By Nico Danilovich
After an exciting season premier, Community’s fourth season proceeded to deliver two mediocre episodes, thus shaking my confidence in the show’s future. A major problem with these two mediocre episodes was the many fractured storylines the writers attempted to cram into single episodes. This resulted in a lack of cohesion in the stories and left the audience feeling a bit scatter-brained. It also probably didn’t help that both episodes took place almost entirely outside of Greendale. While it’s certainly not impossible to create a strong episode that isn’t located at Greendale (just look at Season 3’s “Digital Estate Planning”), it does take us away from the locational heart of the show and consequently makes the task more difficult.
Fortunately, last night’s episode avoided both of these problems and proved that Community can still be the Community we all know and love; this episode was a thoroughly enjoyable half hour of comedy that never took a wrong step.
The A plot focused on a delightfully cohesive study group. Threatened by the German students’ acquisition of the group’s study room, the gang stuck together to form a united front against the invasion. The decision to not split up the gang for the entirety of the episode was a very smart one, as it allowed for a great dynamic to shine through and allowed the audience to fall back in love with the show’s cast of unlikely friends. Even Pierce seemed at home within the study group this week. From the very beginning of the episode until the very end, the in-group banter was sharp and funny. The study group’s storyline eventually culminated in a group realization that they were the selfish, vain, one percent, Nazis of Greendale, with Jeff as their “golden-throated”, Hitler-like leader. This also resulted in a genuinely heartwarming decision by the study group to give back to the school that has undoubtedly become their home over the past few years. Presenting the entire study group with one clear goal and ultimately involving every member in the emotional transformation the study group underwent ensured the episode’s emotional strength. If the rest of Season 4 continues to use the study group in the same way this episode did, Community will be in good shape.
The B plot, on the other hand, focused on the Dean being forced to take care of a Changnesia-inflicted Chang. Originally, the Dean set out to reveal what he was convinced would turn out to be Chang’s true and sinister intentions. However, he was eventually convinced of “Kevin”’s story when he saw Chang remorse for his actions, something the Dean believed the old Chang would never have done. It was a great secondary plotline that put two of the funniest supporting characters together in an engaging situation full of name-based puns and ironic jokes at the Dean’s expense. The storyline was also nicely tied into the study group’s A plot at the end of the episode; the Dean reintroduced Chang to the group by using the group’s newfound belief in the value of forgiveness and redemption against them. Like this episode’s A plot, the B plot is a prime example of what Community should strive to do in the future: make the B plot smart, funny, engaging and just loosely enough tied into the main plot for the audience to care.
Truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about concerning this episode, because there wasn’t much that went wrong. Sure, there were probably a few jokes here and there that didn’t work for everyone, but there was certainly nothing that detracted from the strength of the episode. The episode was smartly structured, the storylines were engaging, the humor was exactly what you would hope for from an episode of Community and nothing was amiss. If there’s one thing that stopped this episode from achieving greatness it was probably the lack of a high concept (like those found in “Paradigms of Human Memory” or “Remedial Chaos Theory), but you can hardly blame the writers for that. Not every episode can have a special high concept; we need simple, yet solid, episodes like last night’s to remind us why we fell in love with the show in the first place. If Community keeps doing what it did last night, the show will be in great shape going forward.
Nico Danilovich is a television enthusiast and amateur filmmaker. His work can be seen at www.youtube.com/lazyneighbors