Episode 4 - Alternative History of the German Invasion
5 April 2013
I liked this a lot. This was quite a cleansing experience for me.
I've complained for the last two seasons that Community had badly lost its way. The promise of season one was squandered for the sake of chasing references down rabbit holes and exposing the callous core of our characters and then forgetting that what they did last week had actually happened.
This episode attempted to right all those wrongs in one bold move and unexpectedly succeeded. For a start the plot was built around a class. The show is called Community, as in Community College, as in learning and studying. The way previous classes have been dismissed as mere distractions from the business of being silly has been a constant irritation. Here History class was used to remind the group about their own history as well as setting off a fun war parody which drove the plot forward nicely.
The German puns (that Troy didn't get) and the Dean's puns (which no one but the viewer could follow) gave the dialogue more of the snap and crackle that it used to have too. The German jokes were predictable but served the story and the war analogy was a lot of fun. Like in any classic sit com the Germans were always one step ahead and the conflict reached a really fun climax with the breaking-chair sequence that hit the parody-plausibility line just perfectly. I liked that there was room for Abed to have his own subplot about honouring the bond he'd developed independently with Karl.
The study group cunningly defeated the Germans (mocking Greendale's oversensitive reaction to cultural celebrations) but instead of that being the end of things we got a proper Community-style twist. Years of selfishness in the study room come back to bite them when the rest of campus takes the Germans side and protests their domination of the only nice room Greendale has to offer. This scenario is a meta-commentary on the inevitable fact that our study group are the main characters on the TV show and that using one set is a lot cheaper than finding multiple places for them to hang out.
Dan Harmon always seemed to think that this meta-commentary was more valuable and funnier than it ever was. His indulgence in it destroyed the sense that these were real people actually attending College. The new show runners gloriously used that weakness as a strength by having the group accept their selfishness and do something about it. That was such a strong and happy ending, something so many episodes were crying out for over the years. Repairing other study rooms was the ideal place to stage their "reparations."
If this is the final year of college and of Community then I would loudly applaud more stories like this which push the characters to take genuine positive experiences from their time at Greendale. It seems like that's what's being done with Chang who is being rebooted from zero. I suppose it could all be a giant act on his part but it would be better for everyone if he built up a new personality without the insanity.
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