Well, if you’re any kind of self-respecting nerd, you know by now that last night’s Community was about Dungeons and Dragons. This was a fun episode, even for a semi-nerd like me who missed the boat on D&D (in my high school, people played Magic: the Gathering. Sorry). At first I was excited because I thought it was going to be a Lord of the Rings spoof, which the opener itself surely was. (Seriously, was the narrator not totally channeling Cate Blanchett as Galadriel? And the middle-earthian map was perfect.) But hey, I was just saying last week I wanted more hijinks. Looks like we got “˜em!
We’re told the story of Neil, an overweight kid who gets saddled with the nickname “Fat Neil” at Greendale. College, which he thought would be an escape from the teasing he experienced in high school, is a place where even his professors call him “Fat Neil.” But Jeff “The Liar, son of William the Barely Known” decides to intervene and help Neil feel more included at Greendale. Of course Jeff loves Dungeons and Dragons!
That’s why, when he suspects that Neil is considering suicide (which, by the way, they never actually say in the episode), Jeff rallies the gang to play a game of D&D with Neil and let him win. They don’t invite Pierce. Abed, fittingly, is the Dungeon Master, and explains to the group and the viewers how the game will work. I loved the throwaway gag of Troy saying “Neil” instead of “wow” a couple times during the setup.
It doesn’t take long for the study group to get into the game, and into their poorly-named game characters. Britta’s Lavernica gets hit by an arrow: “Ow!” Abed:” Yeah, it hurts.” Abed’s detached, clinical view of the world makes him a perfectly objective Dungeon Master, and after Pierce barges in and kills Chang’s character, Abed adds just the right amount of gravity to the situation: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for your character sheet.”
Turns out Pierce has pretty good luck rolling the die, and ends up wreaking havoc on the game. He steals Neil’s sword and runs off with it. The group decides their new goal is to find Pierce and kill him to get Neil’s sword back. They stop off in an elf town that’s welcoming to all races, and Britta gets bogged down worrying about the plight of the gnome waiters at the tavern. Finally, they’re told of a Pegasus flock nearby, which would help them find Pierce.
Too bad Pierce has been reading up on D&D in the janitor’s closet, and for his next turn he kills the gnome waiter, devastating Britta. Next he seizes a dragon, which gives him the power of shape-shifting the other characters. After he meanly makes Neil’s character fat, the gang gets mad enough at him to break from the game. Pierce, in an increasingly assholeish monologue, reveals his anger at Neil for stealing his friends, and also reveals that it was Jeff who coined Neil’s unflattering moniker.
The “twist” of Jeff having started the nickname Fat Neil could have been a clichÃ©, but in this case it felt earned. At this point in the series, there’s a pretty common theme of showing Jeff’s conflict between his former dickish self, and the kinder, more empathetic person he’s become. It also explains why Jeff took an early interest in helping bring Neil out of his funk. Not to mention that it lifts Pierce and his motives up just above the “irredeemable asshole” barrier. In his own messed-up way, Peirce had been acting out his indignation over Jeff’s apparent hypocrisy.
In the end, Neil seems to have enjoyed Pierce’s intense playing of the game, and asks him to do it again next week. I was happy to see that we didn’t get an overly-heartwarming ending this week, what with the reminder that Peirce hasn’t actually learned anything. I’m also interested to hear what any actual D&D fans thought of this week’s episode. I’m sure there were a lot of great references and in-jokes that I missed!