7
Oct
2010
Community: Season 2, Episode 3
The Psychology of Letting Go
Jordan
So there's this thing. Its called death. And it happens to everyone. But no one particularly likes that fact, and indeed, many people try to deny it. Many movies, episodes of television, and even full series (like Six Feet Under, for example), are dedicated to the examination of death and people's reactions to it. This week, Community dabbled into the waters of inevitable mortality, and by my count, it did a pretty solid job of examining it from all angles. When Pierce's mother dies, death touches the study group, and everyone is affected by it--everyone save Pierce that is.

Pierce uses his New Age Buddhism to deal with his mother's death with one of the five stages, denial. He claims that his mother is going to be vaporized and later, re-injected into a new body so she can get back to making he and Troy sandwiches. Everyone in the group tries to deal with this fact in different ways--Shirley, Annie, and Britta begin by judging Pierce's weird beliefs, while Jeff preaches tolerance (mostly because he doesn't care). Yet when Jeff finds out that he has high cholesterol (from Patton Oswalt, returning as the cleverly named Nurse Jackie), he begins to recognize his own mortality, and in true Jeff fashion, decides its time to crush Pierce's delusions by showing him his mother's corpse on a slab. But of course, Jeff has grown as a person, and instead, after being confronted with a message left by Pierce's mother, Jeff takes Pierce and Troy for ice cream, realizing that life is fleeting, everybody dies, and he might as well enjoy his life. All of this is ground that's bee ncovered before, but that doesn't take away from how well Community handles it. Jeff is exactly the type of person who would heartily avoid admitting his own mortality, and Pierce's ridiculous religious beliefs have been played out before to good effect.

In a subplot that has also been tread before, but was also well handled, Annie and Britta have a confrontation that could only arise between, as Shirley calls them "skinny white bitches." As the two try to get people to donate to clean up after the oil spill, Britta tries to argue people into donating (as one guy puts it, "You don't have to yell at us. Nobody is on the other side of this issue.") and Annie uses her naivety to seduce people into donating. The two fight over their varying methods, and it eventually devolves into an excellent sight gag of the two wrestling in oil. The resolution, which has them both explaining away their flings with Jeff, is a little too pat and seems to be aiming for restoring the status quo in a way that is odd for the series. However, I feel the writers want to dig themselves out of the hole of last year's finale, and I'm ok with it hitting the reset button in this case.

For additional bonus points, John Oliver returned tonight, subbing in for Betty White, who is on paid academic leave after trying to strangle Jeff in the premiere (though she does cameo again in the blip, debating the plot of inception with an African tribe). Oliver may not appear that often, but he makes the most of it when he does, as he spends tonight toying with Chang, using his restraining order to force Chang around. One of this show's strengths is its surprisingly large cast of recurring players, including Oswalt and Oliver, and bringing them back every once in a while enriches the world of Greendale while also providing additional laughs. "The Psychology of Letting Go" succeeds not be breaking barriers or treading on new ground, but by taking well worn themes and making them feel fresh again. And it did it even with an Abed-lite episode (though the observant viewer might have noticed that Abed was off battling death in his own way by helping a pregnant woman around, and even eventually delivering her baby in the back of an SUV, playing with tv tropes even when he wasn't given much to do). All in all, Community knows what its doing ,even when its doing things we've seen before.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-"I'm so glad this tragedy overshadowed Haiti. I didn't have any ideas for that."

-"She's used up her organic body." "...by dying in it."

-"Who's normal Abed?" "Well, Baptists are, but that's beside the point."

-"Also, you're free from the burden of your earthly bosy." "It IS a burden." I love how quickly Troy got on board with Pierce's religion. Another great moment: "What? I want to eat a ghost!"

-"So what is anthropology? Seriously, does anybody know?"

-"Wait, did I accidentally tell you you have AIDS? Because I've done that before..."

-"Alright, let's get going. These paps aren't going to smear themselves."

-"We all have notions that we're the exception, but we're as wrong as we are dead."

-"If a guy wants to make a puppet of me, that's hardly your concern."

"Life ends with death, which we are cursed with knowing. This is called...something. Again, this isn't my field."

-"I think you're being a little childish. Hold on a second, I need to use my forcefield to prevent Chang from getting food."

-"Goodbye. I'll play myself out..."
Tags: Community
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