Call us picky, Community fans (which you will, in the comments!). Call us grumpy. Or even accuse us of having PMS (which is tricky because we’re pretty sure the particular royal we that writes these recaps is a dude!), but we have high standards when it comes to the bonkers meta-ness of this show. Which is to say: :Lazy Ross-and-Rachel-on-Friends references used to characterize Jeff and Britta’s own will-they-or-will-they-in-a-later-season level of sexual tension? Eh. But an entire half-hour played out like an amazeballs paintball tribute to zombie movies and The Matrix starring Joel McHale as a tanktop-wearing, two-eyes-having Snake Plisskin? As popular nineties television character Chandler Bing might have said, had he worked at some sort of store where goods are exchanged for money: “Sold!”
Honestly, people: We just try to call ‘em as we see ‘em. And as we saw it, “Modern Warfare” had it all. Actually, it had much more than it all. Like the doomed, treebound glee-club warriors, this episode picked its tune and belted it for all it was worth. And that’s all we’ve really ever been arguing: that Community works best when the writers have the confidence to go all in with their intense, pop-culture obsessions, not just have Abed pick and poke around them. And on that score, this episode outdid even the previously established highs of “Contemporary American Poultry.” We could spend a (hilarious!) morning just remembering last night’s little details: Jeff’s post-nap stumble through the postapocalyptic campus (just one hour later!), the slick of green paint dribbling down the men’s room wall, the vending machine betrayal of Starburns, Troy’s unnecessary codpiece. But we won’t (even though we kinda just did!) because we want to make sure attention is paid and credit attributed to director Justin Lin, who somehow had more opportunity to demonstrate what a kick-ass action director he is in a half-hour sitcom that featured the naked Asian gangster from The Hangover giggling maniacally while detonating a bright-green suicide paint bomb then he’s ever had in his day job, which is actually directing action movies like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Oh, and: Britta and Jeff did it. But you know what? Fine! Awesome! Writer Emily Cutler absolutely nailed a delicate balance of having the characters respond to a (ludicrous) situation in ways that actually felt earned and interesting while still gunning the movie-reference engine at a nice clip. Also? In the world of the show, these people are adults! If they want to hump in a study hall at 2 a.m. after all their friends have been gunned down and smeared with hot pink (washable) paint, then so be it. One leaves this episode feeling like actual character advancement has happened in a mature and reasonable way, without resorting to cheap ploys. Pause now while we slowly strip off our shirt, revealing our impressive guns. (Meaning: arms, not paint-shooters.)
In closing, if we were to win high-priority registration, we know which episode we’d register for first: this one. Boom.
From his new digs at Hitfix.com, Alan Sepinwall feels this episode was “screamingly funny” but “not as emotionally rich.”
Todd VanDerWerff at the AV Club feels this was one of the best episodes of any show on television so far this year.
At EW, Sandra Gonzalez implies that she’s already watched this episode more than once. Dedication!