A review of tonight’s “Community” coming up just as soon as I need help reacting to something…
Outside of the study room itself, which is the foundation of the series, the Troy/Abed/Annie apartment is turning into perhaps the series’ most valuable location. Not only is it the home of nearly half the study group, but it seems to provide more gravity than anyplace on the Greendale campus itself. Though silly things can and do happen in the apartment – including dark timelines and Abed turning into Batman again – the characters and their emotions tend to feel more real there than they do in, say, the cafeteria or Dean Pelton’s office.
And the apartment provided an ideal setting for the core story of a more down-to-earth episode that served as a good contrast to last week’s ambitious, high-concept, esoteric Ken Burns’ spoof. On the one hand, Britta’s attraction to the mysterious Blade(*) turns her into a character in a vampire movie, hopelessly under his supernatural sway and willing to do anything and betray anyone to get to him. On the other, the story takes an honest look at Annie’s desire to have Britta as a friend and, especially, at Troy’s feelings for Britta, which have been hinted at for quite some time. Donald Glover did a fantastic job in those final moments as Troy suddenly got very serious about putting an end to this whole game while trying to keep Annie from finding out what he texted Britta. (And it was a nice touch, I thought, that we never actually saw the text.)
(*) Played by Kirk Fox, aka Sewage Joe from “Parks and Recreation.”
So all of that material was satisfying on both a comic level (everyone’s mockery of Britta in the teaser was hilarious, as was the “You are the opposites of Batman!” callback, everyone’s reaction to Dean Pelton showing up and then Pelton providing color commentary of all the action, etc.) and an emotional level.
The scenes at the carnival, though, were iffier.
On the one hand, Jeff and Shirley is proving to be one of the show’s best partnerships, even if it took the writers two-plus seasons to fully understand and define it. I like the idea that, whatever sexual tension there exists between Jeff and the other two women in the group, Shirley’s the one who actually understands him, and the one he’s most at ease around. But while Jeff’s obsession with Blade tied into recent stories about the insecurity Jeff does his best to mask, the explanation for Blade’s cool ultimately seemed too similar to how Jeff was behaving on those anti-anxiety meds in “Celebrity Impressionists.” And his speech to Britta at the apartment played too much like a self-conscious parody of a Jeff Winger speech – like the “It’s a locomotive that runs on us!” speech we heard snippets of in the clip show episode – than one we were meant to take as sincerely as a lot of the other things in the episode.
As for Pierce and Chang’s brief friendship, it couldn’t help but evoke thoughts of the ongoing Dan Harmon/Chevy Chase kerfuffle. I’ve been reluctant to go into it for a bunch of reasons – neither man has covered himself in glory with their behavior here, Chevy’s relationship with the rest of the “Community” cast and crew has never exactly been a secret, and it ultimately isn’t going to have anything to do with whether the show returns (though it will with whether Chevy returns with it) – but Pierce’s role in this episode definitely brought to mind Chevy’s complaints in the more recently-released voicemail. It’s just there to make Pierce look like a clown (Chang, too, but Chang’s already a cartoon), and to keep him busy while the show focuses on the characters it’s more interested in. And to be honest, I’m much more interested in the other six members of the study group than Pierce. But I also think many of the show’s best episodes and stories are ones that feature Pierce prominently and/or takes him as seriously as it does everyone else. This was just a brief goof, and not a particularly funny one.
A few other thoughts:
* Loved the stunned reaction when Annie’s phone started ringing, with Troy making Britta sound like a horror movie villain: “She was born in the ’80s! She still uses her phone as a phone!”
* I actually half-forgot the reason why Pelton came to the apartment until his half-assed attempt to do Laybourne’s dirty work right before exiting. But he was funny while there (particularly “Hey, don’t knock it til you try it.”)
* Very funny tag, making fun of late ’80s/early ’90s stand-up comics relying on both overly-specific material and tired comparisons – only here it wasn’t “Black guys do XX like this, and white guys do XX like this,” but Troy vs. Abed on teeth-brushing.
What did everybody else think?