After a large-scale theme episode like “Pillows and Blankets,” it’s nice to have a little bit of breathing room with a more normal week from Community (especially when there’s another one just waiting in the wings). But the show’s third season has hardly stepped into a classroom and has become less about what a group of Greendale students do when they see each other for class than what a group of friends does after class is over. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the default location for where the “study group” hangs out has gradually changed from an in-school location to the apartment where Troy, Abed and Annie live.
So most of “Origins of Vampire Mythology” takes place back at the apartment, and the rest takes place at a rather clean and, let’s be frank, completely unrealistic carnival. An ex-boyfriend of Britta’s is a traveling carnival worker named Blade, who she is determined to see despite her better judgment telling her that it’s a terrible idea. Jeff wants to meet up with this Blade to see why she’s so fixated with him and enlists Shirley for help, which continues a sort of bonding we’ve seen between the two ever since learning of their foosball past. Britta asks Annie to keep her away from Blade, but due to constant mentions of his name Troy and Abed decide to watch the movie Blade thus making this even more difficult. She soon begins trying to text him, but due to Annie’s interference is inadvertently texting them instead.
The episode is largely about two ways of exploring Britta’s past and her personal issues. Abed, Troy and Annie deal with her directly, while Jeff and Shirley try to understand her through a person she knows. Both sides come to the same conclusion, though, that it’s simply a matter of her wanting a boyfriend who doesn’t like her, and while it’s not revelatory (nor is Jeff’s speech at the end of the episode), it’s still important for Britta to realize this. The show’s always been set up so that the audience knows more than the characters, so humor can be wringed from their unawareness. Much more interesting for longtime fans will be the tension between Britta and Troy finally starting to build to something. Oh, and Annie and Jeff flirt a lot, too, but at this point that’s pretty meaningless.
Still, it was an odd episode, partially because while those two parts felt so controlled, that wasn’t all that was happening. Pierce and Chang are also together at the fair, less for any real reason than simply because the show’s creators needed them to get out of the way. They’re such larger-than-life personalities that they tend to get in the way of any sort of emotions other than wackiness, so removing them makes sense, but it’s done so in a hamfisted way. In particular the slow-motion memory of the two together doesn’t work because it’s a joke many shows have done before but actually earned. Equally strange was the tiny appearance by John Goodman, who gives an explanation for why Dean Pelton is hanging around the apartment with everyone else but does nothing else. Goodman is so good that having him pop in for such an irrelevant thing feels strange, like something from an earlier draft of the script that somehow made it into the final episode.
“Origins of Vampire Mythology” was an episode with some really good stuff, but it was far from consistent. It didn’t feel rushed so much as constrained by the time allotment, cramming in characters and ideas that didn’t add to the very strong premise at its core. Chang and Pierce can be a great pairing, but they need more than 45 seconds of screentime to do so (though admittedly the gag of him needing to be locked in Annie’s room was great). That didn’t make it a bad episode, but it also never hit a complete stride, despite the strength of its jokes. Still great comedy and mostly nuanced storytelling, just a letdown (which happens frequently for Community) in comparison with what we saw last week.
•”Her love life makes Pierce seem with it.”
•”Annie, subdue your guest.”
•Worse than racist pedophiles: the opposite of Batman.
•This has really become Troy’s season of Community. Not only is he being pursued by John Goodman for the air conditioner repair program, he’s also central to the fight with Abed and now that his tension with Britta is becoming a real thing, there’s that too. I’m mostly happy with this, since Troy’s a great character and Donald Glover is a wonderful actor, but it seems to come at the expense of the rest of the ensemble at times. In particular, my early enthusiasm for John Goodman (who I consider one of the greatest living comic actors) being on the show is much less now that his story has meandered. Troy’s stuff with Abed was great, and I’m also excited to see if Community will let something develop between him and Britta, but air conditioner repair has just become a constant distraction, wasting time I’d rather see spent on episodes’ main stories.