Friday, 6 May 2011

Community - S2 E23 - A Fistful of Paintballs

The Paintball contest returns to Greendale; with $100,000 on the line, the study group has to contend not just with competition from students, but also internal strife and a mysterious stranger...

Spoilers after the jump.

When suddenly, without warning or foreshadowing, "He" appeared on the screen my jaw literally dropped and I knew for sure that this was an episode of Community to remember. When I heard the season finale would be a two part return to the seminal paintball scenario that was the highlight of the first season, I was not enthused. How well does milking past greatness usually work out? Often, the new result is weak and casts its predecessor in a poor light. But right from the opening scene, this was obviously very different and very awesome...

Sidelined the last few weeks, Annie takes center stage here as the kick-ass take no prisoners heroine. Eliminated early from last year's game, she seems to have been practicing in the meantime, not just at the quick draw technicalities but also at donning a sexy outfit (complete with gloriously gratuitous slow-mo shots of her running) and eating beans with a spork. Abed for one is impressed and one way or another she's sure to be there till the very end of next week's conclusion - Likely lined up against Pierce, continuing his dastardly villainous ways!

The irony will not be lost considering she is the only one left in the group who is still able to tolerate him; everyone else agrees they do not want him back in the group next year. The big question is, is Pierce a jerk because he is often excluded or is he often exluded because he is a jerk? In his natural state he is mostly own brand ignorance, but this year his cruel streak has been very much on display. At least his one-sided feud with Vicky seems to be at an end; or maybe using her as a dancing girl in his "tavern" is just more twisted and unusual punishment. Whatever the case may be, his current persona is the one that defines him, the one that everyone recognizes and assumes is entirely all he is about.

No other show can shift tempo and style from week to week as seamlessly as this one. This episode was so impressive and cinematic in nature, an even more perfect parody of post-apocalyptic shootouts than last year's Modern Warfare. Amplifying the mood and general awesomeness of the episode was the surprise guest appearance of Josh Holloway, a man made for starring in Westerns. Doing his best Sawyer impression as the mysterious "Black Rider", every scene he is in is laced with fire and of course, humor.

He sadly gets clipped by Pierce after he fakes a heart attack (perhaps foreshadowing a real one in the conclusion?) and will likely not return (he does have Coldplay tickets after all) but I'm not fearful for the quality of the next episode. With Jeff's insecurities about Sawyer's cool demeanor and appeal to Annie, will we have another romantic interlude? Shirley, Britta, and Troy didn't have much to do this week, I don't forsee that changing a lot. Shouldn't Shirley be on maternity leave? Chang definitely won't be back... unless there's a return for the zombie motif that is. I'm not sure I've ever had more fun watching this show; This episode has to be seen to be truly appreciated. I definitely cannot wait for next week's finale! Knowing how this show rolls, I'm not sure the preview can be trusted though. Will any of those scenes make the final cut?

"Community" airs Thursdays on NBC at 8:00 pm EST.

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