Community: “Biology 101” (3.1)

TV Reviews
Community: “Biology 101” (3.1)

The end of Community’s second season featured a real finale, real in the sense that it that actually had an effect on the show’s dynamics. With Pierce culled from the group seemingly forever, I’ve been wondering all summer what role he would play in season three. Without his constant antagonizing it seemed like this huge change would have an effect not just on the study group’s dynamics but also on pretty much every other aspect of the show. If you look back at the second season, a large number of plots revolve around Pierce’s love-hate relationship with everyone else and without him formally in the group it becomes for the most part a hate-hate relationship.

What I clearly failed to take into account was Dan Harmon and company’s commitment to returning Community to status quo as soon as possible. In a way it makes sense that most of the group would forgive the guy and just want to return things to the way they were—after all, most people would rather forgive and forget in reality as well—but it still surprised me way more than it should, and not necessarily in a good way.

Pierce’s reinsertion is part of “Biology 101”’s primary project, which is just to set the stage for what we’ll see in the rest of the season. Getting Pierce back into the group is what takes the most finagling because of his past, and likewise getting Jeff to forgive his friend means an equal amount of work has to be spent getting him into the same position as Pierce: excised from the group. As such, Jeff is quickly kicked out of Biology 101 due to a refusal to turn off his cellphone, and the class’s teacher, played by a certain Michael K. Williams, doesn’t accept bribes to let him return. With Jeff gone Pierce moves from the waiting list onto the class roster, effectively replacing Jeff not just in the class but also in the study group.

The show’s metaphor for Jeff’s newfound isolation away from the group is that he feels like David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a dramatization that’s more weird than it is actually compelling. Jeff’s desperation leads him to scheming about how to get back in, during which he winds up in the vents with Chang before eventually forsaking his phone entirely in order to convince the professor of his commitment.

Speaking of which, since last season Señor Chang has been forced to live in the air vents masquerading as Annie’s Boobs, largely because he has no other options. When he crashes into the Dean’s office he’s made an offer he can’t refuse: room and board in exchange for being the school’s new security guard. This is in fact,a great idea for what to do with him, and assuming Community makes good use of its potential promises to pay huge dividends for the rest of the season.

The other half of the episode that Chang literally falls into concerns the school itself. Dean Pelton has decided to become a hardass this semester, or at least, you know, an actual college dean. This leads him into a confrontation with John Goodman, playing the dean of the school’s air conditioner repair program, with an end result that Pelton returns to his usual self, only now bereft of both self-respect and school funding.

With both John Goodman and Michael K. Williams around Community is throwing around some heavy hitters. That being said, these don’t feel like Betty White-style cameos for quick ratings; both of these actors at least feel like they’ll have roles for the rest of the season and left us wanting more. Goodman remains one of the best comedic actors alive and he managed to perfectly imbue his lines with menace while still being funny. The more we see of them, the better.

As a whole “Biology 101” was cleverly plotted and had some big laughs, but it was still just exposition. This would be less frustrating had it been exposition that really changed things up, but really the only real differences we saw here were to wipe out last season’s strained relationship with Pierce and putting Chang into place as security guard. Showing Goodman and Williams was great, but presumably neither will be around much more than John Oliver because they’re not cast members, they’re guests. It was an enjoyable half hour of comedy, but it still feels like Community’s third season hasn’t really begun.

Stray observations:
•I didn’t write about the intro earlier because really it wasn’t relevant to the rest of the episode. That being said, I did really enjoy it. I understand that this is the kind of “just screwing around for its own sake” part of Community that’s heavily criticized, but being able to do something like this is one of my favorite things about the show. After all, without the Glee dream sequence, we wouldn’t have Ken Jeong dancing in a money coat.
•”I named him Annie’s Boobs… after Annie’s boobs.”
•”Don’t tell the monkey I’m living here.”
•Star-Burns’ lizard is also a nice addition to his affectations. It feels like we should really get a full episode where he’s given a plotline by now.
•”If I wanted to run a monkey hotel, I’d install a banana buffet.”
•”Monkey knockout gas—that’s the type of grounded, sensible idea I’m looking for this year.”
•John Goodman looks way bettter than in Red State. I know he went through some issues with depression, but was he completely sick while filming that movie or what?
•”You are the opposite of Batman.” – I’ve ottta hand it to him, that’s a great insult.
•This episode in particular made it occur to me that John Goodman is kind of becoming Rip Torn. Still, who doesn’t want two Rip Torns?
•The sad thing is that Inspector Spacetime actually looks far better than early episodes of Doctor Who.
•Am I the only one who had no understanding that the guy in the photo was supposedo be Pierce?
•”Pierce isn’t crazy. The table… is… magic.”
•”So this is the year we all die.”

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