I begin this review with the admission that I know not a single thing about Dungeons and Dragons, except that back in high school the nerdier kids, even nerdier than myself, used to get together in the back of the library surrounded by a mountain of D&D books and other sort of paraphernalia which I always found both odd and unsettling.
My lack of understanding of the game in no way, however, diminishes my love for what I believe is the episode that comes closest to trumping the pinnacle "paintball" episode, at least from my perspective. That's how much I loved "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons."
Although, I did, for a moment, mistake Chang for the X-Men hero Nightcrawler, I knew we were in for a classic based on the narrator's description of each character alone: Jeff the Liar, Son of William the Barely known; Annie, The Day Planner; Troy, The Obtuse; Shirley, The Cloying; Abed, The Undiagnosable; Britta, the Needlessly Defiant; and Pierce, The Insensitive, known also as Pierce, The Dickish and Grandfather Flatulent.
At first, I thought that perhaps Jeff was wanting to help Neil because he was still on his mission, established during 'Asian Population Studies,' to become the perfect good guy so he could exploit the power. It turns out he was attempting to atone for being a schmuck of a different sort, as the catalyst source of Neil's pain.
What a reveal that was. When everyone thought Pierce was the villain, it turned out Jeff had been the real villain the entire time. I actually didn't see it coming.
After Pierce last week almost single-handedly destroyed Annie's play, and twisting the message within, I understood - to an extent - why he is the way his is because of the glimpse we had of the environment in which he was raised. This week, though, he mortified me. Now I find myself aligning with the minds that inquire why Pierce is allowed to stay part of the group.
He's just plain awful. He doesn't get included, so he tries - and nearly succeeds - to ruin everyone else's fun? It made me cheer all the more along with Shirley, who jubilantly declared she'd waited for a moment like this, as Pierce's D&D character appeared to be left bloodied and helpless - "in the game."
I think I prefer Pierce when he's just grouchy and mildly offensive, not an abrasive brick being rubbed back and forth across my forehead. Still, his being played more acidic than usual helped the humor to stand out even more.
Annie's muted, but gesture driven, description of taking Abed's fair maiden in the barn was the most hilarious sequence we've had in weeks. The reactions of everyone else, including Shirley's horror, Jeff's awe, Troy's note-taking and ultimately Abed's climactic collapse, made it that much more classic.
Britta's earnestly heartfelt reaction to the death of Abed's barkeep was also a highlight. I also loved the group's reactions to her attempts to interpret the game's perceived injustices as some sort of cause to champion.
Ultimately, though, Abed as Dungeon Master was the star of the episode with his many portrayals of various D&D characters, from the wickedly funny unintelligible gnome, to the aforementioned fair maiden. If this episode does not get Danny Pudi an Emmy nomination, someone really does need to pull out a sword and start doing some serious Academy damage.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.