In an age when seemingly nothing – sex, death, profanity, you name it – is off-limits on TV, there’s one thing that’s remained curiously taboo: Dungeons & Dragons. Aside from a few references in the likes of “Futurama,” “The Simpsons,” and “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” the enormously popular tabletop game has been almost totally sidelined on television – perhaps because of its nerd affinity. Well, “Community” is going where no show has gone before with this episode, which revolves (as you may have guessed) around D&D.  Read on to find out the details!

The Players:

Episode Title: “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”

When Jeff finds out that Fat Neil is seriously depressed and may be considering suicide, he organizes a game of Dungeons and Dragons with the help of the study group.  Although Pierce is not invited, he barges in anyway and quickly becomes a villain, stealing Neil’s sword and running away (in the game.)  The rest of the group is forced to track him down to keep Neil happy, but Pierce has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The Good:

  • +5 to Piercing Damage: Chevy Chase’s, Pierce totally stole the show here, which is not all that surprising – the villain always gets the best lines.  But what is unique is the bumbling gravitas that he brings to the role, which may seem like a contradiction in terms… but only if you haven’t seen him cackling wildly on a throne made of janitorial supplies.  He’s incredibly, hilariously, totally-over-the-top evil, which makes his eventual humiliation all the sweeter.
  • Hey, Fatty!: Fat Neil was a one-liner back in Contemporary American Poultry, mentioned casually as a dude who liked food.  But “Community” refuses to let people become jokes, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this episode.  We get a fully-formed person in Fat Neil, with a tragic demeanor, an involved backstory, and plenty of emotional depth – and yes, a rather stout body as well.  It’s made absolutely clear, however, that this last point is inconsequential compared to the first three.
  • Nerrrrrrrrrrrds: This episode did a great job of being accessible to the non-D&D nerds (who presumably make up the majority of their audience) while also being quite accurate for those who are familiar with the game.  The Lord of the Rings parody/homage narration style was an inspired choice, and the characters’ initial confusion helped set things up.  But the episode really took off as they got into the game, thanks in large part to Abed’s role as Dungeonmaster (which he, in typical fashion, takes way too seriously), culminating in a scene where he and Annie…. well, we’ll let you see it for yourselves.  Let’s just say that despite having almost no dialogue, it manages to be the funniest moment of the season.

The Bad:

  • Theme Park: While we’ve enjoyed all of Community’s pop-culture-themed episodes so far – and this one is no exception – it seems a little worrying how much they’re leaning on this gimmick.  So far we’ve had the Mafia, action movies, zombies, astronauts, conspiracy thrillers, Christmas flicks, and now Lord of the Rings/D&D.  And they’ve all been great in their own ways, but what happens when they run out of things to lampoon?  What happens when the easy references are all out of the way?  Because the way things are heading, it seems almost inevitable that there’s going to be a Twilight episode in the future.  And no one wants that.  No one.

The Quotable:

  • “For reasons that should be obvious, Pierce the Insensitive – also known as Pierce the Dickish, and Pierce the Flatulent – was not invited.”
  • “When you play it, it makes you happy!  Like a… dragon!”
  • “Shouldn’t there be a board, or some pieces, or something to Jenga?”
  • “You’re the AT&T of people!”
  • “First of all gay, second of all stupid, and third of all why was this a secret?”
  • “It took me ten years and 50 campaigns to get that sword.” “Really?  Maybe I’ll wipe my ass with it and throw it off a cliff.”
  • “If that’s sarcasm I can’t tell because everything in this game is silly.”
  • “Did someone say Pegasus?  A word I understand in every language!”

Overall:

A fantastic episode with superb character development and one of the funniest scenes in the show’s history.  Even if you think a mace comes in an aerosol can and a bag of holding is what you put the groceries in, this episode is absolutely worth watching.

Rating: 10/10

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