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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Community – “Remedial Chaos Theory”

This is the darkest, most terrible timeline.

Community Title CardI feel like I’ve written this review before, as my immediate thought was to discuss, once again, how the show can deploy genre homages/high concept episodes and do them well: a strong character core is needed for the episode to work, otherwise, while it can be entertaining, it just becomes some postmodern pastiche. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but when you have a group of characters such as these, and when you tell stories about how their actions impact one another, homages without the core result in hollowness.

“Remedial Chaos Theory”, like “Modern Warfare” in season 1, gets this. I think the show dodged this to some extent through season 2, resulting in probably why I wasn’t as in love with as much as others. But not only does “Remedial Chaos Theory” understand the need for those characters beats, but its character-driven nature of the episode (or, rather, its “character-less”-driven nature) actually blends the kooky ambition strength of “Modern Warfare” with the emotional elegance of “Mixology Certification” and the result is one of the show’s best episodes so far.

One reason why this episode works is that it addresses the group dynamics, and more importantly why they’re  a group at all, in a clever manner. One of the jabs at this season thus far (and, seriously guys, three episodes is not really enough time to declare the show off the rails, let it go) was that is gave too much emphasis to why the group was still together. And while I think last week’s episode hit this too hard, with too little variation on the idea and not entertainingly enough, this episode does it again, but with a spin on the idea that gives us new insights while affirming what we already know.

What we see over the course of the 22 minutes is what happens if you subtract one character from the mix, perhaps answering the lingering question of what the group is like without Pierce, and, indeed, without any of single individual. Some people have more of an impact that others. Annie’s departure, doesn’t result in much happening, and it’s all well and good, while Shirley’s departures shows that she is the Pierce of the season, the one the rest of the group clearly doesn’t like, introducing, I hope, a more interesting arc for her this year.

But then things unravel. Troy and Abed are needed for the group to survive at all, it seems. The Troy-less timeline, which results in Pierce dying (Annie’s not a great nurse it turns out after all, despite all the other timelines telling us so), Annie going insane, Jeff losing an arm, Troy losing his voice, and Shirley becoming an alcoholic, is easily the most hilarious as all the Chekov’s guns the episode had set up (the Indiana Jones set piece, Annie’s actual gun, Britta’s joint, the pies, the Norwegian troll) all go off at once.

The rest of the character-less scenarios have less of an insane vibe, but do something I love, which is unpack character anxieties. Troy’s annoyance at Jeff still treating him like a kid and the bonding with Britta, for me, were a highlight. I admit that I love Glover and Jacobs together as actors as I think they have a great energy that the show doesn’t utilize as often as it should, and they both demonstrate their MVP-statuses in this episode, hitting the comedy (I really don’t know that Glover has ever been funnier than he is here; that eating of the candy cigarette had me in stitches) and the emotional stuff equally out of the park.

The episode, however, lands somewhere odd in regards to Jeff. When Abed stops the die from falling, and Jeff goes to get the pizza (after cleverly developing a system that involves him never getting pizza). With his departure, everyone has fun. Britta is able to sing along with “Roxanne” (and why wouldn’t you want to sing along with “Roxanne”?!), everyone ends up dancing, Pierce tosses out the troll gift. Which can lead to the idea that Jeff is not needed. And perhaps this, too, will be an anxiety for the season. Without Jeff, these people would probably have never met, never have become friends. But do they need Jeff any longer? And how will Jeff deal with that, because he clearly needs them.

A little bit of me doesn’t care what happens next week. Community has proven, time and again, even when it fails (and it has failed), that it has ambition, an ambition that few shows really have (cable or broadcast), and if I can be assured that episode like this continue to be produced, I’ll be pretty happy.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Nice 303/304 gag at the start. However, it makes me wonder about the alternate timeline where this episode aired third and not fourth.
  • Adored the episode’s tag tonight. So painfully funny. And has me wondering, based on the U.N.-2 idea, if Asian Annie is actually Annie from another timeline and if folks will have to merge by the end of the season. Probably not, but you never know.
  • “Indiana Jones and the Apartment of Perpetual Virginity.”
  • Hehe. I would’ve totally gone for the low-hanging “nervous bakedown” joke, too.
  • “I cannot believe those are really mahogany bunk beds.”
  • “Man. Pizza guys are getting worse and worse.”
  • “I can’t believe I’m feeding my pies to a drug addict!”
  • Eartha Kitt did not deserve all these jokes about her.
  • Seriously. Troy eating that candy cigarette. Cracked. Me. Up.
  • Twitter pal digifreak642 comes through again with an image that makes you go: “Huh.”


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