Episode 2: Paranormal Parentage
By: Carlos Uribe
Community is a show about the senior year of a group of friends attending Greendale Community College.
While every other show was celebrating Valentine's Day, Community decided to do a Halloween episode. This wasn't on purpose as this episode was supposed to air closer to the actual holiday. That doesn't make it any less odd and it might have confused viewers who weren't aware of this. So the question is if it's any good? There's a few moments where the episode's jokes do fall flat but it's a funny episode filled with a bunch of genuine emotion that feels organic. The season premiere was a bit of a disappointment in that it had tried too hard to satisfy fans but this episode suggests that the series is still in right hands. This is an episode that is definably a genre one as it satirizes the haunted mansion plot. When Pierce finds out that his friends are going to a party he wasn't invited to, he pretends to lock himself in the panic room after rigging out his house to be a haunted mansion. When he feels that they have learned their lesson, he admits to the ruse. A ruse that the characters and the audience should have basically figured out in the beginning. This is where the key weakness in the episode lies: Jeff (and eventually Abed) are a little too aware for their own good. There's nothing wrong with making meta jokes but it robs the ability for the universe to feel real when the meta is allowed to take over. When Abed comments that he liked the show better when it was about a community college, it calls too much attention to itself. It's clear that the new showrunners need to learn the balance that Dan Harmon managed to keep: how to be meta without taking the viewer out of the show. The good news is that just about everything else worked.
The good thing about splitting the characters up into groups is that it allows the show to have different pairings. Jeff goes with Britta to search Pierce's bedroom for a red notebook to get Pierce out of the panic room. The two start talking about Pierce's father issues before Britta tries to turn the tables to get Jeff to deal with his own. This leads to the shocking conclusion that Jeff has found his father but hasn't called him. That's basically all that Britta is able to get out of him but she does seem to get through to him. At the end of the episode, he decides to call his dad. It's a big move for the character as his absent father has been one aspect of his life that has helped mold him into the person that he is today. This move could be a plot that will significantly help his character develop through the rest of the season. It is true that in many Halloween episodes, the costumes that the characters wear can represent their desires. The boxing costume that Jeff picks doesn't seem to have a lot of decision behind it as it might just be an excuse for him to be shirtless and to get Annie to dress up as a ring girl. The end of the episode twists that when it reveals that the gloves belonged to his father and suddenly the episode goes from being good to being great. This is because while he's been mocking Pierce for not being able to let go of his father, Jeff is wearing a costume that connects him to his own. He might claim that he's moved on but he hasn't. When Britta claims that a person can haunt another one, she might have been talking about Pierce but in reality it fits Jeff so well. Jeff might not realize it but his father's absence has always followed him like a ghost. The other pairings were funnier but they didn't have the same emotional punch. Shirley freaked Troy out about expectations that Britta might have and Annie loses Abed when he goes into a rotating bookcase.
The episode might end with Jeff deciding to call his dad but there is a small moment of relationship work with Pierce at the end. Pierce is happy about his dedication to the haunted mansion project but is shocked to learn when he finds out that someone has been watching him sleep. His first thought is that his father's ghost is actually haunting him but it's revealed to be Gilbert. Gilbert hasn't really found a new purpose ever since he stopped being an assistant so he started to secretly take care of Pierce. Now that Pierce knows the truth, Gilbert believes he has to leave. That is until Pierce decides that Gilbert can continue to take care of him. It's a sweet moment that only works because of who these two characters are. It's nice that the two brothers are starting to share a relationship even if it is one where Gilbert is practically going to act as Pierce's assistant.
Paranormal Parentage is a pretty great episode of Community. It's far from perfect but it is a strong example that this show is worth sticking around for. If future episodes can build on this then it's possible that the show will be able to reach the heights that it used to in the last couple seasons. The new showrunners have now proven that they will keep this show the same the premiere and now they've proven they can reach the same emotional levels. Now if only they can reach the same comical levels then Community will be fantastic again.
Troy was this episode's MVP. He was on fire as just about every line delivery made me laugh.