Review: Community, “Conventions of Space and Time”

“See? This is why I don’t hang with you folks on the weekends.”

This was it: the episode I’ve been looking forward to since they announced it at SDCC. There’s so much possibility here for parody/homage/greatness – poking fun at, while celebrating with, the vocal Comic-Con crowd that are (mostly) responsible for keeping them on the air.

Which is why it pains me to say that this episode is yet another mediocre entry in this fourth season. “Conventions” jumped from hot to cold: we do get hints of brilliance, but you just can’t walk away without a bad taste in your mouth – mainly because of one nagging subplot.

The episode cold opens with a fun gag as Britta goes to amazing lengths to hide her sexual relationship with Troy from Abed. The single take was nicely choreographed and well-executed, with the added benefit of seeing the beautiful Gillian Jacobs in her skivvies. (Huzzah for GIFs!) But the cold open seems like it was written ultimately for that one joke payoff (Abed likes donuts), rather than using that precious air time to begin fleshing out the story. It does set up than an Inspector Spacetime convention exists, but who’s listening to Abed’s off screen instructions when they’re watching Jacobs put on her jeans upside down?

(It’s worth noting that new showrunners Guarascio and Port have played similar opens successfully in Happy Endings, but we’re a world away from Xela. Still, the sequence was well executed for what it was and ended on a funny joke, so the complaint here is minor at best.)

Credit where it’s due, the InspectiCon set was very well done. The set designers captured the look and feel of a local, homegrown con. It definitely had that hint of “Exhibit Hall-slash-Hotel Ballroom” and the staging had a certain “cheapness” with how everything is put together. When the extras are buzzing about the background, they bring a certain level of fandom energy that really ties the whole experience together. We here at OTF are no stangers to the smaller convention scene, so there was an air of familiarity to it all — Abed’s bathrobe cosplay included.

Most characters have remained mostly the same (one has taken a huge step back – more on that in a minute), but Abed has really evolved. Danny Pudi takes first prize in this episode, excellently capturing Abed’s evolving character in his element. Pudi’s repartee with guest star Matt Lucas’ (Little Britain, Krod Mandoon) Toby was inspired — I’ve had similar feelings about the Christmas special, after all.

I mentioned in last week’s review that I thought it was odd that Jeff and Annie are a thing again. Sure, they never closed the door on the relationship between them, but I thought we were at a place where they were comfortably normal friends around each other. But last week, they planned to couple’s costume as a muscular boxer and sexy ring girl? (Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way…) And this week, Annie and Jeff were going to spend a ski weekend together, sharing adjoining hotel rooms. What the hell happened in the year they were off the air?

It’s worse than just strange decisions, though — because what was with Annie in this episode? She was like a little schoolgirl bent up over Jeff Winger drawing hearts in her Trapper Keeper – and I know we were past that. At first, her action’s could have been forgiven – Annie’s just racking up hotel charges on the guy who was too proud to have fun with his friends, right? – but it became harder to justify as the moments went on. They did touch on the topic later in the episode, but their conversation was still full of the “so adorably innocent they’re clearly in love with each other” sentiment that it didn’t make me feel better. I can never be mad at Allison Brie, but, seriously, what is happening with Annie Edison? It seems like she is devolving from the woman she has since become over three seasons. The new guys still have to work to instill confidence that things will be okay post-Harmon, and this is definitely not the way to do it.

All in all, I admit: on its own, “Conventions” was mildly amusing — even after a second watching, I laughed pretty hard Matt Lucas’ delivery of “that would hurt harder than a slap!” — but the Annie subplot brought the entire episode down. Add in guest star Tricia Helfer’s woefully underused Spacetime superfan Lauren, and we end, yet again, wishing for more from Community.

Final thoughts:

  • Awesome call-back: Pierce’s journal from “Paranormal Parentage”
  • Shirley and Pierce’s plot was okay, but ultimately felt shoehorned just to give them something to do. At least there was a pay off in the closing tag.
  • When Toby invited Abed to DemicenInspectiCon, I thought he said that you can get “creamed eggs and sole all year round” which would have been an awesome play on “fish fingers and custard.” It took me three watchings to hear the actual line about Cadbury Creme Eggs. Now, I’m sad.
  • Speaking of whom, Britta definitely did not Britta this episode. She has pretty much embraced that being with Troy meant being with Abed, and her acceptance of that makes her and Troy a pretty awesome couple. Her dreamily sincere “I’ve told you before… I don’t care about Inspector Spacetime” was fantastic.
  • Jeff’s Thoraxis ending was pretty much perfect – actually having an ego so massive that he’d want an entire convention hall to kneel before him. Also, there appears to be a contract clause to have him remove his shirt in every episode this season.
  • Jeff’s awesome Russell Brand accent.
  • “Tastes of bog” is now a way I’ll describe scotch.
  • We all need to Winger each other now and then to make all of space and time a better place.
  • Note to all women: If you ever ask me “Would you love me if I got you a churro?” the answer will always be yes.

Grade: C+. Don’t make me hate Annie Edison. Seriously.

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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