Community Recap: ‘For a Few Paintballs More’

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We finally know the true hero of Greendale Community College and of Community in general, the person who makes everything possible, the person who puts in hour after hour of tireless and thankless work, the person who cleans up the messes, literally, of the school’s students. That person is, of course, the custodian that Abed talks to during the end credits. Poor guy, having to mop up the wreckage and paint-covered everything throughout the halls of Greendale, while everyone else is enjoying the summer. Here’s to you, my man.

That out of the way: I couldn’t help being a little disappointed in Community’s season two finale, “For a Few Paintballs More,” the sequel to the “A Fistful of Paintballs,” itself was a sequel, sort of, to last year’s “Modern Warfare.”

It feels like the show could have either gotten more mileage out of the Star Wars parody or just not done it at all. Earlier this week, I watched “It’s a Trap,” the Return of the Jedi installment of Family Guy’s Star Wars-spoofing trilogy, and while I enjoyed it (oddly, much more the Empire-mocking “Something, Something, Something Dark Side,” even though that’s my favorite film, by far), something felt off, as is often the case with Family Guy; it felt too specific to the source material, leaving very little room for jokes, other than having Rush Limbaugh appear as the Rancor. Community had the opposite problem, but with the same result. The first act, and particularly the first scene, made it seem like last episode’s Western-motif had been replaced by Star Wars, right down to the opening crawl, Ice Cream Cone (who it turns out is the dean of City College, to no one’s surprise) resembling Lord Vader, and Abed and Troy getting chased by Stormtroopers, like C3PO and R2D2. I didn’t except this, and frankly, I didn’t want it, either; parodying Star Wars at this point is too easy — it’s Family Guy-level stuff (sorry Robot Chicken). So, when it was dropped five minutes later, in favor of a seemingly random assortment of war movies, other than Abed keeping his Han Solo personality, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was brought up in the first place.

I also, frankly, felt sad for Annie (Abed, too, but we’ve dissected his relating-through-pop-culture theme before, particularly in the write-up to “Critical Film Studies”). She’s now been emotionally hurt by Troy, who she had a crush on in high school; by Jeff, who kissed her and then treated it like it was nothing, glance-montage aside; by Vaughn, who transferred to a different college due to their prestigious hacky sack program; and now, by Abed, whose Han Solo way of living got to her, leading to a particularly steamy (and painty, thanks to Troy’s brilliant idea of putting paint in the sprinkler system) kiss, if I may say so. Annie deserves better, and I hope she finds someone next season.

But my biggest “problem” with “For a Few Paintballs More” was how disconnected it felt from last week’s part one. Knowing Dan Harmon and his usually-wonderful love of fucking with perceptions (again, see “Critical Film Studies”), I probably should have expected an episode that felt like a complete tonal shift from its early installment — but I didn’t, and it made me wonder what the point of the Black Rider was, other than to have Sawyer on the show, why the first episode was focused mainly on Annie only to have that dropped, and why the episode had to be split into two parts.

Think of this way: did these episodes need to be paintball-related? The only major shift on the show is that Pierce is gone (for now, at least), after giving a great Kiss My Ass speech, which is a story that could have been done through a different theme or just a “normal” episode, but other than that, were there consequences to the show’s arc that could only have been told through paintball? I think Community squandered an opportunity to redeem Britta, my second favorite character on the show (behind Troy), who’s had to put up with a year of “UGH” comments by the rest of the gang. Instead, she (and Shirley, who just wants to get through the day, and go home and feed her baby) got a brief moment of glory before..Pierce (who’s been at Greendale for 12 years!) saves the day, donating the $100,000 he won to the school he loves so dearly.

Because of the success of “Modern Warfare,” I think most fans expected any further paintball-related episodes of Community to be Great, capital-G. The writing staff knew the expectations that came with trying to top their greatest success, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say “For a Few Paintballs More” was a failure, it was — let’s say this: instead of being a great episode, it had a few great moments, like after Magnitude’s been shot and only able to mutter, “Pop…,” Troy screams, “Pop what?!?” (Two more MVPs: “Let’s Kick Their Taints” Leonard and, of course, Quendra, with a Q-U).

I don’t want to go out on a total downer not, though, because even though I didn’t love this episode, I still think season two of Community is one of the finest seasons of any sitcom ever (even the excellent eighth season of The Simpsons ended with the somewhat disappointing “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson”). Every character on the show had multiple episodes with their own arc; the supporting cast was filled out beautifully (particularly Magnitude, but also Fat Neil and Vicky); and the season was evenly spread out between themed and more standard sitcom episodes. Five favorite episodes:

5. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (Abed has an uncontrollable Christmas)

4. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” (gang plays D&D with Fat Neil)

3. “Cooperative Calligraphy” (bottle episode)

2. “Epidemiology” (zombies)

1. “Paradigms of Human Memory” (clip show)

And that still leaves out “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” “Mixology Certification,” and “Critical Film Studies”! I know we don’t do grades here on Splitsider (take that, AV Club!), but if we did, Community is an obvious A. See you next semester, Human Beings!

Josh Kurp would love to know your favorite episodes of the season.