Cracking Last Night's Episode Of 'Community' Wide Open
Picking up all the momentum from last week’s excellent double header, last night’s episode of Community was maybe the best parody the show has done yet. Sure they’ve done bottle episodes and horror spoofs before but the way in which last night’s “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” ended showed how Dan Harmon and the rest of the Community crew are at the every top of their game. The unexpected reversal at the end and the emotional gut punch of Pierce’s death elevated the episode above mere spoof to accomplish something the material being spoofed is often void of. We watch these procedurals and grim blood-soaked David Fincher films and in all that intrigue and atmospheric ennui, often times we miss the actual loss. Death is just a staring point, an excuse for an exquisitely designed, Fuller-esque crime scene. So to put such a silly crime as ass crack assaults at the center of the plot is both fitting for the light tone of Community and a condemnation of the way in which the horrific crimes in our favorite crime stories often lack the ringing pain of real loss.
Harmon and company went after a lot of our favorites last night including very specifically The Bridge, Hannibal, The Killing, Zodiac and Se7en. Knowing that Dan Harmon often refers to himself as having “Asperger-ish tendencies” (his phrase), Abed’s incisive criticism of social disorder as investigative superpower was particularly apt and (despite my love for The Bridge and Hannibal) justified.
The constant rainfall and the will they/won’t they nonsense with Annie and Jeff (handled so much better than it was during The Gas Leak Year) was, of course, a nod to The Killing’s Holder and Linden. The McHale/Brie height difference and Annie’s uncharacteristically somber attire helped that comparison land.
But Fincher was maybe the most interesting target. The episode started with the Bennett boys singing an angelic cover of The Vega choir’s cover of Radiohead’s Creep which, of course, was used most famously in Fincher’s The Social Network. This set the scene for the Fincher spoof which was then hammered home with the Zodiac-esque clippings and letters from the criminal.
The climax of Fincher’s most famous crime drama, Se7en has become a favorite pop culture punchline. “WHAAT’S INNN THE BAAAHHHX??!?!?” we all cry. That’s fine. I’m not saying it’s wrong that we remember that line as comedy. But what’s going on in that scene? A man discovers his pregnant wife’s dismembered head. That should be troubling. Earthshaking even. Instead, it’s entertainment. Se7en is gruesome, sure. The crime scenes give even Fuller a run for his money. But is it emotionally effective?
But things are getting a little too heavy. This is a sitcom we’re talking about. Last night’s episode was hilarious. Dave Matthews jokes? Solid. The return of Starburns? Delightful. Fun little Easter Eggs in the background? Splendid.
There was even a really solid callback that made the return of John “Carlos Danger” Oliver that much better.
Not only was there a fun, tiny Ben Folds cameo, but there was also a completely catchy “Ass Crack Bandit” song over the ending montage. How did one show do all of that in 20 minutes and still have time to deliver an emotional wallop? I don’t know, but it’s that wallop that makes Community (when it’s on point) the best sitcom in the business. Last night’s episode not only entertained, it said something substantive about loss and the way in which our pop culture (our shows, our films, our pulp fiction) commodifies and hollows the true horror and sadness of death. I can’t think of a better send-off for Pierce nor a more respectful one for Chevy Chase from his sometimes-antagonist Harmon. Well done, show. Well done, Dan.
(Images via the eagle-eyed cherries over on Reddit)