Review: ‘Community’ – ‘Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’

A review of tonight's “Community” coming up just as soon as I find a name that's not just another creature's name plus “hob”…

In the second part of my long interview with Dan Harmon (here is the first part, in case you missed it), Harmon talked about “Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” as the biggest mistake he made this season, not because it was bad – “I think it'll be pretty good,” he said – but simply because it was an incredibly hard script to write at a time in the production schedule when they couldn't handle slow writing, and they were writing each page while the cast was shooting the page before it.

And I can see why this would have been a tough nut to crack, because the first D&D episode is one of the best “Community” installments ever, and weirdly representative of the show as a whole, even as the series has turned into a series of distinct little snowflakes. Harmon has been very careful about not repeating too many of his concept episodes, and has had mixed results when he's done so. “A Fistful of Paintballs” is in some ways better than “Modern Warfare,” but the “Star Wars”-themed paintball episode was a step down, and the season 3 fake clip show episode was fun but not at the level of the one from season 2.

“Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” went so far as to put Neil in the background for a joke about how he's still having adventures in the background, and it cast Annie again as Hector the Well-Endowed, though it only briefly did anything with the idea (and I imagine there will be many gifs of Alison Brie doing that particular gesture). Making it about Buzz's attempt to re-connect with his estranged son gave it some more emotional weight than the Neil story from the first one, in that Buzz has become a significant character in a short period of time where Neil was a glorified extra (and it was in the middle of Pierce's supervillain period). Comedy-wise, though, only a couple of the gags could be reasonably held up against the ones that were overflowing in the first: Buzz interrogating a pair of hobgoblins (both played by Abed) and masterfully turning one against the other like the nasty cop he used to be, and Dean Pelton getting his hug from Jeff no matter the cost.

There were some nice comic beats here and there, and the episode looked terrific, using special effects to enhance the game without letting them start to drive the story (like, say, the season 4 finale). But I hope that if there actually is a sixth season – and part 2 of the interview has Harmon committing to some kind of movie, no matter what, should renewal come – the show doesn't feel the need to rehash its greatest hits yet again.

What did everybody else think?