are starting to change those attitudes, it’s difficult to gain – and even more so to maintain – an audience.
It’s kind of surprising, then, the following that the Web series “The Guild” has attracted. It’s been going on for five seasons – the newest of which premiered two weeks ago – and it still has hundreds of thousands of viewers. It’s certainly no “Friday,” but the commitment of its viewers is surprising.
The show lives somewhat precariously on the edge of being too niche, since its main characters are a group of misfits who play an online roleplaying game together. However, ever since season one, which began with the guild meeting in real life for the first time, the show has focused on the characters and their relationships. Despite occasional references to things that may be beyond the reach of a non-gamer (what is “DPS” and how do you “link loot”?), the game never overtakes the characters; it doesn’t have a name and didn’t even appear on screen until last year’s finale. As a result, the show has gained a following far beyond what one might expect from the subject matter.
This season takes the Knights of Good further from their virtual world than they’ve ever been before, to MegaGame-O-Rama-Con, a “nerdstravaganza” that seems to cover the entire breadth of geek culture. The main set piece – the convention itself – hasn’t appeared on-screen, but it’s evident they’re splitting up the characters this early for the purpose of showing as much of it off as possible. It’s a bit disturbing to see the characters serving the plot like this, but it might be worth it to see Clara (played by Robin Thorsen) have her last hurrah before her baby bump keeps her from having fun, to watch Bladezz (Vince Caso) cash in on his Internet-meme fame from last season and to see Codex (Felicia Day, who also writes the series) pursue Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) .
Let’s talk about that last thing. I’m not really happy with the way the show’s handling Codex’s crush on Zaboo. There have been hints of this as far back as season two, and I’d even argue that it’s something the show needs. It took a while for Zaboo to evolve from Codex’s loveable stalker to her friend, but his development was natural and well thought out; he and Codex actually kind of seem like a good fit now. But I feel like the way they’re going about it is all wrong. Codex has abruptly changed from denying her interest in Zaboo to doodling their names in a notebook. It’s a bit of a leap, and besides, we’ve seen Codex with a crush before, twice if you count her fake relationship with Wil Wheaton’s character last year; it’d be nice for them to take a different angle on the fledgling relationship.
But the slight faults in characterization don’t put a damper on the clever writing and the funny interactions between the characters. If you haven’t watched “The Guild” yet, you might want to take a look. Although fans since the beginning have had to wait four years to get to season 5, all past episodes are available for free on a variety of websites, including YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. The nerd-centric humor may be off-putting for some people, but the characters and the witty dialogue that flies between them should make up for it. It gets off to a slow start, but you’ll be able to plow through the entire series in a day – although afterward, you might find yourself wishing you had paced yourself a bit more.
Watch “The Guild” Tuesdays on Xbox Marketplace and Zune and Thursdays on http://www.watchtheguild.com/.