Community Review: ‘A Fistful of Paintballs’

5 05 2011

Joel McHale, Alison Brie, and Danny Pudi in this weeks spaghetti western "Community"

Community tries a to pull of a sequel of their original paintball episode by going to the Old West. They also run into Sawyer. Full review after the jump…

I’m going to start with Alison Brie because I can’t get Annie Edison out of my head after tonight’s episode of Community. I’ve had a crush on Alison Brie for a while now, watching her as the hilarious Trudy Campbell on AMC’s Mad Men and watching her over the past two seasons on Community has been wonderful. But wow, Brie has never been better than she was here tonight. She was awesome, plain and simple.

And now to the episode. Last year Community’s “Modern Warfare” was one of the best thing single episodes on TV. It was so funny, so well executed, and so perfect. How could these people ever top that? I didn’t think it could be done, especially after seeing the early efforts of this second season. The Apollo-13 spoof was weak at best (weak to Community’s standards, bust still funnier than most anything else on network television) and the zombie romp two weeks later was solid but nothing spectacular. And as the season went on these writers kept chasing that spoof greatness with send ups of classic Christmas claymation and of the fantasy genre with a Dungeons and Dragons episode. Most of these have been really great pieces, all strong and very funny, but none of them quite reaching the greatness of “Modern Warfare”.* And then came tonight’s episode, something I’d known about for months as the cast would post photos of Chang’s El Tigre paintball gun on Twitter or talk about Josh Holloway on the set. Everyone thought, how could this possibly live up to the original? I didn’t really think it could be done. And then that happened. And I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.

*I will say that the My Dinner with Abed episode will always stand out to me as one of the best things Community has ever done, but because of its depth and what it was trying to accomplish. I’d never say it was as funny as “Modern Warfare” just that it’s certainly up there with its greatness. 

While “Modern Warfare” was a send up of all that is action movies, everything from Die Hard to The Matrix, tonight’s episode focused on a single idea: the Spaghetti Western. The entire team put so much effort in to really respecting and doing right by the genre. The episode’s score was beautiful and so reminiscent of the score from the great The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I loved the quick title cards showing everyone’s new names (Jeff as the “King of Spades”) and how that connected to the flashback story of the vote concerning Pierce’s place in the study group. The opening title sequence was brilliant, and have I mentioned Allison Brie? Even the way the stand off sequences were shot (LOTS of tension and even more close ups) was just like an old Spaghetti Western.

The show was also servicing its fans, not just fans of the genre. There were plenty of callbacks to early episodes this season, everything from the guy who the group played D&D with to Vicki, the poor girl who lost the Greendale elections. Dean Pelton got some great moments in this episode too, and I just loved the absolute absurdity of the premise for this year’s fight.

“What kind ice cream company would do this?!” Brilliant.

Josh Holloway had a great cameo here as the Dark Rider and it was just really nice having him back on my TV giving people nicknames (Annie is “Bean Allergy”) and saying “son of a bitch.” And he showed such commitment to such an absurd role that makes the whole thing work that much more. I wish he could come back and just join the study group. That would be fun.

Finally, as the best Community spoof episodes do, this one featured some good service of its characters and addressed actual issues of the season’s overall plot beyond just a silly paintball fight. We’ve had a Pierce problem this year; often his behavior was far beyond anything that would normally be tolerable in a real study group. Viewers often asked “why would they keep this guy around?” But tonight, as they have a few times already, addressed these issues in a great way. Annie would be the one hold out, wanting to treat Pierce well even after he had menaced them all year long. And Chevy Chase really shines in this episode having so much fun playing the Al Swearengen of Greendale, I could have watched a half hour of Fort Pierce. Everybody had something to do, and everybody was funny tonight and beyond that the writers serviced character development and those relationships well. What more could I possibly ask for?

This was absolutely as good as the original and I cannot wait for next week’s conclusion.

What did you think?

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3 responses

6 05 2011
Aimee

I freaking loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, and I was even a bit nervous about them repeating the paintball thing… but far out, they did such an amazing job. My favourite episode of the season, possibly of the whole series (although Contemporary American Poultry has been solidly in the number one spot for quite some time). I cannot wait for next week!

6 05 2011
matthewmccleary

I completely agree. After seeing next week’s I think I’ll really be able to say exactly where this ranks as far as Community episodes. I’m expecting something really great and I can’t wait!

12 05 2011
Community Review: ‘For A Few Paintballs More’ « Rear Window Viewing

[…] ove and what a season it has been. Tonight’s episode was the conclusion to last week’s paintball episode and I think it did exactly what it needed to do. While last week’s episode was a focused […]

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