Community: Season 3, Episode 2
Geography of Global Conflict
This is one of those reviews, guys. One of those reviews where I beg you all to watch Community. This may seem ridiculous, seeing as you're reading a Community review already, but we've reached that point, I'm afraid. There's too much going around about the low ratings the show is bringing in at the moment for me to not bring it up. So, few readers, few devoted Community fans, its time to spread the word: This is one of the best shows on TV, and people need to get their eyes pointed in its direction right quick. Now, onto an actual review.
Community has been doing a great job at deepening its characters over the last two seasons, and this week, it's Annie's turn at the forefront. Annie's competitive edge kicks in hard when she discovers her Asian evil twin Annie Kim in history class (taught by Martin Starr, which is sure to make a whole lot of us geek out appropriately). Annie throws out the idea of staring a Model U.N. in front of Annie Kim, and suddenly, she's been outgunned. Jeff, rushing to Annie's defense (more on this in a bit, obviously) confronts the professor and argues that Annie should be the true founder. And so, of course, we're off to the races with the world's first Model U.N. off.
This proceeds about how you'd expect, with the group rallying together at first, then falling apart halfway through (due to someone farting, of course) only to rally around Annie and help her emerge victorious. This is all fairly standard, and admittedly a little low brow for the show, but its the stuff around the edges that raises this episode above mediocrity. Annie has always had this competitive edge, and, as her previous Adderall induced breakdown indicates, she tends to melt down pretty quickly when things don't go her way. Annie may have come to Greendale and realized she was good looking (enough to land any of the guys on this show, as we well know), but, like all of the characters on this show, she is fundamentally broken, in search of a second chance to get her life right, and when Annie Kim steps into her spotlight, she melts down.
Jeff, of course, is there to pick her up again. Any regular readers of this site know all to well how big a fan I am of the Jeff and Annie pairing, and that plot line gets plenty of mileage tonight. Jeff desperately wants Annie to succeed, to improve herself, not (just) because he is interested in her, but because the world needs more women like Annie. And while the show is still playing the kind of forced idea that these two aren't giving it a try because of their marked age difference, at least tonight made that feel like a more plausible reason to keep these two apart. The first two episodes of this season have been about Jeff and Annie, respectively, and each has given us a little mileage on the idea that this may be the season for these two. If we are watching these two develop this year like Shirley and Troy did last year, I hope we will be seeing them grow together.
The show does not just consist of Jeff and Annie, of course, and "Geography of Global Conflict" gave us plenty of big group scenes to remind us of that. Community always does big group scenes where the characters play off one another and throw out joke after joke very well, and there are a few winners here (especially early in the episode). We get some great character moments, like Abed's continuous obsession with the idea of Earth-2 (and look who saves the day with his geekiness) and Troy's decision to keep the accent even after learning that Georgia is also a country. This show has always had a winning ensemble to carry it through rough patches (and there were some tonight for sure), and each of them manages to get their moment without overstepping anyone else.
The real loser tonight is the Britta subplot, which is completely in character for her, and of course means its kind of awful. The show was wise in quickly moving Britta from "ideal woman for Jeff" to "girl who has never been very good at anything," and Gillian Jacobs is an able comedienne, yet the transformation has made Britta a tough character to write for (which is the downside of being one of the most unique characters on television). Its easy to write "Britta is awful" jokes, and the show does this very well, but when Britta has to have an actual subplot, it tends to get dragged down by the very joke that makes her character shine. Tonight, she finds out an older protest buddy of hers is in prison in Syria, and decides to go back to her rebellious, rage against the machine roots. I'll admit I found the subversion of the romantic comedy that is her conflict with Chang very clever (and chuckled every time Lionel Ritchie came on), I feel like the subplot got lost somewhere along the way. What should have been a full-out satire of the romance going on in the A-plot got muddled by the show's insistence on shoving Britta (covered in Barbie Dolls, for some reason) back into the A-plot at the end, and by having Gillian Jacobs give the same rant like three times. Both Jacobs and Ken Jeong are very funny, and this plotline had its moments, but on the whole this felt more like a missed opportunity (it felt, in fact, like a C-plot you might see on 30 Rock, a show that often comes up with a great idea and then wastes it by shoving it in the background and giving it no room to grow).
This may come across as ridiculous, considering this episode ended with the gang invading a parallel universe (metaphorically) and Chang carrying a tazed Britta out of the auditorium (actually), but this felt a little bit like Community was trying to hard to live up to the lyrics from last week's opening number, specifically the line "we're gonna have more fun and be less weird than the last two years combined." I understand that this show needs the ratings to survive (again, seriously people, get your friends on the Community train), but if it loses the absurdity that endeared the fan base in the first place in order to stay on the air, will the sacrifice really be worth it? Of course, as long as Britta is pouring paint on the world in a cage and Garrett is screaming out random crises for rival universe Model U.N.'s to solve, this worry is probably still a little unfounded. For now, I'm just glad to be back at Greendale. Even when it isn't perfect, at least you know it's trying.
-Seriously, guys. Watch this show. If the ratings go up, I'll never have to do this again!
-"She's imprisoned by an oppressive regime half way around the world, and I'm what? In college? Where are my values?" I should note that there was some progress for Britta this week too. She realizes, while weeping to Chang, that as much as she'd love to protest, she has a major now, and highlighters. She is getting her shit together, but also still has enough spark to strap on Barbie dolls and make a pointless scene.
-"Wow, Annie. How progressive of you to have a multi-cultural evil twin!"
-"Not asians! Women!" And later, of course, "Not women! Asians!"
-"Looks like someone woke up on the regular side of the bed." And while we're hating on Britta, "Raging against the what? That sounds dangerous!" "Don't worry. She'll be bad at it."
-"And meet Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Will.I.Am." "Boutros Boutros-Ghali???" This is the type of joke I will ALWAYS laugh at.
-"I don't understand this relationship here. Is he your father or your lover?"
-"Georgia, the country, is much obliged."
-"And maybe at the peace summit, we'll discuss opening a portal to Earth-2."
-"Uruguay kindly requests that Somalia stop pronouncing it 'Ur-a-gay.'"
Its like a gate, but its just a stick..." I hope Chang's boss stays around. I like him.
-"We can't keep doing this forever, kiddo." "Can't we?"
-"Guys, I wasn't doing a Spartacus thing..."
-"Abed, what did I tell you? You can't just mumble nonsense. No one is cutting away."
-"They can't do this!" "The science works out..."