Jun 14, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

#SixSeasons – Part XII

#SixSeasons – Part XII
All 110 episodes of Community ranked

In which I continue ranking, according to my own analysis alone, every single episode of Community. A huge thanks to all of you who’ve been reading these and commenting and agreeing and disagreeing in the comments, on Reddit, or Twitter (I’m @TrunkmanUK btw), or Facebook or wherever.  Much appreciated.  Also, the reviews are getting a bit longer as the episodes get ‘better’, so it’s only five episodes a day for the run home, so sorry/you’re welcome for that. Delete as appropriate.

Standard disclaimer

Obviously this list is fairly SPOILER HEAVY but then if you’re reading this I’m gonna assume it’s because you’re also a fan who’s seen every episode.  And also, please note UK readers, since it’s a US show I’m going to be using seasons to define series and series to define the whole show.  Deal with it.  Finally, obviously, all pictures or screengrabs are owned by Sony or NBC or Yahoo or all of them or one of them.  Oh, and also for numbering purposes I’m using the broadcast order even though some were broadcast out of order. Also as I said in the first post this ranking is basically ranking from good to perfect, not worst to best as the worst episode of Community is likely better than the best episode of most other comedies.  And it goes without saying it’s all subjective so please feel free to disagree in the comments etc.

15. For a Few Paintballs More (S2 E24) Written by Hilary Winston, Directed by Joe Russo

14. A Fistful of Paintballs (S2 E23) Written by Andrew Guest, Directed by Joe Russo

S2e23It’s difficult to split these eps which are a true two parter.  Probably the only one that the series has ever done and so I’m going to write about them as one entity, although, for the purposes of the ranking I’m putting Part I marginally ahead of Part II.

That’s probably for two reasons.  Firstly, I always kind of like setups better than conclusions.  I like to watch the pieces being put into place more than the payoff because I’m weird like that.  Also, I love spaghetti westerns but couldn’t really give a toss about Star Wars, so there’s that too.

Now, when I think of the Community paintball trilogy (because I’m counting this as one episode and I don’t count the S4 finale as a paintball episode) I think of the S2 finale as the pinnacle, Modern Warfare as a well executed experiment and Modern Espionage as a pretty looking, but a bit of overkill.  Because in this episode, perhaps helped by it being a season finale, it brings all the characters into the mix of the story and the characters stories are motivated, and made possible, by the paintball scenario. Modern Warfare is obstensively a Jeff and Britta story while everyone else is just fringe and there for the paintball spectacle.  Which if fine, it’s just not for me.  I think the way the show pulls it off so much better this time round is by making the focus on two characters who have been a bit more sidelined in the second half of S2, in Annie and Pierce.

Because in these two characters we have two people for whom Greendale is their world and if that is destroyed, by a game of paintball, or an ice cream company, or City College, then what do they have left?  Greendale, as shit a college as it is, is Annie’s shot at redemption.  And for Pierce it’s the only home he’s really known for the last dozen or so years.  So of course they are the ones who are going to fight for it the hardest.  Annie has tried to break free a few times this season, and last too, but has stayed at Greendale, and with these people.  She’s made her decision.  So she’s going to fight for it.  She’s the one who votes to let Pierce stay in the group.  If not this, then what?  And that sort of spirit plays into the western motif beautifully.

s2e24Likewise with Pierce.  His speech at the end, as he leaves the group but stays at Greendale can come across as a bit obvious but then if Star Wars was anything it was people standing up and saying their feelings in a clunky manner so I just took that as one more homage.  It’s a pretty key moment, especially as they all look back, expecting him to return.  That’s only furthered by the constant wondering by us as an audience about whether Chase himself would be back.

For much of this season Pierce has become a bit of a cartoon villain.  Chase is great at the role but given the depth of everyone else, it’s a bit disappointing.  But beneath that desperate desire to fit in and casual sexism and racism you always get a glimmer that there’s a half decent person there just waiting to be written.  So of course he’s the traitor of the game.  Why wouldn’t he be?  But it’s also nice to see the bad guy win at the end, and not Jeff.  It really is.  Because he’s still fighting for himself.  If Greendale wins, so does he.  The City College rivalry was something Community regularly mined to varying degrees of success but never better than here.

Outside of Annie and Pierce, the rest of the main cast feel an integral part of the overall narrative here.  In many ways this episode shares more similarities with Chang Dynasty than it does Modern Warfare.  All season there has been a great dynamic with Jeff and Troy in the positions of role models and students and teachers, flipping back and forth between who is what to who.  Jeff handing over leadership to Troy says as much about Troy’s growth as it does Jeff’s.  And it’s true to Abed too as he floats the fringes.  Crisis or not, he’s someone who’s going to commit to the bit 100%.  And Shirley gets a few moments to shine as one bad ass mother (literally).  Only Britta feels a bit left out this episode although she has her moments.

But what you really get a full sense of this episode is how Greendale has become a character in itself.  Like, say, Springfield, some characters are fleshed out more than others but everyone feels three dimensional.  You feel you know them.  Whether that’s the major characters or the supporting players like the Dean and Chang.  Or Garrett, Vicki, Leonard and co.  Or even the custodians. There’s so much there it’s a massive testament to the writers that they’ve built this fully realised world where everything fits, no matter how insane the premise.  Every new character, or even background performer that fits.  When one of The Girls (Who Sing Other People’s Songs) pop up it’s not only a meta joke, it works within the show because of course they’d go to Greendale.  Likewise Busy Philips giving us some Cougar Town pop in work.

Another thing this episode does over the previous paintball outing is it never stops bringing the funny, and funny that isn’t totally reliant on the concept.  Abed and Annie’s kiss, Magnitude’s sacrifice, Leonard’s banned from Denny’s, the final tag, Jeff’s chin and so on.  Everything fits together nicely.

And, like so many episodes before it, it must be noted just how good these episodes look. The direction, the effects, the set, the costumes, the titles, it’s all utterly remarkable for a network sitcom. And special mention must also be made once more of Harmon’s arrogance and confidence to try a paintball sequel in the first place, never mind surpassing the original.

There’s probably other, more poignant stuff, I said about this episode as well but the server shat itself just as I finished writing this review so I lost everything, so this is a rehash….

13. Virtual Systems Analysis (S3 E16) Written by Matt Murray, Directed by Tristram Shapeero

s3e16I always like the episodes in which someone very specifically calls out another on their bullshit.  I like it more when the other one doesn’t do what TV characters do and just stand there and take it and thank them for the lesson.  I like it when they do what reall people do and they go, ‘I’m an arsehole, YOU’RE AN ARSEHOLE!’  That’s pretty much this episode in a nutshell.

Annie and Abed was the pairing the show hadn’t explored a great deal but one they would later be forced to after Troy’s departure.  It ended up as one of the most genuine, respectful and sweetest friendships in the show helped in no small part thanks to Alison Brie and Danny Pudi’s chemistry from being such good friends in real life and their performances here are excellent.

I’ve said in previous reviews that I always had a bit of a problem with the fact that Abed sometimes isn’t cute weird but just a dick.  This comes to a head in a season and a bit’s time when Troy leaves.  And for whatever reason, he always gets away it.  Does he get a pass because he has some undisclosed disorder?  Or because he’s a lost cause?  Or do the writers just love him too much.  But why, whenever he’s a dick, do the group usually end up calling him a dick and then apologise for calling him a dick. And this episode was kind of following that same pattern and, to be honest, it was annoying me a bit.  As he often does, he was taking things too far. When he starts to bring up what he knows about the events between Jeff and Annie after the debate part of me just wanted her to slap him no matter how cliched and soapie that would be.  Of course I’m glad that didn’t happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was entertained whilst being annoyed as there’s some incredibly funny stuff in this episode, most notably Troy’s apocalyptic breakdown which provides Harmon with another chance to take an entirely vindicated pop at Inception.  But then something happens at the point Abed is being Jeff on the night of the kiss.  Annie doesn’t give in.  She finds that headstrong 18 year old from season one and, more or less, says, ‘Fuck this. This is as much your issue as it is mine’.  And she ‘finds’ Abed.  Their exchange at the lockers is perfectly nuanced and it feels like a real turning point in both their lives.  If Troy and Britta do get together, or Troy does leave, they’ll be ok.  That kiss with Jeff that has been needlessly laboured on was just a thing.  It’s done with.  Let’s stop banging on about it.  Characters and audiences alike. Because we can’t predict the future.  And we shouldn’t try to.  We can’t force writers of a TV show to write the stories we want in the same way that Abed can’t set his friend’s destinies.  Because sometimes you are gonna sit on your balls, and that’s shitty.  But sometimes you might have a nice lunch or go to the bank dressed as half a man and half a woman and they’re gonna love it.  So all any of us can do is just go with it and deal with it as it comes.  And if you’ve got a few people around who seem to get you, then it’s a hell of a lot easier.

Top line – “Okay, I didn’t really avoid sitting on them. I sat right on them. Hurt like hell, I saw eagles”. – Pierce

12. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design (S2 E9) Written by Chris McKenna, Directed by Adam Davidson

s2e9This episode sits in the middle of what one might call the golden run of the show.  A string of episodes in season 2 that are just one after the other brilliant.  Conspiracy Theories isn’t exactly a riff on conspiracy dramas or anything like that but it does utilise some of the same beats of misdirection.  But it uses them over and over and over.  And it reaches a point where it just all becomes a bit much.  A bit self indulgent.  And then it does it again and again and again and it works its way right back to being hilarious again. I love the commitment of hammering a joke so hard you have no option but to find it funny again.  I call it doing a Stew, referencing of course, Stewart Lee.  He’s not the first to do it obviously, but he is the master of it.

In many ways this is a simple story about Jeff once again trying to cheat the system and Annie having none of it.  It serves as a way to get the two of them together to let that unresolved ‘whatever’ bubble away again and, for the most part, that works really well. Annie and Jeff ‘on the case’ is always a thoroughly entertaining watch.  That Annie directly addresses their kiss also seems appropriate.  It happened, quite recently, and they’ve not spoken of it it seems, not even privately.  That’s a lot for a nineteen year old to process especially when Jeff doesn’t even see it as a thing that mattered anymore, or even then perhaps.  It was a mistake. Move on.  Except he hasn’t and so those repressed feelings give Annie her motivation in the conspiracy and are a driving force for the episode.

Whilst Troy and Abed’s blanket fort is great form it’s largely a set up for a top class set piece for the main story as a chase takes place through the blanket fort’s many districts and parades for which everyone has the correct permits.  And just because it doesn’t really fit anywhere else, how good is Kevin Corrigan in this?

But it’s the ending I adore.  That final scene in the study room where everything just piles up and up is so overblown and complicated and ridiculous yet entirely plausible, well, I couldn’t have loved it anymore.  Until Jim Rash just throws his genius all over everything and then I did.  Throw in Leonard starting to loot and Troy and Abed being worried that this ‘episode’ would make them mainstream (yep, sure, totally) and you’ve got yourself an utter belter.

Top line – “This is Greendale, Annie. If there is a conspiracy, it goes to slightly above the middle”. – Jeff

11. Accounting for Lawyers (S2 E2) Written by Emily Cutler, Directed by Joe Russo

s2e2I’m not sure why, but I have a feeling this is an episode that would surprise many Community fans that I would rank it so high.  But I have my reasons.  Here they are.

Firstly, before we get into the meat of the episode, Troy, Abed and Annie chloroforming the security guard is one the funniest set pieces the show has ever done.  Everything I love about Community is in that scene.  From the absolute absurdity of it to the pitch perfect characterisations to the impeccable writing, performances and direction.  It’s a microcosm of so much I love about this show. That scene alone meant this episode was always going to get a high ranking.  But then you can add to that, well, everything else.

They’ve done plenty of episodes of ‘Jeff puts the group first’ before this one to show the change in that character but this takes it a step further.  In season 1 we never left Greendale.  We heard about their lives outside of the school, and in the past, but we never saw it which was a deliberate choice by Dan Harmon.  And now, one episode after the season premiere the show has taken a major step.  They bring in characters from Jeff’s old life, directly to the group.  His old life has literally come to visit.  And it’s appropriate that this is the thing that takes us off campus for the first time.  It’s a statement from the makers of the show that they’ve done the groundwork last year, now they’re going to start digging.  And they do so without abandoning the characters, themes or styles that S1 established.  I mean, Drew Carey has a hole in his hand.  And of course Greendale is having a pop-and-lock-a-thon.  Of course they fucking are.

For all of Jeff accepting he is part of the group last season, and for him saying he wanted to be a better person, that’s all very easy to say when you’re old life is absent.  He is really tested by this when he loses his old apartment and faucets first time round and now there’s an offer to get back into his old life properly.  If only those idiots from his school wouldn’t keep cropping up.  That he can realise that he’s only real shot at starting over lies with them, and not his old firm, whilst at a frankly ludicrous function thrown by his old firm, is a bold character move because it essentially crushes that ‘Will he abandon them’ story right from the off which is something a lesser show would pitch a season on.  But Community makes a statement here.  This is a show about these characters.  They will drive this story. There will not just be plots we will drop them in.  There is no grand plan.  These are real people and we are just gonna see what happens.  And that is something that this writer endorses whole heartedly.

Top line – “‘Cause if someone comes up here, Kanye and Kumar get taken to jail. You get taken to dinner”. – Troy

Right, so that’s it, you can now work out what’s made the Top 10, if not the order.  If this has upset you please bear in mind that it’s not possible to put 40 episodes into the Top 10…

Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31Jump to 30-26 * Jump to 25-21 * Jump to 20-16 * Jump to 15-11 * Jump to 10-6 * Jump to 5-1 * Wrap Up

 

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. #SixSeasons – Part II | Trunk Talk - […] Jump to 110-101 * Jump to 100-91 * Jump to 90-81 * Jump to 80-71 * Jump to 70-61 * Jump to 60-51 * Jump to…
  2. #Six Seasons – Part IV | Trunk Talk - […] to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31 * Jump to 30-26 * Jump to 25-21 * Jump to 20-16 *…
  3. #SixSeasons – Part XV | Trunk Talk - […] to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31 * Jump to 30-26 * Jump to 25-21 * Jump to 20-16 *…
  4. #SixSeasons – Final Wrap Up | Trunk Talk - […] 15. For a Few Paintballs More (S2 E24) […]
  5. #SixSeasons – Part I | Trunk Talk - […] to 60-51 * Jump to 50 -41 * Jump to 40-31 * Jump to 30-26 * Jump to 25-21 * Jump to 20-16 *…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *