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Wednesday, 26 of February of 2020

Community – “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

I attack them with my Additional Notes.”

When How I Met Your Mother did an episode that was heavy on sports references and terminology (complete with a Yankee with a faux hawk), I wasn’t thrilled because it closed me out of the episode’s story and many of its jokes (I recently saw a rerun and still felt a closed out from it). “Advance Dungeon & Dragons” may very well be the episode of exclusion for some, and while I loved the episode (I think it rivals “Modern Warfare”, frankly), I also think it could be an example of that Web adage: Your mileage may vary.

I’ve only play D&D once. It was not a fun experience because the dungeon master was very serious. I’ve never played since. That said, I’m still incredibly familiar with how D&D works (I even had to develop an action hero as an in-class assignment during an undergrad class) because, well, I’m that kind of a nerd. I’m passingly familiar with classes, alignments, and the general function of how the game works.

The reason, however, I think “Advance Dungeons & Dragons” should work for those not familiar with D&D is that the characters themselves are not familiar with the rules and how the game functions. Instead of assuming the role of their characters that Abed design, everyone behaves like themselves, but in a D&D setting, from Britta’s desire to protect the gnomes from beleagueredness to Annie’s startlingly erotic description to get a Pegasus for the group. They behave like normal people trying to play a silly game for the sake of a person they barely know should: over-committed, but getting sucked into nonetheless.

But the episode also deploys fantasy tropes well, particularly during its prologue that is very LOTR-esque as it gathers the fellowship (as it were) to salvage Fat Neil’s confidence. They have epic names (“Jeff the Liar”, “Troy the Obtuse”, “Annie the Dayplanner”), do the slow walk into the hallway. This may be more accessible than D&D in general, but it does also add to the general atmosphere of the episode as a fun, thoughtful lark.

And that’s ultimately why I think “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” works. It builds on its characters and their traits (Pierce’s general feelings insecurities and being left out for being old (or for being “Pierce the Dickish”) or Troy’s self-assured obliviousness) to tell a story that’s grounded in a sense of camaraderie and friendship (even if it is motivated by Jeff wanted to make up for being the one who coined the name Fat Neil) and land solid jokes. Neil, despite Pierce’s jackassery, ended up having a great game, as did everyone else. Pierce’s throne of storage boxes and rapid absorbing of the campaign manual (plus swirling a glass of wine) was the kind of broadness that works (unlike last week) since it was well constructed in relation to the rest of the episode.

Indeed, the reason I think that “Advance Dungeons & Dragons” stands alongside “Modern Warfare” as the show’s best parody/homage is that the set pieces are driven by the characters as much as they are by the desire for parody, and that the characters needn’t be altered to fit the parody. Instead, the characters behave like themselves in the parody, albeit reduced to their baseline traits, which, given the fantasy elements, makes perfect sense. Perfect, riotously funny sense.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • I love Dan Harmon for (probably) shelling out his own money again to get a new credit sequence and a fantasy epic remix of the theme song.
  • Quibbles: Fat Neil didn’t exist until last week, going to Pierce as the villain was a little lazy
  • Britta the Needlessly Defiant and Shirley the Cloying
  • “You’re the AT&T of people!”
  • “My name is Bing Bob the Archer.”
  • “You remembered to invite Al Jolson.”
  • “I’m not the best at making up names.”
  • Chang in drowface. Funny.
  • I was hoping Garret was going to be involved somehow! He would make the perfect toady.
  • “In about 13 turns, he will die of exposure. Jeff.” “I wait 14 turns.”
  • “I can make it up to you. I’ll find a fatter Neil.” “Huzzah.”

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