I both love, and at the same time, HATE hype. Things that are too hyped up often lead to disappointment, no matter the circumstances. I try my absolute best to go into any experience, whether it be a TV show or a basketball game or a date, with no expectations or hype, and just see how it is. Leave it to NBC and Twitter to generate an overwhelming amount of buzz this past week over the sequel to “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”. And that just got me all worked up, in a tizzy, and my gears started going. The first D&D episode was ambitious, and unlike anything I’d seen on TV at the time (you can read that as hyperbolic, but the key word in that sentence was I’d so you can’t take that away from me). It was ambitious, to say the least, and the thought of taking on that classic episode and making a sequel is (arguably) more ambitious. Did “Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” live up to our collective (and extreme) expectations?
Well that was a fast review. See you next week everybody.
— yvette nicole brown (@yvettenbrown) March 21, 2014
No really though, I thought it did manage to maintain the creativity of the first episode while staying consistent with the hot streak this season has been on. It was a bit higher quality in terms of the game being played, but didn’t quite tug at my heart strings like the Fat Neil story did. I went back and watched the first “Advanced D&D”, and was surprised to find that a number of elements remained constant with “Advanced Advanced D&D”, notably the use of the word ‘huzzah’ and Abed doing an impersonation of a gnome/goblin. Although we did get an interrogation this time around, but one could understandably feel slighted for having the same beats repeated. The format is, more or less, the same as the original, and I hate to have to compare the two but since they’re so similar it’s hard not to. Both feature Abed running between two parties who end up finding each other, someone dies early, and the episodes both rely on accurate and imaginative sound effects to convey the story being told.
The structure doesn’t really need to change though, because we all adhere to the timeless idiom ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ right? What I felt this episode did better than the previous one: the production, and the direction especially. There was less of a focus on the emotional impact of Hickey and his son (played by the always wonderful David Cross) in comparison to Fat Neil, but the directing was worlds better. Oddly enough, both D&D episodes were made by Joe Russo, who is HOT right now. Like super nova hot, since him and his brother Anthony Russo (no relation to me btw) directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The story being dictated by Abed wasn’t any different this time, but the way the episode was shot was a big factor in how successful it was. I don’t think rehashing an already legendary episode was in their game plan, so why not make the actual game more visually interesting? There were pans, zooms, camera swipes, handheld shots, POV shots of imaginary spiders, internal monologue, split screen, montage, flashback letter writing, and I never got tired of being cooped up in that candle lit apartment with everyone. The sound effects were more crisp and clear this time around, and there was an emphasis on really selling the fantasy without ever actually putting the viewer in another world. That would just undercut what makes playing D&D fun in the first place. Just look at the reverse angle shots on the goblin interrogation scene. That’s not just being fancy for the sake of it; that’s fucking smart directing. Give Joe Russo another Emmy for this one, people.
— Phil (@PhilMuses) March 21, 2014
The actual reason for the game, Hickey wanting to connect with his estranged son, wasn’t a throwaway plot either. The opening scene was way too cheesy, convenient, and on-the-nose for me, but I appreciate David Cross immediately calling out the gang’s motives as soon as he could, and I liked that. It was a pretty contrived and ridiculous scheme, but quickly I was sold on it. The stakes get raised early, and the two Hickey’s got into it quicker than I expected. Breaking Bad also used this game plan: give the audience what they expect way sooner than they expect it. I thought it would be awhile before their relationship would bubble to the surface, like Fat Neil’s, but everyone got into it pretty often, and I liked that a lot. But I think the most underrated piece of this episode: Hickey asking for help throughout the episode. I love how Hickey still asks for help, since his character doesn’t know if he’ll win, even though we do. You know he’ll end up reuniting with his son, but he doesn’t. And that’s important for his arc; to reach out and trust his new group of friends with something he’s very unsure of. He has to be willing to take the risk in order to get what he never thought he could–his family back.
Uh, David Cross is singing an Elvish-type song while Jim Rash makes suggestive sword jokes. @nbccommunity is amazing.
— Caleb Sommerville (@ctsommerville) March 21, 2014
The best thing you can say about any episode of TV is ‘I immediately want to watch that again’ the second it ends. This is exactly what I said about this episode. I didn’t even bring up how funny it was in the bulk of the review, and now you know why I’m giving it a perfect score. Every facet, every aspect, every tiny detail of this episode was impeccable. What an insane streak of shows Community is having right now. I never thought I would live the day to hear myself say that. Or type that. Whatever.
THE DEAN GETS THE MVP FOR THIS EPISODE, FOR NOT ONLY CRYING, AND RIPPING HIS SHIRT, AND THE MASTURBATION JOKES, BUT FOR CARRYING AROUND A PHOTO OF JEFF WITH HIM AT ALL TIMES. HERE ARE SOME OTHER THOUGHTS I HAD, PLUS A LOT OF QUOTES I LIKED.
- Britta’s accent FTW
- David Cross FTW
- That fist bump FTW
- Chang’s spit FTW
- Line of the night: “Times Square?”
- “Yeah that’s the crap.”
- “Me too!”
- “It was the dungeons.”
- “Huzzah.” “Huzzah.” “Huzzah.” “Huzzah.”
- “I WILL FIND YOUUUUUUUUUU!” The echo made that way better.
- “…you got me killed.”
- “The dark lord…he’ll kill you all.”
- “I was the best man at that guy’s wedding.” Man? Not goblin?
- “Anyone have a toothpick?”
- “Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!”
- “Some necromancer crap.”
- “I owe you nothing.”
- Their disgust at “hug it out” is amazing.
- “Your moves Mr. Tickles.”
- “Oh, a goblin notices you all and you’re all dead.”