Episode 4: Alternate History of the German Invasion
By: Carlos Uribe
Community is a show about the senior year of a group of friends attending Greendale Community College.
There are hints that this episode was aired out of order. It picks up on the cliff-hanger from the premiere where Chang showed up with amnesia, it's the beginning of the semester again, and it clearly takes place out before Halloween. This was meant to be the second episode of the season but it was pushed back to a day where most of the Thursday comedy block was on repeats. This could only mean one thing: the executives were hoping to hide this episode on a day where they didn't expect many people to watch it. It should come as no surprise that this episode is a dud. It's not really funny, it goes into questionable subject matter, and there was no heart. If you missed this episode for some reason there's no real reason to watch it. The only things you need to know is that the writers managed to fit Chang into the Greendale universe again. If you've been concerned about the state of Community after Dan Harmon then it's worth noting that this was the second episode that the new showrunners have made. The following episodes are better than this so this episode shouldn't be taken as the new standard for Community. The new showrunners have stated that people should treat this season of Community like it's a new show as they try to find the balance that Dan Harmon perfected. They might never find that balance or they might need to try a new one but you can chalk this up as a failed effort. That's the good news. The bad news is that this still a pretty poor episode. It's not the worst this show has done-there's a significant period of Community in the first season that this episode is still better then-but it is so far the worst of the new Community.
The idea behind the episode is simple: what if the study group that we've gotten to know and love turned out to be the bad guys. It's not a new premise for the show as it's actually been explored before. It was brought up in the good third season episode “Competitive Ecology” when they were called the mean study group after rejecting Todd. It's not a bad idea but the episode takes it way too far. Why? It basically compares them to Nazis. There are many options the show could have taken that could have had the desired effects. The problem with picking Nazis, Communists, or terrorists is that those groups massacred innocent civilians in the name of their cause. The Nazis killed forty million Jews in the Holocaust after blaming them for Germany's loss in World War I. The Communists killed over 200 million of their own citizens because they represented the old capitalist society they were seeking to replace. Terrorists will kill innocent bystanders in an effort to cause society to fear them in the hopes of getting the change that they want. The study group might be seen as the bad guys in Greendale but to go as far as to actually proclaim their Nazis? This might have been excusable if only the people protesting them had called them that but they actually seemed to accept this reputation. They go as far as to appoint Jeff their Hitler because he's a charismatic man that led them to war. The idea that Jeff would accept that he's comparable to a man who brought the world to chaos is ludicrous. It's not just disrespectful to the people who suffered because of Hitler or the soldiers who fought him but it's a ridiculous comparison that doesn't land. The study group might have monopolized the study room so as to exclude others but their actions are insignificant compared to those of the Nazis. This episode fell apart not because of a bad premise but because the writers chose to the wrong group to compare them to. It would have worked better if the comparison was a pop culture reference.
The antagonists of this episode are the German characters from “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigiliantism”. The difference is that one of them is switched out for another because the main actor was too busy. They have manage to return to Greendale and the new leader gets the idea for revenge. They show up to the group's study room because they claim their old study area is being used by an art film. Annie convinces the group to let them stay because it's the nice thing to do. This backfires the next episode when Jeff turns out to be right and the Germans take over their study table. Annie declares war but the security guards kick out our group because they didn't properly sign up for it. There's a brief montage where the study group tries to wake up earlier than the Germans in order to get the study room but they keep failing. This leads to them getting bad study rooms where each of them has a notable flaw. They finally manage to get what they want when they present an elaborate ruse that tricks the Germans into celebrating their own culture. This is against Greeendale policy. The Germans are banned from using a lot of school amenities including the study room. Our group is happy until they learn that the entire community views them as villains. There's some flashbacks to events from previous episodes where we see their antics not allowing people to use the room. These flashbacks might have worked well if they were of events we haven't seen before but they're all references to previous episodes that adds new meaning to them. Only it's a meaning that feels forced because it goes against the very idea of Community which is inclusion. The group sulks around for a bit they eventually realize that if they fix the other study rooms then the community will be appeased. This works and they can be happy knowing they did something for Greendale. I guess the lesson works but it harkens back to the mid-season one episodes where they basically learned this exact thing. Did I mention that's part of the period of Community that I find the weakest? A period so bad that I almost gave up on this show and only stuck around because I was committed to finishing the season.
The main plot was a flop but so was the sub-plot. Chang has amnesia so his doctor's solution is to have him back at Greendale to try and restore his mind. The immediate conflict is that the Dean doesn't actually believe that Chang is suffering from Changnesia. He believes that Chang might be faking it to try and get back into Greendale. This leads to a scene where Chang learns all of the terrible things he did at the end of the last season. Chang feels remorse for these actions so he decides to put himself in jail. I'm not sure this is how it works but the Dean bails him out. I'm just not sure this makes any sense at all. The Dean decides that since Chang turned himself in then he must actually be suffering amnesia. The Dean decides to introduce him into the study group in the hopes that they'll forgive him and help him recover. The sub-plot basically doesn't make any sense and the idea for the jokes were basically combining names with words.
Yeah, this wasn't a strong episode of Community. Let's hope the next two weeks are stronger.