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Community Review: "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"

by at . Comments

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.

Dungeons & Dragons Book

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.

Jeff is, or was, a lawyer, widely mocked as one of the most ironically askew professions in existence. He's used to getting by on his looks, being able to say anything he wants without consequence.  Since he's been with the group, he's come a long way towards developing a sense of humanity, yet still on occasions such as this, that old Jeff pops back up.  It's good to see, though, that he recognizes it and rather than sloughing it off as he would have in the past, he's now trying to make things right whenever possible.

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.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (69 Votes)

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Jeffreykirkpatrick

Thanks for the heads up @Piecar. Has been fixed. And yes I still lament the lack of Shirley as well. In fact, just this morning I sent a tweet to creator Dan Harmon that simply said: #GiveMeMoreShirley. :-)

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Community should do theme episodes more often, but not so often that it starts becoming unspecial. Since the end of last season I have strongly believed Community deserves to be recognized by the emmys and no one is more deserving than Danny Pudi.

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if this show gets canceled I give up on america. im studying cinema in paris and this show is such an inspiration. ive introduced it to some of my friends, because here in france no one knows it even exists, and they love it. I love the fact that the episode was great to watch even without seeing all the elves and the dragons, it shows how good the dynamic between the actors is. my criticism is always the same one, chang should be a recurring character not a regular. his presence is contractually necessary in every episode, but not useful to the story.

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I'd like to second Piecar's comments to Insulted Fan - there were precisely two D&D-ers in the entire ep - Neil, whose weight the entire ep was predicated upon, and Garrett, who is one of the only established extras who could have been used

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Also, if you're not getting a lot of traffic here, Kirkpatrick, it's because the review is not filed with the reviews and is off the main page. Need to fix that.

Piecar

Oh, and Insulted Fan....The point of the episode was to tell a guy that being obese doesn't mean you're an unattractive loser. The appearance doesn't equal the worth. You're doing damage to your own point by being offended that Neil is heavy. Nice shootin', Tex.

Piecar

This was a terrific episode! It did something really interesting in that it showed a strange mortal struggle effectively, all through narrative (with one brief exception) This is exactly the point of D&D. That they used a member of the group, already considered unstable, as the "enemy" was genius as it gave all of the skeptical players a real foe to imagine was great. I shy away from heaping any kind of praise on Danny Pudi as I don't want to build a situation like over on BBT where one broad character gets all the jokes, but Abed WAS very funny as the DM. I love that the characters now don't need to retell their characters. Britta always champions the "beleaguered". No one has to note that she does, they just tell her to shut up. Donald Glover continues to knock every tiny scrap of lines they give him out of the park. He gets virtually nothing to do, most times, and makes it a show stopping joke. His dejected and confused "Huzzah" made me spew liquids. And his shocking inability to use his "additional notes" to great effect got a guffaw, as he was pretty confident he had those trolls in the bag.
Jeff is the perfect straight man. I love that he tends to do the right thing in spite of himself, often confounding himself in the process. And I feel for the guy. Jeff's explanation of his accidental nickname is plausible. I've seen it in action. I spent the first three years of High School known as Uncle Cosmo because of one stoner saying it ONCE to me. Again, I lament the poor use of Shirley. And what's the deal with Chang? Is it in his contract that he can't make it through an entire episode? Finally, the guy who had to carry the D&D stuff from his car....Is he a producer of this show or something? He appears all the time, beating out Starburns for appearances (RIP Starburns). Last ep he appeared without lines. Does anybody know what's up with that guy?

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Abed and Chang (with his knowledge of Drow) seem to have roleplayed before and they're obviously not "obese, unattractive losers". Don't get your knickers in a twist "insulted fan". And who else did you include in your "every role-player in this episode"? While I don't think this is the best episode of Community ever, it is still a great one, especially since it was probably meant to be an in-joke for the roleplayers that other people might not have gotten. Do you think that they expect people with no exposure to roleplaying or Jersey-Shore types to watch this and get more enjoyment out of the episode, or people who have roleplayed who would watch and think "Oh man, there is a guy totally like Chang in our group!" I know several people that play roleplaying games like D&D, and while I myself have not yet played D&D, I've definitely been interested. One of my group of friends have gotten close to starting a game of Hunter: the Reckoning (similar to D&D but with a post apocalyptic theme), we filled out character sheets, but never started. I play games with just as much geek-cred associated with them (like another Wizards game, Magic the Gathering) and read comics, but am not upset by this at all. Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons has been around forever! But Community's depiction of geeks is pretty diverse, look at Troy! If you can "personally testify to" not looking obese and nerdy then why do you make yourself look like someone who has to try so very hard to prove that they're not unnattractive and so offended by the image of geeks on TV? If all geeks in media were gorgeous and stunningly attractive people, wouldn't that be worse? If you didn't live up to that, would you have any excuse? I see the fact that the characters seemed to enjoy themselves in the end, is kind of a shout out to geek culture, like "hey, these things can be fun for anyone" (except maybe Jeff Winger). The in-jokes they have seem to stem from some kind of knowledge of these games, the writers probably are into this kind of stuff. Sometimes using some stereotypes will help show that they're not true in all cases. Like how would you show that D&D might be cool in a show if you didn't have anybody playing D&D? And with Jeff, Britta, Shirley and Annie don't seem like they would just all of a sudden say "Hey, let's play D&D". Obviously you're going to get characters like Abed and Neil who initiate it, it's basic logic in their storytelling! Face the facts, geeky is kind of in right now, and Community is not vituperative or contumelious in any way to geek culture. This episode also kind of reminds me of the Risk episode of a cartoon I watched called Undergrads, in the way that it's kind of a bottle episode but all the drama and tension is heightened because of the game being played. Both awesome.

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Totally agree with Jason. It was genius. Great episode!

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I am happy you all enjoyed the episode so much, to me it was a little disappointing. I still love the paintball episode for complete enjoyment. Perhaps because I have been a role-player for many years, it somewhat colored my opinion. The episode still did have its moments of genius.

Community Season 2 Episode 14 Quotes

What they couldn't have known was they had just scheduled the most important game of Dungeons and Dragons ever; a game which not only might save a life, but which would forever change the balance between good and Pierce.

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At the end of the meeting they realized that Chang had been there, and felt too awkward to mention it.

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