One of the best parts about following a TV show is seeing the characters change and grow over time. I find it pulls me into the experience more, as it’s much easier to track specific developments and process them. Unfortunately, it seems shows can lose track of all the events and produce a less-than-satisfying resolution to previous conflicts. Cooperative Calligraphy is one of these make-or-break episodes that can contextualize the episodes before it and determine where the show will continue to. And what it does to comment on these characters over the season so far is magnificent.
The premise of the episode is simple: Annie’s pen is gone. It had to have been someone in the study group. No one leaves until it’s found. But the compelling element is the investigation. Through the episode, we go through cycles of watching the characters question each other over and over. Each study group member reveals why they have a reason to mistrust another. And the reasons all have to do with flaws the characters had in the very beginning of the show. Jeff’s still a persuasive manipulator. Pierce is still racist. Annie’s still childish. It’s in this way that Cooperative Calligraphy is an episode about the lack of change. By having all of these recurring character flaws brought to the surface and by seeing the study group interrogate each other, the audience and the characters begin to question why they’re all friends.
It’s excellent up to that point, but it only gets better with the resolution. After a ridiculously thorough search of the room, no one has the pen. Our group is sad and confused. Can they really not trust each other? And then it all comes together. Jeff gives a suggestion to comfort them, Abed analyzes it and they think it’s funny, Britta (being worldly) can validate it, and Troy can cheer them up with an explanation. It one moment the study group shows that their dissimilarities are what make them such great friends, and the only true change that’s happened throughout the series is the characters care for one another. That’s all that really matters. The lack of development in the character flaws and abundance of devotion is what’s truly keeping this group together, and this episode makes us proud to be a part of that. We’ve come to love these people, no matter the faults they have.
Grade: A+. Best episode of the season and one of my favorites of the series.
- The way this review came out, it didn’t focus on the comedy much. I think the other two reviews by ThatDrewGuy and Starburnsfanboy show just how packed with jokes this episode was, and almost ever single one of them hit hard. Go read those reviews for the awesome lines and some great analysis.
- The Puppy Parade was a perfect foil to the episode. It was quintessential Greendale in the way it was sort of wacky, yet believable. And having such a cute and comforting “outside” really did raise the tension of the bottle episode.
- It was funny seeing all of the little things from past episodes that Annie’s Boobs has stolen. Also, was Annie’s Boobs face always that scary?