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Community Review: “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” (Episode 3.08)

Community Review: (Episode 3.08)

“Will your story be yet another sad one, of yet another man who just wanted to be happy? Or, will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones, can sometimes make them happy” – Abed

At its heart, Community has always been a story about a group of flawed people that have found a sort of redemption in making connections with one another. Abed’s proposal in “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” really touched on an important aspect of the show. It was also a nod to the fact that this season has focused itself on telling the story of these characters by examining their baggage, even if it’s not always pretty. Because things aren’t always just great and wonderful, there is often a lot of ups and downs we must endure before we can get to the great things in life. One complaint I’ve heard from fans this season is that the group had become increasingly more aggressive and negative. And while I think this has been dialed back the last four episodes, I think what Abed says here is an important notion to the story the writer’s are trying to tell this season. Yes, it’s not always going to be wonderful. But there is something a lot greater at work here. These people are friends, and they’ve even come to accept they love each other on some level. But they don’t quite exactly know the extent of how their relationship effects one another, and what it could be leading to. And that in large, is what this chapter of the show is about.

Jeff was incredibly funny as the Dean. I had just got done accepting that there was no way Jeff would ever surpass his “Kiss From A Rose” moment in last week’s episode, but here we are. I loved that Jeff not only made fun of the Dean’s behavior, but that the Dean actually thought it was impeccable acting. And then when Jeff actually comes to embrace being a bald person after having to wear the bald cap for a week, it was just perfect when the Dean fired him and he started crying. The episodes vibe in spots actually reminded me of season one’s “Social Psychology” even down to Annie having her updo hair. When the madness started to set in, it was funny seeing the characters break down. Troy and Britta crying because they no longer knew what the Dean wanted from them. Annie admitting: “He has to be a genius. Because if he’s just an idiot, I’ve wasted two weeks of my time. Therefore, he has to be a genius”. Even Chang had an excellent spot where he played the understudy to Jeff for the Dean’s spot. “Jeff thinks he has it bad. I have to wear my Winger wig under my bald cap. I’m dying”. The episode just did a fantastic job really incorporating the entire school. Jeff’s snap at Leonard is something I’ve missed.

“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” was really the first episode to heavily focus on Craig (Dean Pelton). We already knew he was insecure about the school he runs. All of his absurd ideas always felt like over-compensation for a much deeply rooted issue with him. But the assumption was always that the guy just wanted to better the school, and was just completely kooky with how he went about doing it. Which is still true. But what tonight’s episode showed us is that the Dean was also ashamed of the school. Just like Jeff first viewed the school as a joke, so to the Dean felt like it was a mediocre job he landed out of University. His constant determination to make the school something greater, wasn’t just for the school, but for himself.

The mockumentary style of the episode gave us a more grittier perspective of the show. As the dean started to break down throughout the episode, we got a really dark look at this usually chipper character. The plot revolved around the Dean letting fame and ego go to his head. What started out a low budget commercial for Greendale, spiraled into a full on production when Luis Guzman agrees to be in the commercial (a backfire of Jeff’s plan for Luis to send a seize and desist against scenes with his statue in the commercial). And while all of this set up for some extremely funny situations, I found the episode was a lot better looked at as a deep character analysis, than Community’s take on a mockumentary style episode.

When Luis Guzman told the Dean that he didn’t deserve the school, his reaction was gut wrenching. Because it was such a self-realization that for all the things the school is or is not to him, it has always been accepting of who he is as a person – weirdness and all. The fact that he’s been ashamed of his school for so long, made him realize he was failing the school as a leader. This plot concluded by tying into Abed’s documentary plot, which focused on him documenting the entire commercial and refusing to intervene throughout it. But at the last minute, he edited together the Dean’s footage with his own, to make the new commercial, which saved the Dean his job. The scene where the Dean goes to ask for the forgiveness of the group for what he did, really pulled at my heart strings. While it was obvious to us that the Dean would be forgiven, Craig actually wasn’t sure. It made the scene all that much powerful, as he really felt like he betrayed everyone and wasn’t sure if they would accept his apologies. The lengths he has gone in the past to be liked by the group, has always been a characteristic of him wanting to fit in. But up to this point, it’s always served more as a punchline. Here, we actually get to see the group open up, and accept Dean’s apology. Not just because they have “been there too” as Jeff put it, but because Greendale would not be what it is without him. For all the kooky things he does, he brings a lot of heart to the place. Thematically, it also made sense to end the episode (and this whole ordeal) with Troy and Britta embracing each other in a hug, even after the group had stopped hugging the Dean. It hasn’t been a secret that for some time now, the writers have flirted with the idea of Britta and Troy hooking up. So to cap off what was a largely cathartic episode about accepting ones own flaws, and being forgiven, it was nice to see these two embrace.

Reviewing tonight’s episode is bittersweet. One the one hand, I believe this was one the most endearing and enjoyable episode’s of Community. But then there is that dark cloud looming that Community has been pulled from NBC’s midseason lineup. It’s hard to say what NBC will do with this show at this point. But I think we can all agree, in a worst case scenario, we just want them to finish out the season and give the show a proper ending. This above of all else is important, as much of this season has been set up around these character’s hitting their lows. We’ve seen the toxicity of the groups relationship, and there has been set up so that we will eventually get to the heart of all these problems, as well as getting to truly understand the characters. To end the show now, would just be a travesty. Community is a show that is very much driven by the character development rather than plot, and there is a lot of baggage to still account for. So here’s to keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping we get a resolution.

Grade: A-

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