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Saturday, 25 of May of 2019

Community – “Digital Estate Planning”, “The First Chang Dynasty”, & “Introduction to Finality”

“This is a lock of my hair.”
[with cautious affection] “Creepy.”

Community Title CardSo I thought this entry was going to waaaaaaaay too long, but it’s in fact going to be relatively short. This isn’t because the episode are bad — they aren’t — but that there’s nothing particular bonkers about them (well, “Digital Estate Planning” is bonkers, but I’ll talk about it). They’re just solid, well-balanced episodes of Community, episodes that demonstrate what this show does well: lots of laughs, risk-taking, and generally satisfactory character moments.

I’m going to take just a moment to address “Digital Estate Planning” on its own, and then the other two episodes work well enough as a unit.

“Digital Estate Planning” is one of those incredibly ambitious episodes of Community that, love it or hate, you have to admire the fact that they show just committed entirely to the premise of the majority of the episode happening inside an 8-bit video game. The nature of the game itself is wonderfully conceived as it feels like a genuine 16-bit game (that I very badly want to be able to download and play, by the way), and all the general chaos of platformers of that era.

And there’s lots of good humor in there, both game specific (killing your own teammates, both accidentally and not-so-accidentally) and character specific (Annie’s killing spree, “Troy and Abed shooting lava!”, Britta being horrible at drinking). But the episode, despite liking it overall, still left me a little cold, and it took me a while to determine why. It wasn’t that Gilbert was a non-entity before this episode, that I could deal with.

I realized today that it was because watching someone play a video game isn’t particularly fun. Part of it just the desire to interact with the world yourself, and by taking on the actual dressing of a game, the episode encourages that desire as well. But another part of it is that while I got to hear the group interact and see them interact with each other through avatars, it wasn’t as fulfilling as them interact with one another as physical entities. Even within the confines of their booths, there could’ve been a better sense of their responses to one another in that space (I’m thinking of how The Guild manages to balance this spatial problem very well and still create a unified sense of place).

But it’s a quibble, really. Because it’s just so well-executed from the standpoint of the game (and the third time the series has animated itself (yes, I’m counting the Christmas episode from season 2 as animation, you got a problem with that?)), and that the show was even willing to do it is just something I don’t want diminish that achievement.

To the other two episodes, I don’t have anything truly negative to say. Yes, the Evil!Abed plotline never really felt fully-formed, nor did the Air Conditioning Repair Annex story (what is going on with John Goodman hair, people?), and I am rather disappointed in those aspects of both these episodes, and the season as a whole, never really clicked completely meaningful ways.

And I say “completely” very deliberately because I do think that Evil!Abed did help, in the end, give Abed some maturity (he packs up the Dreamatorium, presumably for Troy and Britta), some willingness to seek out help for the unspecified condition that the show cannot name or else they would have a social responsibility to deal with it realistically and appropriately and thus could no longer continue to be flexible in the writing and depiction of it.

Ahem.

The AC Repair Annex didn’t really offer Troy that sort of growth, so it felt like a non-starter and a whimpering ending (despite the Jeff Winger Speech intercutting) that never went anywhere. Consider how I feel about Chang’s army and the AC Repair Annex. I never really found Chang’s army to be remotely funny (and I still don’t), but it did supply us the setting for a heist episode, and I fucking love heist narratives. I really do. It’s kind of appalling (I’ve mentioned this elsewhere on the blog (potential Supernatural spoilers)). Because the AC Repair Annex never did that, it never paid itself off. They could’ve gotten out of that room some other way than the camera nod, and so the Annex never made a case for itself to exist, through either character or humor.

The season ends, rather surprisingly, with a musical montage. I figured Jeff’s dad would have figured into this season, but I’m glad they held back. I’m gladder still that Troy and Britta’s relationship seems to be blossoming. As Christopher Dole noted on Twitter, both of them had not only outstanding season, but they both managed to break out as well (Glover’s Troy last year, and Jacobs’s Britta this season (seriously, woman deserves an Emmy for her work this year)).

I’m excited for these potential moves forward (hell, I even like the idea of Chang teaming up with City College), and I’m hoping that next season will give Shirley her due (fucking finally) and give her some real shining moments like Troy and Britta have received.

On the whole, I’d say I liked season 3 more than season 2, and just a bit less than season 1 (I swear, I don’t think the show will be able to top season 1). This is a completely arbitrary thing to say, of course. But I feel like the show, this season, has balanced its high-concept episodes better, and given stronger “regular” episodes than last season.  And I hope that trend continues into the next season.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • “Until that, I was just the teenager who read the Bible to him in the bath.”
  • “Levar Burton was a ‘Maybe’.”
  • “Which one is me? I assume nothing because I’m not racist.”
  • “Dammit. I thought we could count on Britta not to screw up drinking.”
  • “Don’t be a nob.”
  • “Die racism!”
  • “It’s just like Stalin back in Russian-times.”
  • “You had time to build a tiny working water fountain, and I’m the pine cone?”
  • “Got a new flavored lip balm. Meet me at Chili’s in 10.”
  • “You were like a white Blair Underwood.”
  • Favorites of the season were “Remedial Chaos Theory” (of course), “Basic Lupine Urology” (double of course), “Geography of Global Conflict,” “Origins of Vampire Mythology,” “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,” and “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism.”

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