Feb 25, 2013

Community: "Conventions of Space and Time"

By Nico Danilovich

Usually when I do a review of Community I watch the episode twice to really get a good sense of what went on in the episode. Right now I’m sitting here, having just finished my first watch-through of this week’s episode, and I just don’t really want to watch it again. To feel that way about a new episode from one of my favorite shows is definitely a bummer and reflects poorly on the episode. That’s not to say it was that bad. There were funny jokes within logical plotlines and enough topical references to Doctor Who that worked surprisingly well for me, but overall, it was just another average episode of Community. Mainly, what it lacked was the pizzazz and cohesion I’d like to see from an episode of a show in its final season.

As I said before, one aspect of the episode that worked surprisingly well for me was Community’s handling of the Dr. Who spoof-elements. As a casual fan of Dr. Who I was hoping for some good spoof material from this episode but wasn’t really expecting much; going in, I felt that Community had already sort of milked that cow dry when they first introduced Inspector Spacetime. But as soon as Britta reluctantly confirmed with Troy that there were fifty years of this goofy sci-fi show, I found myself thinking, “Yup. That’s exactly how I feel about Dr. Who,” and chuckling. Abed’s analysis of the thematic meaning behind the Inspector’s (Doctor’s) decision to always pair up with a human instead of another alien was refreshingly insightful and humorous. Plus, the storyline about the development of an American Inspector Spacetime worked pretty well as a spoof of the Americanization of British Television shows in general.  It also allowed for a hilarious throwback to the previous episode with Pierce’s idea of “a blonde with long legs and a tennis racket.” It may not have been as layered as "Critical Film Studies" (Season 2’s Pulp Fiction and My Dinner with Andre spoof) but Community’s spoofing of Dr. Who was still smart and funny.

There were a few other things worth mentioning that also ensured this episode was still enjoyable enough to be considered worth watching. The cold opening worked very well. Britta’s fancy maneuver and the tracking camera movement that went along with it were both impressive and lively. The resulting jokes—Annie supplying Britta with a curling iron, Abed revealing that he knew Troy and Britta were sleeping together and had been manipulating them for donuts, and Britta’s reaction consisting only of her wondering why Abed didn’t say something sooner—all got me laughing. Soon afterwards, we found out Pierce was once again being left out of the group. At first I was disappointed to see Pierce pushed to the side once more, but I was ultimately pleased to find that he and Shirley were brought together in a storyline instigated by this exclusion. The group may have left out Pierce and Shirley this week, but the writers didn’t. Finally, there was Troy’s freak-out at Abed during the panel, which Donald Glover, unsurprisingly, made hilarious. These highlights kept me interested and counteracted some of the lesser elements of this episode.

Abed’s storyline was also a strongpoint, probably the strongest character storyline in the episode. In response to Troy and Britta’s new relationship, Abed made a new friend at the convention who attempted to replace Troy. Abed eventually saw through this and got “kidnapped” by his new “friend”, but really he just got trapped in a box. Troy eventually saved him and Abed delivered a nice line about how, for the first time, he had been trapped but knew he would be saved.

The complimentary storyline, concerning Troy and Britta, didn’t work as well for me. Troy became jealous of Abed’s new friend, a logical response for Troy to have. What made the storyline weird was Troy’s dynamic with Britta. I can’t pinpoint what exactly felt so off about it for me, but it was weird to see Troy and Britta interact the way they did. I think a big part of it was that Britta was so supportive of Troy being jealous of Abed’s new friend. As his girlfriend, I would have expected Britta to tell Troy to get over it and realize that it’s good for Abed to move on, but instead she flamed the fire of Troy’s codependency with Abed and drove Troy into the arms of his best friend. Ultimately, it all ended up making sense since Britta didn’t really care about being with Troy at the Inspector Spacetime convention, but the dynamic between the two of them still threw me for a loop and isn’t something I really want to see again.

Speaking of Troy and Britta, how weird was it to seem them undressed in bed together? Very weird, is the correct answer.

Speaking of weird, let’s talk about Jeff and Annie. Last episode they attempted to dress as a couple’s costume for Halloween. This episode they planned a ski trip together. When that didn’t work out, Annie daydreamed/role-played being married to Jeff and, admittedly, it was super cute. When Jeff found out, he was a little freaked out, but he ultimately decided to flirt with Annie instead of worrying about it. It seems as though the writers are setting up these characters to get together by this season’s end. However, they’re going about it in a fairly weird way. It’s hard to believe that these two are falling for each other when earlier in the episode Jeff ditched Annie and tried to dupe some hottie at the convention. It’s also weird considering that a relationship between Jeff and Annie has been teased since season 1, but instead of slowly building up the romantic tension over the years, the writers have built it up and tore it down repeatedly. Because of this, the joining of Jeff and Annie’s storylines this week seemed strange and the romantic ending it led to seemed to come out of left field.

There was nothing too bad about this episode, but there wasn’t really anything to rave about to friends the next day either. Aside from the setting of the Inspector Spacetime convention, there wasn’t much linking all of the characters’ experiences together. Because of this, the episode felt kind of splintered, especially when you consider the odd dynamics present between Troy and Britta, and Annie and Jeff. Despite this, it was definitely entertaining to watch, just not as entertaining as I would hope Community would be in its final season. Here’s hoping the mediocrity of this episode and the episode before it doesn’t continue to be present throughout the rest of the season.

Grade: C

Nico Danilovich is a television enthusiast and amateur filmmaker. His work can be seen at www.youtube.com/lazyneighbors

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