The first episode of Valve’s new documentary series, True Sight, premiered on Thursday featuring a look into Evil Geniuses and Fnatic as its first subjects. Valve describes True Sight as “a new documentary series that takes you behind the scenes of the journeys of professional teams,” and I would say that this first episode accomplishes just that. This is a raw look at how EG and Fnatic function at the start of their season.
EG and Fnatic contrast sharply when it comes to the very beginning of the season. Whereas EG look to buckle down and prepare for their upcoming tournament, Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho and his new team take a two week vacation. This didn’t surprise me at all. What did surprise me was Valve’s editors’ decision to keep in so much filler, but it does eventually pay off and make it all worth it. Take my complaints with a grain of salt, because on my second viewing I found the scenes a little more tolerable knowing that the outcome was worth it. At least the shots of Fnatic popping champagne on their yacht and driving ATVs through the jungle show us a side of these players that we don’t often see.
I can see why Valve chose to put both teams together for this first episode. EG’s new members practice for MDL and fulfill their contractual obligations by attending a fan event (in partnership with SanDisk) in California. Meanwhile, Jimmy, Chong Xin “Ohaiyo” Khoo and Marc Polo “Raven” Luis Fausto get their hair dyed. Sumail also gets his hair dyed, which kind of ties the stories together. If you want my opinion, Sumail’s hairdresser did a much better job than the one who worked on Fnatic. Clinton ” Fear” Loomis, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg lounge around on a large stuffed bear. The latter two talk about when they think they might retire from playing Dota 2. Arteezy laments the time spent wasted in school doing nothing but studying, which made sense considering the two players’ background of balancing school and professional Dota 2. It’s always great to get that kind of perspective from professional players we usually only see through a lens. Small nitpick; Arteezy uses “golden years” incorrectly as the term refers to the period during which someone is retired, not a person’s prime.
When Fnatic steps on the yacht I start to lose interest in their half of the episode. Considering that we’re only halfway through the thing, this is a bad sign. Watching Jimmy get drunk and affect a Malaysian accent (“Don’t get too slop-py!”) when talking to his teammates is kind of entertaining, but I’d rather be watching EG’s journey to MDL. Thankfully Peter “PPD” Dager saves me from boredom by bringing it back to EG and talking about the players on the current roster. Andreas “Cr1t” Nielsen gives a little sneak peek into how he would like to run the team as the new captain, and comes off as no-nonsense. Firm, but not strict. It’s clear that his teammates respect him. I wonder if Cr1t’s time on OG influenced his preferred style of captaining. Then, sadly, we go back to Fnatic and their ATV adventures. There’s some generic upbeat pop music and shots of totally uninteresting driving down a one-way path. Raven scrapes up his knee a bit. My interest quickly waning by this point, but it comes back briefly as Raven and Nico “eyyou” Barcelon talk about how Chai Yee “Mushi” Fung is an intimidating figure in Southeast Asian Dota because strict he is. Players in the region revere him as one of the game’s greats, but he expects others to work just as hard as he does. Mushi expands more on this idea in a later scene, and talks about how important running is to him. I want more of this; the personal moments and perspective from the players on the challenges they face when reality can’t match their expectations, but now it’s time to watch Fnatic eat dinner and meet some fans.
The payoff of all this Fnatic filler is that once they return from their vacation, everyone slowly starts to realize that despite their strong results on separate teams at The International their new team isn’t performing very well in practice. I love the contrast between EG performing well as a team at MDL and Fnatic failing to make things work at the start of their journey. While Fear is breaking down enemy drafts and strategy for the team, Mushi is accusing Ohaiyo of being lazy, which Ohaiyo admits is a problem he’s trying to fix. This is where things start to look good, but as soon as we start to get serious with Fnatic the episode is over. Arteezy and Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora have won their first LAN in eight months, and Arteezy yearns for the days when winning tournaments was routine for him. Jimmy says that because their players are not the best in the world they need to work together to win. Arteezy, once called A-God by viewers as a young prodigy, lifts the MDL trophy high over his head.
The question I really had to ask myself as the episode comes to a close is this: does Fnatic’s payoff justify slogging through a weak half of an episode? Kind of. The conclusion makes sense. EG worked hard and put together a lengthy boot camp so that their new roster could get a few weeks of practice together before a big LAN event. Their results at MDL likely ensured an invitation to the Boston Major. Fnatic sat on their laurels and partied, and are now facing the realization that their own invite could be in jeopardy. Nothing is certain in Dota, and it always helps to come prepared. That lesson alone somewhat redeems the boring middle part of the episode. At least it had purpose.
Finally, I want to mention a neat little shot at the very end of the episode. EG, triumphant in victory, give a press conference for the Chinese media. As the team members wait to answer their next question they fall silent and seem to be lost in thought for a moment. I’m reminded of the very last scene in The Graduate (1967), in which Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine (Katharine Ross) sit on the bus and the magnitude of their actions dawns on them. I get the same kind of vibe from the last shot of EG, who realize that they’re fully committed now on their road to the Boston Major.
I’d give the first episode of True Sight a B out of 10 on my arbitrary rating scale.