‘Community’ – ‘For a Few Paintballs More’: A new hope?

Senior Television Writer
05.12.11 126 Comments


A review of the “Community” season two finale coming up just as soon as I call dibs on the Han Solo role…

“Too risky. Sequels are almost always disappointing.” -Abed

“For a Few Paintballs More” was more of what I had in my head when I first heard that “Community” was doing another paintball episode. It wasn’t bad by any means – it was, in fact, a lot of fun. But where “A Fistful of Paintballs” managed to largely transcend sequel-itis by going deeper emotionally and stylistically, this one felt like more of a goof up until the last act. Lots of amusing “Star Wars” references and grace notes for members of the larger Greendale universe(*), but an episode I don’t think I’m going to feel compelled to revisit as often as I have “Modern Warfare” or likely will last week’s episode.

(*) My favorite of these, unsurprisingly, involved Magnitude throwing himself on the paint grenade, then moaning “Pop…” as a hysterical, baffled Troy cries, “‘Pop’ what? ‘POP’ WHAT?!?!!?!?!”

“Star Wars” is a broader, more heavily-parodied (at least by this generation) target than spaghetti Westerns, and also one that’s harder to recreate the visual style of on a sitcom budget, but Hilary Winston’s script and Joe Russo’s direction did darned well under the circumstances. The shot of Dean Spreck entering the library in the ice cream costume looked just like the comparable shot of Vader boarding Princess Leia’s ship, for instance. And Annie’s attraction to Abed’s Han Solo impression(**) was very well-played, particularly her valiant attempt to quote a Princess Leia insult of Han to him.

(**) Is Annie/Abed a pairing that some fans had previously been ‘shipping, or is this episode going to launch a thousand ‘ship pages? I actually found it a little sad, both for Annie (who has tried to grow up too fast and could use some immature romantic fun) and Abed (who, as usual, is only able to connect with people by adopting a persona from pop culture, and who doesn’t even realize what he has before he drops it).

Still, as with the opening title crawl, the episode wisely chose not to draw out the “Star Wars” gag too long, and by the time we got to the climax of the paintball contest, we had shifted back into a more diverse action movie parody, including an assault on a fixed position with a Gatling gun (a bit of “The Wild Bunch”), Shirley and Britta showing off some fancy driving/shooting moves (a riff on tons of recent movies, from “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” to “Wanted”), etc.

For a brief moment, I wanted Britta to be the sole heroine, if only as a payoff to all the “You’re the worst!” talk she’s had to suffer all year. But, of course, this was a story about Pierce, and his role in both the group and the larger community of Greendale weirdos, so he was the one who had to fire the final shot, save the school, and set up that melancholy final scene in the study room.

He’s run away from it for most of his career, because it’s always been so much easier to be an ironically-detached wiseass, but Chevy Chase has always had the ability to be a strong dramatic actor. (There are even a few isolated moments in “Fletch,” which is otherwise the pinnacle of his detached persona, where he plays things sincerely and is really effective.) And his final monologue explaining just why he’s been such a jerk to everyone in the group was both a terrifically-acted moment and an effective a capper to the whole “Why does the group put up with Pierce?” question many of us have been asking all season – with the added twist that the group comes to the realization just as Pierce decides he’ll be the one to walk away first.

I imagine that Pierce eventually rejoins the group in season three, but I could also easily see him slipping into the antagonistic Chang role. As we saw this year, Pierce makes a very good villain; the only problem is in pushing his villainy so far that it becomes hard to accept the others’ continuing to accept his friendship. But if he doesn’t want to be their friend, even if he continues to attend their school ?That’s something we can work with.

Some other thoughts:

• First, I feel great shame for not recognizing that Troy was wearing Cleavon Little’s outfit from “Blazing Saddles” last week. Bad Alan! He started off this one having already removed the top (in the shift from the Western motif to “Star Wars”), and as a result there was never a good opportunity for him to say “Where are the white women at?”

• More Bad Alan: I didn’t notice “Cougar Town” co-stars Busy Philipps and Dan Byrd in the background of a few of the group reaction shots as Britta, Shirley and Pierce are saving the day. (You can see Busy in the press still I wound up choosing for this post.) The “Community”/”Cougar Town” lovefest continues!

• On the other hand, I did notice a mustachioed Dan Harmon on the Greendale poster the Stormtroopers were mocking right before Abed, Annie and Shirley ambushed them. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

• Though the episode didn’t look as impressive overall as last week’s, the shot of Annie and Abed kissing passionately as the paint streamed down the window was as gorgeous as anything this visually-adventurous show has given us in these two seasons.

Finally, I’m too fried from the end of a long TV season, the crunch of sweeps, getting ready for the upfronts, etc., to think incredibly deeply on this season as a whole. That said, if you were to put a gun to my head right now, I think I’d take season two over season one. It had weak spots, to be sure, but I loved the hell out of the ambition of it, thought the emotional stories (Troy’s birthday, Abed at Christmas, Jeff’s breakdown in the hospital episode, Abed and Jeff’s real conversation on Abed’s birthday, Annie last week, etc.) hit incredibly well, and the show was still screamingly funny more than often enough to justify those episodes or scenes that decided they weren’t going to be driven by jokes.

We are going to get at least three seasons of this crazy, lovable damn show. That’s pretty fantastic.

What did everybody else think – of both the finale and the season as a whole?

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