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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: Community, "Paranormal Parentage"

Season 4, Episode 2
Grade: B-
Verdict: This is a pretty disposable episode. Not a lot of memorable moments, and a self-contained plot that that's novel, but doesn't elicit a lot of laughs. The show does continue to feel pretty authentic to previous seasons and clearly sets up some larger plots, though.

Happy Valentine's Day! And by that, I apparently mean Happy Halloween. As you probably know, Community was slated to start last fall but was unexpectedly pushed back. This means we still get a holiday-themed episode this week; it's just the wrong holiday.

In "Paranormal Parentage" we see Community's version of a haunted house. The house is Pierce's, and Pierce is trapped inside its panic room. The gang goes on a search for the combination to get him out, encountering a number of cliche scary movie references along the way.

There are two plots going on beneath the surface here. The first, and more minor, is the concern over whether Britta and Troy's relationship can really go anywhere. When Shirley and Troy encounter an S&M sex dungeon, which Troy believes to be a "secret gym" complete with park-like-swing, Shirley expresses concern over whether Troy is too child-like to date someone as sexually mature as Britta. Throw in some more Troy-and-Abed-are-basically-a-couple references and you have your basic conflict. The episode's end does give us some hope for them, though, in the form of Britta showing interest in Inspector Spacetime.

I'm on the fence about this relationship. Britta's character has evolved nicely over the seasons; I really appreciate her awkward physical comedy, and I think her relationship with Troy brings out more of her silly side, which is fantastic. It's also a very obvious but interesting conflict to show a woman coming between the Troy/Abed dynamic. I'm just not sure I'm interested in seeing Troy in a mature adult relationship with grown up feelings and blah blah, and I feel like that's where this is ultimately going. 

I think my favorite moments in smart comedies occur when the writers show us they can still make astute, philosophical points. We get a little bit of that in the episode's larger issue, which revolves around Jeff's relationship with his dad. Jeff repeatedly scorns Pierce for living with unresolved daddy issues. As Jeff says, "The dead can't HAVE business. They can't want or think or do. It's what makes them dead. It's the living who choose to be haunted." That's some fairly heavy stuff for a Scooby Doo episode. Britta tricks Jeff into over-monologuing (like that's hard), and Jeff admits he's found his own father's contact information and has considered reaching out. Cue upcoming episode where Jeff meets his father, probably.

Both of the plots I mentioned above felt like bridges to future episodes. They allowed for a little bit of progression, but there wasn't a lot of action here. If someone was watching an abridged version of this show, this is certainly one they could skip - a cute gimmick, but it's no paintball, and packs no real punches to the show's overall arcs. PLUS: Not enough Dean. How can there ever been enough of the Dean?

Best quote: Why does he have so many collars? ... Secret dogs!
Best moment: Shirley and Troy find Pierce's S&M room, complete with dog collars and sex swing. Troy doesn't get it.
Worst moment: The typical "everyone wants to help Pierce but Jeff argues they shouldn't" stuff.

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