It’s no secret that “Modern Warfare,” or “the paintball episode” as it’s most commonly referred to, was the fan favorite for last season. It was also, it should be noted, the fan favorite for the cast and crew, to the point that when I interviewed Dan Harmon last year his response to how NBC was taking the show was simply that they liked their paintball episode so they were doing fine. It was that important to the show’s identity, and its popularity meant that full-on style pastiches significantly increased in number during season two.
But you know how it works, everyone wants a sequel. So that meant that this year we have the two-part episode “A Fistful of Paintballs” in an attempt to show up what we had before, featuring a similar premise but a largely different style. With the name as an obvious guide, this time out was a western despite, you know, still taking place in a school. But you can’t blame them for not sending the cast to Monument Valley; in every respect that was feasible the show was recast as a western.
Everyone in the cast had a part to play, but “A Fistful of Paintballs” was really Annie and Pierce’s episode. Annie begins things, showing us the area and soon teaming up with the rest of the study group, which heads to where Pierce has built an old fashioned saloon. He offers them supplies as a form of truce and for once he seems like not too bad a guy.
That is, until Annie almost immediately learns that Pierce gave Jeff blanks due to his anger with him and everyone else for meeting to play “cards.” That game of cards, though, was in fact the group deciding if Pierce should be kicked out, one where everyone except for Annie voted for him to leave. But the vote had to be unanimous. Now Annie’s angry with him about the betrayal.
Oh, and one more element during all of this is the appearance of an unknown stranger called the Black Rider (Josh Holloway of Lost), whose paintball expertise threatens to end the game until Pierce pretends to have a heart attack in order to shoot him. It’s a nice addition to things, but doesn’t particularly go anywhere given how quickly the guy’s in and out—he doesn’t even make it into the next episode.
The obvious question to ask about “A Fistful of Paintballs” is whether it’s as good as the original and the answer is… well no, not quite. I don’t think this time out was written or acted any worse than last time, and its action was pretty great. In fact, I appreciated its world-building more this time out. But it doesn’t have the same impact as last time, and a lot of its material isn’t particularly surprising.
Then there’s the ending, which hinted at a large conspiracy (which may just consist of one insane ice cream company) bringing in legions of paintball storm troopers to put down all the Greendale students. The second half looks to be as different from the first half as this was from “Modern Warfare,” and it’s hard to say what will happen.
• This was the first time that the show’s really dressed Annie super sexily… and wow.
• “That was a game… this is paintball.”
• The episode’s custom intro was completely wonderful.
• Chevy Chase was no longer part of the main cast, instead credited like Ken Jeong. Does that mean Pierce will really be out soon (or at least regular)?
• While Annie’s outfit was my favorite for other reasons, Abed’s poncho was my favorite in terms of the theme.
• “I hear he has more paint than a French kindergarten.”
• Paintball shotguns remain the coolest, most ridiculous idea ever. Do those really exist?
• Wanted: Gay and Alive
• “For you guys, taking a dump is on the house.”
• “Ok, black rider. Now we’ll see who’s attractive.”
• “Resistance is as pointless as your degrees.”