Editor's Note: This blog contains spoilers for season 4, episode 2 of "Community"
Instead of gobbling candy while making a face at Zooey Deschanel or Penny/Leonard or Bones or Ashton Kutcher navigating the twists and turns of "Singles Awareness Day," I enjoyed a chilling breath of fresh air from "Community."
In the midst of other shows with hearts-romance-and-cheese-themed episodes, the study group is celebrating a different holiday. They forgo a Halloween(!) party to investigate if Pierce's dead father Cornelius is really haunting his house. In short, over the course of a half hour, they split up, searching through various drawers and rooms to unravel the mystery, paving the way to typical study group antics and idiosyncrasies.
As far as originality goes, the show fared a little better this week. The banter and wit had more substance relative to last week's episode. We also see a tiny bit more consistent character development as Jeff and Britta bicker about confronting Jeff's own set of daddy issues. However, the show still lacked some heart.
1. I'm not sure if choosing to air the Halloween episode in lieu of a stereotypical Valentine's day one was a coincidence (as the original air date would've been a perfect October 26 had the show actually premiered on October 19), but maybe this added to the fun. Watching the study group rival Dean Pelton's outrageous costumes and Britta give a Freudian analysis about a creepy bow tie (instead of, say, the phallic meaning of chocolates) was a lot more entertaining.
2. The "reluctant adventure" trope returns. From Annie's shocked Disney faces to Jeff's attempts to rationalize the study group's fears, "Community"'s characteristic awkward camaraderie seemed to be back to stay as the group navigated the trials of staying by Pierce's side.
3. Winger's sensitivity makes strides as the episode's penultimate scene is him skipping the party anyway to dial his estranged father's number. This was a well-played continuity/cliff-hanger combined.
1. Dean Pelton's entrance as the real ring girl (that Jeff meant Annie's costume to be) was chuckle-inducing/border-line disturbing in its realism, but it never came back again. What I've always liked about "Community" is its ability to tie its threads back together neatly, but all the Dean's comically sensual costume did was scare Jeff into actually going to Pierce's house. The end tag could've seen Pelton at this Vicki (Vicky? Vikki?)'s party, similar to how the missed Puppy Parade had its own scenes in "Cooperative Calligraphy." Instead, the show passed up an opportunity to develop the new neighbors' interactions.
These are all minor disappointment, however, considering we'll probably eventually see our fair share of next-door antics from the Dean soon.
2. The haunted house theme could've gone a little farther. The show could've made more fun of the stereotypes of haunted house navigators. Terrified runs, trippings and/or disappearings could've been parodied. Instead, there was no suspense in Abed and Annie's separation, as he ended up just laughing behind the (video camera) scenes a few minutes later. Maybe it's the show's short 30-minute duration as well, but I was barely affected by the whole "Cornelius is still in this house" aspect. The spooky mirrors and mysterious shadows were mildly amusing, but because this "it's not really a haunting but the characters don't know it yet" trope is often played, a twistier journey should've been the distinguishing feature. "Community" has always taken risks with cliches. At least it didn't just throw some drooping spiders and/or blood-stained skeletons in.
Overall, the second episode of Harmon-less "Community" (HLC) was considerably better. However, that statement will stay tentatively qualified until next episode, because I'm still not impressed to the point where I'm alternately knee-slapping and exclaiming, "this show is SO GOOD!" like I was on my couch during Seasons 2-3.
2/13 episodes down, 11 more opportunities for exponential improvement to go.
Read Crystal's review of the previous episode here.