So this week I find myself in the unusual position of having mostly hated the episode of Community I just watched. Were I not your trusty recapper, I’d just shrug and say “Meh, Harmon & Co. had a bit of an off week,” but due to my position, I have had to examine what I didn’t like about this week’s episode.
We open to learn that we have somewhat abruptly reached the climax of the Troy and Abed pillow/blanket fort feud from last week. From the very moment I hit “play” on my DVR, I groaned a little inside to learn that we were in for another break from format. In this case, the second half of the pillows vs. blankets struggle is being told documentary style, a setup which is explained when the Dean tells Jeff that the Guinness Book of Records people are there to document whichever fort ends up being the world’s largest. I should have been excited about this, but instead, I felt a little tired. And the tone and pace of the narrative did little to wake me up.
What is important to remember, now that Community has become better-known, is that the game-changing, unquestionably awesome paintball episode that put Community on the map and started the tradition of genre-based episodes was a one-parter. It was a single, tight, incredibly well-executed episode in which they set up, climaxed (heh) and resolved the outlandish paintball plot with gusto. It makes me feel that stretching a not-terribly-funny joke, like the pillow fort, over two episodes should not be necessary.
The whole episode was done in kind of a dry, serious, PBS or History Channel-style war program, and perhaps I’m alone in thinking that wasn’t a genre that was really crying out for homage or parody. There were a lot of still photographs depicting the drama, and there were some talking heads from characters such as Annie, Shirley, and Leonard, but they never really clicked. And after the first time an earnest message was read aloud and then appended with something silly like “”¦Annie Edison, text message” or “Abed Nadir, Facebook status update,” the already weak joke started to wear thin.
The story’s silly premise seemed to be anchored by taking Abed and Troy’s conflict seriously. Maybe we are supposed to see that this episode wasn’t about the ridiculous pillow fight; it was about the struggle between two friends whose bond we, as the audience, are rather invested in. In the past few weeks we’ve seen their friendship take on the strain of adult struggles. As they both begin to realize that they have more time at Greendale behind them than ahead of them, the imaginative magic that powers their strong bond is not going to be enough to maintain their friendship.
I see their struggle more as Troy’s struggle; he has changed to be more like Abed rather than the other way around. Since Abed hasn’t given up much in his friendship with Troy, and in fact has gained his only true friend, he has more to lose than Troy but also may not know how to compromise. He seemed fundamentally incapable of Troy’s serious pleas for Abed to trust him when he knows what’s best for him. I’m not sure he’d be capable of changing anything about how he lives his life in order to keep Troy in it beyond the confines of Greendale.
And the climax, in which Jeff gently leads the guys to seeing that they want to stay friends, the episode concludes on a fairly earnest note. While the Magic Friendship Hats seemed a bit too easy, it also seemed a fitting way to bring the two back together, even if only temporarily. The fact that Jeff played along, even when no one else was watching, was a nice detail. But the post-credit telethon scene with Troy and Abed was strange. They so frequently star in those little bonus scenes, but right after the soft resolution of this big conflict it was weird to see their quirky smiles all lit up again like nothing was wrong.
So was I the only one who hated this episode? Am I way off? Oh, and did anyone else notice that Britta’s whole purpose was to be bad at photography and not speak any lines? Grumble, grumble, I say!