1
Feb
2011
Community: Season 2, Episode 14
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
Jordan
There are problems with tonight's episode of Community. I recognize that. Britta is pretty oversimplified and played much more broadly than usual. Pierce's actual pain and loneliness, usually played in a complex and realistic way, is reduced to a stock sad old man to make him a handy villain, which admittedly, the episode didn't need to work. And yeah, the fringe guest character taking center stage for an episode is an old sitcom trope. Ok, I've done my critical duty.

I care about none of that in the larger scheme of this episode. Because an episode this effortlessly, gloriously fun to watch is such a pleasure it seems like a shame to nitpick it. From the weird, apparently janitorial narration introducing the premise and the characters (Jeff the Liar, son of William the Barely Known, Troy the Obtuse, Abed the Undiagnosable, Shirley the Cloying, Britta the needlessly defiant, and Pierce the Dickish, aka Grandpa the flatulent), to the way the gang slowly and realistically became fascinated with the game. The episode does a solid job of setting up the saga of Fat Neil (who has been mentioned several times before and appeared once), a kid who, like many of us, retreated into geekdom to escape a world that didn't meet his expectations. When he arrived at Greendale (during an intricate, Lord of the Rings style map movement), he thought he'd escape torment but was immediately rechristened Fat Neil (it is kind of a great name). The Jeff was the one to coin the name was obvious (another potential flaw I'm willing to completely ignore), but the underacting by Fat Neil combined with the somber reaction by the gang to this realization actually sells it pretty well. Jeff did a really shitty thing, considering Neil was about to commit suicide, and in a desperate attempt to keep blood off his hands, he invited Neil to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

This is, in one sense, a Pierce episode, as he deals with rejection by his friends childishly as always, and in one sense a Jeff episode, as he tries to write a greivous wrong, but really its an everyone episode. Some characters recede into the background a bit (especially Shirley and Annie, who are mostly there to say "Aww!" like they so often are, except for a BRILLIANT scene in which Annie mimes elf sex with Abed), but like in all the best Community episodes, everyone gets a moment to shine. And ultimately, while I think Pierce was too one note evil, I also understand why the show thought it needed the villain in this tale (though I think it could've worked as well without it), and I think it fits well enough into his character to not make me angry. Pierce fears rejection and needs to take center stage, so of course when he feels left out he steals Neil's sword and turns violently against the gang. And any episode of Community that manages the show's unique rapid fire transition from hilarious to heartbreaking to heartwarming and back to hilarious as well as this one has to be among the greats.

In addition to the aforementioned hysterical sex montage, there's plenty to love, from Pierce's villain lair to Britta's friendship with an oppressed gnome waiter to Chang's ridiculous costume. This was one for the record books in terms of sheer over the top insanity, and the show played all of it exactly as over the top as it needed to for the highest possible laugh quotient. There was an unpredictable, madcap sense to this episode that made it thrilling to watch as much as it was hilarious. This episode captured the feeling of getting really into something lame with your friends as well as "Mixology Certification" captured a night out gone slightly wrong. It wasn't perfect, no, but it was a hilarious, touching, awesome episode nevertheless.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-"You're the AT&T of people!"

-"I can't hear you over the sound of me rubbing rubbing the sword on my balls."

-"Did someone say Pegasus?...A word I understand in every language..."

-"I stroke her lovingly and then spoon her for the correct amount of time before leaving." "How long is that?"

-"Kyle!" "Britta, he was an imaginary waiter." "I wouldn't expect you to understand."

-"Make him as fat as Fat Neil."

-"I feel sorry for Pierce Hawthorne." "I rape the Ducain family."
Tags: Community
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