“I remember when this show was about a community college.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Abed.
My review of this Happy Valloween episode is a bit overdue, but that’s because I had a hard time figuring out how I felt about it. It certainly wasn’t bad, but things just weren’t clicking here. With every passing episode, it becomes more and more apparent that we’re not in the same era of quality that we were from the past three seasons.
The episode opens up with six of our seven study groupers gathering in costume for Vicky’s Halloween party — Pierce, naturally, is not invited on account of the fact that he once stabbed Vicky in the face. Throwing a wrench into their works, Pierce sends them a text message threatening his imminent death, having locked himself in his mansion’s panic room with no way out. Despite Jeff’s vehement objections, the group heads to Hawthorne Manor for the rescue.
When they arrive at the mansion, which is appropriately decorated in early-80s hideous funk, the study group suddenly finds itself in a Scooby Doo homage: Pierce locked himself in the panic room because he saw the ghost of his dead father, but unfortunately forgot the code necessary to get out. Afraid of being locked in a haunted mansion, he tasks the group with finding the red notebook containing the code somewhere in the house.
Much like the Scooby Doo gang, they split up to cover more ground. Oddly, they break off for the search into different pairs than we’d expect — I mean, in what universe wouldn’t Troy go with Abed? — but it does give us some welcome new interactions between study groupers. We learn of Jeff’s secret search to find his father with Britta’s therapizing, and Troy’s adorable naivete at doing “things” with his new girlfriend. We learn that Shirley is much more familiar with “indoor swings” than we’d expect of an innocent, Christian woman, and – most important to the plot – we also learn that there’s something more than just Pierce’s panic room in play, when Abed discovers a hidden security room monitoring the entire mansion.
The (sort of) spookiness of Halloween Valloween then begins to pervade: shadows inexplicably move behind doors, visages appear in mirrors, and hands reach through walls. This cartoony, Scooby Doo humor does give us a few laughs (I did enjoy the study group having coversations in screams of “Agh!”), but mostly this humor comes off as … lazy. I’m sure they’re just reaching for the classic homage, but it wasn’t exactly implemented with the intelligent writing I’d expect of Community.
Eventually, we discover that Pierce’s half-brother Gilbert was hiding in the shadows, quietly taking care of Pierce and his affairs. Gilbert’s wonderfully wooden personality is excellently protrayed again by Giancarlo Esposito, and he brought some heart to the moment when Gilbert and Pierce came together again.
Sure, it’s touching and all, but we’ve already visited this happy resolution in the historic video game episode. I’d be happy to get back to the part where the show’s a community college again.
While most of the writing was a bit lazy, it is worth noting that Donald Glover was as hilarious as ever — with a Halloween episode’s propensity for screaming, Glover was in his natural element, and he took it with both paws.
I’m less enthusiastic about this episode than I was about the season premiere, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here. We’re still in transition from the Harmon era, but I was hoping the transition would be smoother than this. Next week’s Inspector Spacetime episode would be a great test to see how we’ll fare for the rest of the season.
-Didn’t we already evolve the Jeff and Annie relationship to a place where they can not be weird around each other?
-While I was certainly expecting it, raise your hand if you were disappointed to not see Annie as a ring girl.
-While I was certainly expecting it, raise your hand if you were not disappointed to see Dean Pelton as a ring girl.
-Pierce is pretty much written off by now, isn’t he? It’s not surprising to see Chevy leave after this.
-Jeff’s father will play a big part later in the season, I’m sure, and that’s the only thing so far propelling the season forward.
Grade: C. Only the second episode with under the new regime, but a misstep from the premiere, which itself was already a little off-the-mark. Hope they can find their place soon, but with Community only renewed for a half-season, they need to find it ASAP.