Sunday, May 23, 2010

Modern Warfare

Community
Episode 123: Modern Warfare

Community is completely ridiculous. The show centers on a misfit group of community college students at different ages and from different backgrounds. For no apparent reason their after class Spanish study group has blossomed into an incredible friendship between seven unlikely characters. In the most recent episode, Modern Warfare, a game of paintball for priority registration escalates to the level of a spy movie.

When Jeff awakes from a nap in his car, campus is a barren, paint-spattered wasteland. The game has begun without him! I am amazed by how well this entrance made me buy into the premise of a paintball action movie knockoff. Community has this ability to get away with complete absurdity. I am reminded of one of the animated shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy. Both of these are totally crazy, but their medium allows us to relate to the storyline each week. Community has done something similar, but without the layer of animation.

Jeff first finds Abed who has taken on the character of a street lurker. Abed takes Jeff to his lair where he and Troy have formed an alliance. The classroom reminds us of a base right out of an underground rebel movie. When the three need to use the bathroom, they have to stealthily sneak through the “neutral zone” – the school cafeteria. They find the girls in the men's room where they have been camped out, picking other students off at the urinals. There is a brief standoff. No one is sure who to trust. The hilarity of the scene comes from its reflection of other gang scenes. We see Brita dual wielding a pair of yellow paint pistols in complete seriousness.

As the episode progresses, each other character gets shot in one of the skirmishes until only Jeff and Brita remain. In true hero fashion, right in the heart of battle, Jeff and Brita have sex for the first time. We're left wondering if there are feelings between them, but for now it is only physical (as if there is time for feelings with a war for priority registration going on around them!)

In an attempt to end the game, which has now gone well into the middle of the night, the dean puts in Señor Chang, the group's Spanish teacher. Chang, wearing a Scar-face suit and wielding an automatic paintball gun, ambushes Jeff and Brita. Brita sacrifices herself so Jeff can shoot Chang. Absurdity ensues when Señor Chang crumbles, laughing hysterically. He opens his coat to reveal a paint bomb set to explode in the next five seconds! Jeff makes a run for it and dives out the door of the library just as green paint explodes all over.

Community's absurd hilarity and the strength of its characters keeps me coming back. The group does not fit together, but they have become great friends. We often get along for reasons that don't make much sense and Community's absurdity reminds us of that.


-- Eric Conner

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