Was "Conventions of Space and Time" a meta-commentary on the changing nature of Community?
A dramatic illustration of how we need to accept the new version of the show on its own terms, lest we risk ending up locked inside a (philosophical) novelty phone booth?
Or perhaps it was just a regular episode that was focused on furthering this season's plot points, and was not attempting to communicate any secret messages to confused, sleepy TV reviewers who may or may not have forgotten to eat dinner tonight.
Either way, after two viewings, I am on board (yes, I had to watch this twice to straighten my feelings out about it - I swear, I am actually a functional human being with many friends, acquaintances, hobbies, etc).
"Conventions of Space and Time" had some great jokes and Community quotes, a clever guest spot from Matt Lucas (as well as a few others), and some classic Annie action (for my money, her tossing of the empty booze glasses in Jeff's face ranks as one of her best moves in a long time). The episode ran smoothly, wrapped itself up nicely and introduced the idea of Troy getting laid with minimum awkwardness. Was it perfect? No. But did it work as what it was? Certainly.
A surprising beneficiary of this season's writing has been Chevy Chase. I have liked what the past few episodes have done with Pierce more than I've liked any of his bits for the entire show's run. In the past, Pierce has often seemed too brittle and evil, his appearances in the plot too much of a genuine bummer. In this episode, his inherent bummer-ness was expertly utilized, and to great effect.
Are we getting a kinder, gentler version of the show this season? Yes, definitely. Whether or not this ruins your viewing experience hinges on how much you loved those hard edges.
Community has always been a wildly uneven sitcom, with every sublime episode matched by a boring, messy episode, and many episodes that fell all over the spectrum in between. Community Season 4 represents, I believe, a more consistent show - one with fewer highs, but also, hopefully, fewer lows. "Conventions of Space and Time" has made me believe that a Harmon-less Community could work.
Certainly not as the off-the-wall creative, critical adoration magnet that it once was; we're clearly going to spend way less time in the Dreamatorium and less time drawing from its insanely rich mythology from now on, and that is a downer.
But Dan Harmon is certainly not a comedy elder god who channeled his scripts in a holy trance state; he is just a very talented guy who admitted he got too wrapped up in critical acclaim and also, from what I can tell from having attended a Harmontown podcast taping, loves to rap about poop. His departure isn't a story any more, and the show's every success and failure can't be tied to his absence.
Now that we've had a few episodes to ease into the new regime, we can start judging this show as its own animal. And I feel more positively about the show's future potential right now than I have since the day I heard that Harmon had been fired.
Did you want to become Gluons with this episode? Or did you think it was a total Minerva? And what did you think of show formally naming Abed as a "neuroatypical?" Also, did you know that there's a real Inspector Spacetime?