Community is the best comedy on TV right now partially because of its imperfections. Take, for instance, last night’s high-concept bottle episode, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” where Pierce becomes a diabolical villain within minutes. One episode he’ll be a defenseless old man, who can’t even roll out of a bar in his wheelchair, and the next, he’s raping an entire village. It makes no sense in a typical storytelling way, but that’s what so great about Community; there’s nothing typical about it, and any flaw it might have is overshadowed by how committed each episode is to the plot. It’s the closest thing we’ve had to The Simpsons seasons three-six since, well, Simpsons seasons three-six.
When last we saw the then-unnamed Fat Neil, Britta was flashing him so she could get two tickets to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert (Community reminds me of Seinfeld in the way they’ll slyly introduce a character, only to make them a focal point in a later episode). Now, though, he’s really depressed, not because he couldn’t hear “Under the Bridge” live, but because he heard Jeff calling him Fat Neil. But we don’t know that at the beginning of the episode. All we knew is that someone has been calling him that, and Jeff tries to not feel guilty/cheer the sad, maybe suicidal kid up by pretending to be a Dungeons and Dragon fan, and eventually playing a D&D game with Neil and the rest of the study hall group. Every character brought their A game (or whatever the D&D equivalent is) last night:
Jeff (Marrrrrrr): Community acknowledges that Jeff’s a bit of a dick, and makes no apologies for it. As mentioned above, he’s the one who first used the nickname at Greendale, and even admit that he’s the bad guy. He even sort of deflects blame to Fat Neil (“He’s black.” “Well, I don’t look at the world through that lens”). But he obviously also cares, or at least cares enough to try to stop Pierce from taking Fat Neil’s sword.
Britta (Lavernica): A lot of people have gotten sick of Britta’s politics and equal rights and BLAH BLAH BLAH. But I like her as the, in Troy’s words, “AT&T of people.” She talks and talk about gender equality and how even the lowliest gnome waiters named Kyle should be treated the same as a human (which reminded me a lot of Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with her SPEW campaign), but the writers clearly aren’t afraid to make fun of her anymore, which I think they were in the earlier episodes. The first words out of her mouth are “Julian Assange is a modern day Thomas Paine!” But she’s also the first person, outside of Abed, to really embrace the game (listen to the way she announces herself). My response to those who criticize Britta: “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
Annie (Hector the Well-Endowed): She really only had one scene to work with, but just as Hector the Well-Endowed and Unnamed Elf Maiden made some sweet, sweet love, so too did she nail it. Go back and watch the scene between her and Abed again, and try to guess what they’re saying/acting out. There was definitely some spanking and fondling involved. Alison Brie really needs to host SNL — soon.
Shirley (Zippity Do): She didn’t really do much (the only thing I can remember her is saying “aww”), and that’s totally fine by me. The writers have a tough time writing for Shirley because, with the exception of Pierce, she’s slightly older than the rest of the group, but they can’t make her like him because being evil just isn’t in her personality.
Troy (Bing Bong the Archer): “Shouldn’t there be a board or pieces or something to Jenga?”
Abed (Draconis): Acting as Dungeon Master is the PERFECT role for him. He can literally control an entire universe, while not feeling lonely because he needs other people to play with him. The episode also brought up the “Britta cares deeply for Abed” storyline again, last seen in the Christmas episode. I wonder if anything’s going to happen there.
Chang (Brutalitops the Magician): Eventually the gag of Chang appearing out of nowhere will become the next “Oh my God, they killed Kenny. You bastards!” But right now, it’s working. We see Chang do his best Al Jolson impr — I mean, wear his best Drow makeup, and he’s gone soon after. Just the right amount of Chang.
And now we’re back to Pierce (Pierce Hawthorne), or Pierce the Dickish, or Grandpa the Flatulent, or the bitter, old man without any real friends who just wants people to pay attention to him. I rather enjoyed his quick rise to power and quicker fall down a dragon’s throat (there’s something I never thought I’d write). Again, it doesn’t really make too much sense, but when an episode is as fun as “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” it doesn’t really matter.
One other thing: I went onto the message board of a Dungeons & Dragons website to see the reactions of actual fans of the game. Either D&Der’s don’t use forums often (unlikely), or they just don’t really care about Community. The only “nerd alert” comments I saw were: “The rolled 19 reminded me so much of my group when we succeed at the impossible lol” and “I wonder if all those 2nd ed books belonged to someone who works there. They all looked pretty old.” So true.
Josh Kurp also confirms that they, in fact, did too walk, for it is walking they did.