Community: "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" (3.5)
The two-week break between last night’s episode of Community and the last one was a good thing, simply because for all of their mutual quality, they’re quite a bit similar. That “Remedial Chaos Theory” was originally episode three of the show rather than four makes sense because it’s hard to imagine that Community‘s creators wanted to have two episodes in a row about variant stories being told by slightly changing the character dynamics. Still, that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a riveting Halloween episode; it’s just that a little bit of its punch was blunted compared with “Chaos Theory” or, last year’s Halloween special for that matter.
In order to facilitate having the entire cast tell horror stories, Britta tells Jeff that she’s learned that one member of the group whom she had fill out a psych evaluation had results revealing them to be a psychopath. She figures that if they each tell a story, she will be able to tell which of them has the capacity to be a heartless murderer. It’s a pretty thin premise—as if she doesn’t already know the whole group very well after two years of seeing them constantly?—but that’s largely irrelevant. So she kicks off telling a ghost story, the only problem being that it’s told so poorly that no one cares. Every other member of the study group says they can top hers easily and they each proceed to give it a try.
The individual horror stories are universally great, not just in and of themselves but also in the way the characters are each responding to what came before them. It’s an episode that really grows in the telling. Like “Chaos Theory” it also manages to have a lot of play with events that never actually happened, giving us non-canon stories that are goofier than stuff Community would allow normally, even in its highly flexible reality. It’s a lot of fun with really low stakes, which is fine for Halloween.
It’s not that “Chaos Theory” made “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” bad, either. That being said, this season of Community has struggled to find new material and has resorted to old character relationships and storylines we’ve largely seen before. These two variant-story based episodes aren’t necessarily problem even in the same season, it’s just that back to back they feel like another occurrence of the show struggling for what it wants to do next. At the same time, though, while it wasn’t as intricately crafted as its predecessor, “Horror Fiction” was the funnier episode. Shirley’s rapture fantasy and Troy and Abed being stitched together were instant-classic moments for the series. This was an episode that relied on character-based jokes—while last year’s Halloween episode could work as a good introduction to the show, “Horror Fiction” was targeted straight at longtime fans of the series.
In essence “Horror Fiction” is a great episode in every respect other than its relationship with the previous episode and what this may mean for the rest of the season. But oh well, that sort of accident can happen, and taken individually it was still a success. In fact, given how good both of these episodes are it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing w to have a third variant-stories episode this season—after all, both episodes were hilarious. But hopefully that won’t happen for quite some time, and now that we’re done with those we can have a few episodes where what we’re seeing actually occurs in the Community universe, where stakes are much higher .
•"I don’t watch that shallow crap, I just pick a costume girls will like." – The perfect Jeff joke.
•Britta: “Are people using my name to mean make a small mistake?” “…yes.”
•"Once upon a time there was a couple making out in a car in the woods or something."
•This episode was actually written by Dan Harmon, and it’s only his fourth. Can’t help but wonder when he had the time to do it.
•"I’m comforted by your shiny hair and facial symmetry."
•"I hope you’re as feritle as I am tonight." “More.” – Romance is in the air.
•So Annie’s costume in her story is… wow.
•"We sewed your butt to your chest."
•"I didn’t say he was you, i said he was a crazy, old racist doctor." “Yeah, well I’m your crazy, old racist friend."
•"That wasn’t even a ghost story, it was like an episode of some show we’re too old to have heard of."
•"The world is over. This is NPR." – I’m fairly certain that’s how the actual end of the world will go.
•"Oh look, it’s our friend we used to pick on for being Christian." – Except that they don’t, really.
•"You ruined a Britta party—that’s like letting poop spoil."
•Damn, I want to be a practitioner of the mental arts. It sounds awesome.
•Warren Piece, an interesting book.
•"Stay back, psychos, or I’ll slit your throats and bathe in your blood."
•"Why are you so determined that we always relax and put down your weapons." – Good question.
•"She Britta’d it."
•The music at the end of the episode sounds like it’s for a pregnancy commercial.