I haven’t always been a fan of Community’s use of guest stars. Sometimes they are amazing (LeVar Burton), and sometimes they can fall flat (Katharine McPhee). I haven’t been as thrilled with their use of John Goodman and Michael K. Williams this season either, despite their great potential. Don’t get me wrong, these two actors are phenomenal. And I’ve gotten a chuckle out of Laybourne’s absurd air conditioning annex and Professor Kane’s bizarre reminiscent about Lego’s being different when he was a kid. But on the whole, I’ve felt their presence has either been just there, or they weighed down the plot in some episodes. Tonight this was not the case at all, and Michael K. Williams was used perfectly. When given the right roles, these guest stars can really add a lot to the show. It’s just finding the right balance to strike with them. I don’t think this is just the case of not knowing what to write for them, as much as it’s difficult to find a way to have them fit in the already established world of the study group, and what they already have going on.
Another criticism I have with this show (and I promise it’s very loving criticism) – is that sometimes Community episodes have multiple plot structures and one of them isn’t as great as the other(s) . Take for instance “Contemporary Impressionists”. Here you have three plot structures going on. I. Troy trying to look after Abed II. Jeff’s vanity problem. III. Chang’s quest to recruit his army. Of course I’ve painted this very broad, and there was a lot more going on in each of these. But in a general sense, this is how the episode was broken up. For me, Chang’s plot wasn’t on the same level of greatness as the other two, and as a result the episode was good instead of being incredible. I would even make this argument for the recent “Origins of Vampire Mythology”, which had the Pierce and Chang plot. Now let me be clear, I’m not saying the examples I’ve given above are awful. And in the case of “Origins of Vampire Mythology” I thought the strength of the other plots were so great, the Chang and Peirce parts didn’t’ stop the episode from reaching its level of greatness (I loved that episode). But their plot also didn’t really add to it. It felt more like a plot that was there, just to give the characters something to do. Personally, I would have rather had Pierce be with the group in the apartment, or hanging out with Jeff and Shirley to make fun of Blade.
On the subject of Pierce, I still find Pierce’s relationship with the group to be somewhat confusing. Yeah in season 2 he played the villain, and I understand the tensions that developed between him and the group. But in the beginning of Season 3 there was reconciliation, and Pierce seemed to have grown as a person. That and the group had come to accept him for who he is flaws and all. And yet, he’s been slowly drifting away from the group again (even if not in a plot sense). In terms of how the writers use Pierce, he always seems to be off on his own story, or not really reaching the potential he had in past seasons. In “Origins of Vampire Mythology” he was trying to find a best friend. Tonight he was gambling with Leonard. Maybe Pierce has just come to realize that he won’t always be able to fit in with the group, and there is nothing wrong with hanging out with other people as well. But since the show has always been about the group, I just find his use as a character this season to be disconnected and at times lacking.
Fortunately “Basic Lupine Urology” had none of those problems. From a plot perspective, it flowed impeccably. Yes it was a theme episode, but it also didn’t feel so entrenched in the theme, that it worked even as a basic school episode. I could totally see a problem arising at Greendale over a Yam project being destroyed. I know “Basic Lupine Urology” was a Law & Order themed episode, and it was a great one at that. But I couldn’t help but visualize Abed and Troy as being an offshoot of Jimmy McNulty with the oversized leather coat, shirt and tie get up. We even had Michael K. Williams back, acting more Omar than he has before on the show. “Every Man Must Have A Code”. I half expected a plot turn where there was corruption at the highest ranks with the Dean playing sides to his benefit.
One of the stand out scenes in the episode was when Abed and Troy visit the autopsy for their Yam. Troy pressing for more information, has a serious glare on his face. Dangling below his leather coat is a red Spider Man tie. The absurdity of this is what makes everything about this episode great. Troy reading Todd his Miranda Right’s (altered to their lack of authority) was one of the funniest things I’ve seen on the show. Then there was Troy and Abed vying for their role. One had to be the good cop, and the other the bad cop. Only one could have the “zingers”. This constant tug back and forth between the two made their entire plot funny as hell, and while also faithfully portraying the stereotypes of Cop dramas. Abed slamming the table in front of Annie and storming out was nothing short of perfection.
Every single character played well into their roles. While I always loved Annie and Shirley as security guards, Abed and Troy took it to another level playing detectives. The good cop, bad cop routine without having any real jurisdiction or authority was hilarious. Shirley as the captain of the department taking control of the crime scene, and telling the Abed and Troy what their limitations. Jeff and Annie as lawyers seemed predictable at first (the whole Jeff being a jerk, but then realizing he’s wrong ) – but Jeff surprises everyone by discovering the true culprit of the Yam mystery – Neil and his lust for Vicky.
Then there was the death of our beloved Star Burns: death by an exploding meth lab in the back of his car. Jeff, Annie, Professor Kane and the Dean are all in the office drinking to their victory. Everything seemed to work out okay, then the call. Next week’s episode will no doubt deal with the aftermath of Star Burns death. But for an episode that was filled with nonstop twists and turns and great scenes, it was it was just another layer to top off this incredible episode.