TV Review: COMMUNITY S4E02, Paranormal Parentage (Or, A Visit To Pierce's Mansion On Halloween Proves Hollow)
In someway or another it seems fitting that the Halloween episode (which was originally supposed to air around that time of year before the season was delayed) ends up airing on Valentine's Day. With Community always uprooting, frowning upon, and then ultimately embracing many a sitcom trope, it feels like a very nice accidental gift for it to stick it to one silly holiday with another. It is unfortunate then that this is the most phoned-in Halloween adventure the study group has had thus far.
Or at least that's how I felt. A lot of this episode's goodwill is going to depend on how you feel about haunted houses. I for one have never been interested in them in any way, shape or form, so when a visit to Pierce's mansion turns into an exercise, less an homage, in how to haunt the halls, well... My interest on plot was put on the back burner. What plot there is consists of Pierce getting trapped in his panic room with the rest of the study group searching his mansion for the code, and getting increasingly spooked out along the way. There are some twists, which are, appropriately (or perhaps not) seen from a mile away.
Then again, this is Community, and we're here for the characters and the jokes and the insights they deliver. Tonight though felt awash in further miming and mimicking of past episodes, so much so that not one bit really stood out to me as its own thing, although we do get some forward momentum on Jeff confronting his dad... because after all, any episode featuring Pierce's Machiavellian schemes means Jeff must face the void within himself revolving around his long lost daddy. We also get absolute confirmation that Britta and Troy are dating (Shirley call's Abed Britta's boyfriend's boyfriend), though they are clearly taking it very slow, as we learn when Troy and Shirley encounter Pierce's "secret gym" with an indoor swing, lots of collars (for his secret dogs) and leather masks.
By in large tonight's episode felt like filler, which for Community is very odd, and in fact rather scary considering how there rarely is a filler episode, not to mention this season has only 11 more episodes! While we're guaranteed a "Jeff meets his dad" episode very soon, that scene with Jeff actually calling his dad really shouldn't be all we get out here, though it's a good base for where the season will, and probably should, go. Oh, well we do get a brief appearance by Giancarlo Esposito as Pierce's half-brother Gilbert, as well as a nicely placed LeVar Burton name drop ("He was a firm no"). Then again, maybe I just really don't care for haunted houses...
On a more serious, less snarky note, it's just so dang hard to treat one of your favorite shows as basically a new show that is still finding it's feet. You want to love it because you used to love it, but just don't know if you can, and that is the scariest thing. I won't ever give up on Community, but I'm far more critical and wary of it at this time of transition, which kind of saddens me. Perhaps then it is because I still desperately want to love Community which makes it so hard for me to just 'like' Community. C'est la (T)vie.
Random Thoughts and Bits:
- It being the Halloween episode, the group was dressed up: Abed was Calvin (although he kind of looked like a young Freddy Kreuger pre-accident), Troy was Hobbes, Britta was a ham hock (is that Calvin and Hobbes related?), Shirley was Princess Leia, Jeff was a boxer, and Annie was his ring girl... er the girl from The Ring. The Dean, in fact, turned out to be a "ring girl".
-Pierce's mansion was a freakishly tacky mix of a dentist's office in Beverly Hills (circa 1985) and the Maniac Mansion from Lucasarts' old computer adventure games of the same name.
- While I appreciate that there's not been much fuss made around Britta and Troy actually dating, Gillian Jacobs and Donald Glover's chemistry feels truncated. I guess one can chalk it up to them getting no real screen-time as a couple yet (minus last week's fountain fight), but it does feel off compared to the previous seasons' subtle, clever build up, which was full of such lovely little moments -- really the show at its nuanced best. Right now it's as if because the characters talk about it then it must be true.
-Also of note: There was some brief, albeit obvious Annie/Jeff shipping
Next week: The study group visits an Inspector Spacetime Convention, which is guaranteed to be full of Doctor Who references. I say this with no amount of sarcasm: I can't wait.