Continuing the theme from last week, in which our favorite show ended on an incredibly earnest note, the Greendale kids tackled Christmas the best way they knew how: Claymation. In a nod to the classic Christmas shows of our youth, the entire half-hour was rendered in bright stop-motion as we joined Abed in his quest to understand the meaning of Christmas.
As is always the case during episodes with a particularly go-for-broke premise, they kept the proceedings grounded in the real world. Our little bridge to reality is that everyone else thinks that Abed is crazy. He comes to school and tells everyone he’s seeing the campus and his friends in stop-motion, so the unofficial parents of the group, Jeff and Britta, take him to the Psych professor’s office to figure out what’s going on. Professor Duncan, played by the always-delightful John Oliver (isn’t his voice just made for animation?) wants to publish his study of Abed’s breakdown, so he encourages the group to steer Abed through his delusional, stop-motion world.
Side note: it was refreshing to see a show that has so many non-Christian characters actually address the fact that they don’t all celebrate Christmas. This happened last year, too, when Shirley was shocked to learn that Annie is Jewish, Troy is a Jehovah’s Witness, Abed is Muslim, and (I believe) a few others were atheists. This week, Abed revealed that his Mom, a Christian, was divorced from his dad and that they’d always celebrated Christmas just the two of them, in early December.
Ultimately, the crew convenes in the library to hold a group therapy session, in which they play along with Abed and join him on his trip to Winter Wonderland, the Claymation world inside his mind. Once there, the gang morphs from straightforward representations of themselves to something even more cartoonish. I could give you the breakdown, or I could just link to Eff Yeah Troy & Abed’s wonderful gif.
Abed wants to lead the group to the North Pole, where he hopes to find out the meaning of Christmas. Professor Duncan, who’s trying to force a breakthrough from Abed, wants to go to the “Cave of Frozen Memories.” While we, the audience, are seeing everything as Abed sees it, we’re hearing everything that’s really being said, including the doubts of the more reticent members of the study group. Anyone who is deemed unfit for Winter Wonderland, for pushing their own beliefs (Shirley) or for not believing (Jeff and, later, Britta), is removed in spectacular fashion. In a nod to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or, rather, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if you’re An Old like me), each character is sent off with a song.
All that’s left of the gang are Troy and Annie when Abed is confronted with something Prof. Duncan found in Abed’s room: a card from Abed’s mom saying she can’t come down for their little Christmas this year. Still, Abed wants to keep going to find out the meaning of Christmas. Over Professor Duncan’s protests, and with the help of Troy and Annie, he heads up to the North Pole alone in order to find out what it is. What he finds, when his friends come back to defend him against Professor Duncan (please watch this on Hulu while you still can to catch the awesome song), is a simple message: “The meaning of Christmas is that Christmas has meaning.” The little family that’s formed in the Greendale study group is Abed’s new family, and he can spend Christmas with them.
Cheesy? Yes. Heartwarming? No doubt. This may have felt more jarring if not for the fact that last week’s episode was also heavy on the character emotional development. All in all, it was a fun, sweet way to end the first half of season two. Just think: this time last year we hadn’t yet seen the Chicken Episode nor the Paintball Episode. Who knows what awesomeness is still to come?