Community S05E10 Recap: 'Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons' [And MeowMeowBeenz Power Rankings]
It probably wouldn't surprise me if there were people out there who went into tonight's episode of Community wary of the return to the world of Dungeons & Dragons in tonight's latest episode. It's been a season of sequels, which has striken me as kind of odd after all the complaining that Dan Harmon did about season 4 and how, at least from my perspective, that was a show that seemed to try too hard in terms of paying homage to itself. Several times in the fifth season, I've felt like the same thing had been happening. Maybe Harmon and his writing staff thought that there was a story still to be told in those concepts, maybe they were pandering hoping to boost ratings, I don't know.
What I do know is that, for the most part, it's actually worked, because the people writing these episodes, at the very least, know how these concepts are supposed to work, and what's more, they've figured out how to keep them fresh for the most part. So curiously, I wasn't as wary going into "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", because this is a season that has made these kinds of sequels work by giving them meaning. And the end result was nearly perfect.
D&D part 2 works in part because there are veritable stakes for one of the characters, and because the circumstances allow us to believe why and how his Teacher-Student coalition friends would go to bat for him in that situation. It also works because it mostly follows the formula of the original D&D episode in that regard, while taking things to a whole new level.
And in a way, it might even work if you take it for what might be a deeper or convoluted meaning, in that it may have been a way for Harmon to redo the one that he probably regrets the most about season 4, in how it essentially his plans for Jeff and his estranged father. There was certainly a parallel to that with the situation between Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) and his son (David Cross), Jeff even brings it up. But what I liked the most about that parallel is that Harmon doesn't use it to rewrite history. You can tell through Jeff's resigned dialog that he accepts what happened between his and James Brolin last season. In fact there's almost a poetry to that, in that instead of giving a rousing speech at the end to try and get the Hickeys back together, he simply and quietly bows out of the room in order to let them work out their own differences. How different is that Jeff Winger to the one from seasons past? In fact, have we even had a big Winger speech this season? I actually can't remember one off the top of my head, and I can't stress how that's actually a good thing for Jeff's character.
They even sort of deal with it through the odd relationship he ends up having throughout the game with the Dean, who plays his son in the D&D match thanks to baby Hickey's shuffling. Jeff shrugs it off because it's the Dean being creepy, but it's more like he's shrugging off the plot, and that's kind of cute.
The main attraction here of course is the battle of the Hickeys. As we know, the match is organized after the group finds out that Hickey's son, who's keeping him away from his grandson, is really into D&D, and of course the group previously played the game in season 2 to help Fat Neil find a reason to live. The results of that game were mostly disastrous thanks to Pierce's actions as the villain, but they decide to try again, hoping they can manipulate the game once again to help Hickey.
But Hickey's son is both a master player and as cynical as his father, so he sees through their game and shuffles the character cards. Soon the stakes are raised as Hickey wagers all contact with his family. The group winds up split, and soon Britta, Chang and the Dean start to fall for Hickey son's manipulative charm. In fact, the question of who's really at fault in their squabble is never really resolved. Hickey claims his son isn't justified in keeping him away from his grandson, while his son argues that it's his son and he was never there for him anyway growing up. In situations like this I tend to side with the father, but that's neither here nor there, because it simply amounts to daddy issues and family feuds, which almost everyone goes through and are often deep rooted and unsolvable in just 20 minutes (which may sound like another jab at that season 4 episode).
And it ends without any true resolution. In fact, the episode explicitly addresses that when Hickey says Abed owes him an ending, to which he replies he only owes him what he made of the game.. The two Hickeys just argue, but isn't that all fathers and sons really do, and quite frankly, the most you can ask for?
In its own way, it's kind of sweet, and the real value here is in the journey. What a journey it was too. The best part was most certainly Hickey interrogating Abed's two goblin characters, which is wrong on so many levels. All of it was great. A worthy sequel, both in theme and content, to one of the best Community episodes ever. "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" gets 9.5 dingleberries out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- Not only was David Cross' casting perfect here, but so was his Lord of the Rings style song. You could tell that this was the approach the episode took, and it really speaks volumes to Joe Russo's directing (and first timer Matt Roller's writing) to what they can create with what amounts to a bottle episode and a lot of imagination, which has been important to Community since the very beginning.
- This show just doesn't know how to write for Shirley, does it? After a couple of weeks of trying to make her the villain to simply annoying results, They write her off by killing her D&D character at the end of the first act. On the bright side, it was the best Dean episode of the season, save last week's epic rap.
- I am legally changing my name to Joseph Gordon Diehard tomorrow (dibs).
- Another great gag: Fat Neil in the background while Jeff was talking about him being in the background.
- Also, the return of the Hickey fistbump knock. Take that, Sheldon Cooper.
- Your D&D viewing assignment for this weekend, kids: Zero Charisma.
- "Too cool for street insurance? Must be nice."
- "What do you call that crap with the dungeons and dragons?" Dungeons & Dragons."
- "I'm a holy cleric with a mace, and a dumb name." "Ouch."
- "Abed you're not helping." "I wouldn't be a good dungeonmaster if I was."
- "There are no women with them are there? I have class."
- "Go find a name that's not just another creature's name plus hob!"
- "Now you listen to me young man, I've punched about a thousand hearts and I've never, ever missed."
- "You know where he was for most of my birthdays? A little place that rhymes with not there." "Times Square?"
- "The sky spiders have flown you as far as their religion allows."
Line Of The Night:
Jeff: "I hold Britta's face in a puddle."
MeowMeowBeenz Power Rankings:
1. Professor Hickey - 5 MeowMeowBeenz
Successfully interrogated not one, but two trolls.
2. Dungeonmaster Abed - 4 MeowMeowBeenz
His understanding of the intricacies of sky spider religious rules will come in handy.
3. Annie the Well-Endowed - 4 MeowMeowBeenz
There's hardly anything better on this show than Annie playing weird tabletop games.
4. Jeff Winger AKA Riggs Diehard - 3 MeowMeowBeenz
Got some closer (maybe?) on his daddy issues.
5. Dean Pelton AKA Joseph Gordon Diehard - 3 MeowMeowBeenz
Died by his father's sword, in the noblest of ways.
6. Dingleberry Chang - 2.5 MeowMeowBeenz
Bonus points for the Times Square joke.
7. Britta Perry - 2 MeowMeowBeenz
Didn't get to do much this week, but she's gotten her due this season.
8. Fabulous Neil - 2 MeowMeowBeenz
Is still alive.
9. Shirley Bennett - 1 MeowMeowBeenz
Yeah, I'm not feeling Shirley this season.
Catch up on season 5 at Community at Amazon Instant Video!