Episode 10: Intro to Knots
By: Carlos Uribe
Community is a show about the senior year of a group of friends attending Greendale Community College.
The only part that this episode got right was bringing Malcolm McDowell back as Professor Cornwallis. The role he's given to play is one that plays mind games with the group to test their unity. It's a great part for McDowell to play as he's able to sell the character completely. If there was a better script then I imagine that I would have enjoyed this episode significantly more. It's the sad truth of the matter that the writing sucked. There's been weak episodes of Community before. The first three seasons were strong but there were some duds in the mix. This season has been a lot more inconsistent but I've generally been able to enjoy it. It's been on the right path towards getting to the level of quality I expect from this show but this is clearly an exception. This is flat-out the worst episode of Community of all time. There's been episodes that I haven't really found funny but I didn't laugh at a single joke this week. There's been episodes where the emotional beats don't completely land but this week it felt empty. I could say with certainty that I've never actively been bored while watching the Greendale study group and their wacky adventures until now. This episode was so dull that I actually started playing Scramble with Friends in the middle of it. It's bad enough when the jokes aren't landing and it feels forced but I was so disengaged that I actually stopped paying attention to what was happening. I had to force myself to finish the episode so that I could properly write this episode even as I found myself not caring what happened. Intro to Knots has the misfortune of being a complete and total failure. I honestly have no idea how the writer of Pillows and Blankets as well as some other Community episodes could have been the one who did this script. So why was the episode so bad? Why was I so disengaged from the plot?
I don't really know. The humor sucking is clearly a failure in the writer's room as they couldn't come up with funny jokes. The emotional beats didn't land because they never felt real. Why was that? The core of the episode is a solid one. The idea is that the group have gotten so close that they're going to stick together no matter what. This is proven by the episode's antagonist. When Annie finds out they're going to get a bad grade on some group paper, she invites the Professor to the group's adult Christmas party. This basically leads to the Professor getting tied by Chang and the group holds him hostage to try and improve their grade. The Professor messes with their heads by trying to get them to split up. He claims he's trying to teach them a lesson but he's clearly just bored. He wasn't even tied properly as Chang doesn't have the skills to do that. The Professor could have gotten away at any point but he chose to stick around to mess with them. Which is a bit odd since his introduction at the beginning of the season basically promised a Professor that was actually normal. One who was qualified to teach history and who was only at Greendale due to an unfortunate situation. I guess it makes sense that he would eventually fit the school better but it would have been nice if the season could have built up to it better. I had kind of forgotten he had existed which is a problem of pacing with this season. A common theme throughout the season is how the group needs each other and has grown close. This is one of many episodes in service of that theme. In this case, the group has to stick together to collectively raise their grade rather than only one of them getting an 'A'. As if to oversell the point, there's a point where the group thinks there's a traitor but Jeff basically states it doesn't matter because every member of the group is flawed. That's why they're members of it and that's why they'll always forgive each other. The professor fails in his attempt to teach them a lesson but he does give them a 'C+'. So if the core was strong then what failed?
I think the episode just tried too hard. It tried to hard with the meta-humor as Abed was easily overused. Abed goes as far as to get popcorn because he sees this situation as entertainment. This season has really struggled with Abed because it can't help but make on-the-nose jokes about what's happening but it really shows this week. The humor from the other characters is just as forced. I didn't laugh a single time because they all were trying to hard. It's the same with the emotional beats. The episode tried to have a nice episode where the group sticks together and gets a small victory but it felt so very manipulative. That the rest of the season has been going to this well only reveals how beaten down the idea that this group is tight has become. We get it, they're close. They can overcome any obstacle. Even when one of them drags the rest down, they'll forgive each other. So what? It could be argued that Dan Harmon's version of Community was about the group coming together and forming bonds. It was about a group of flawed people coming together and slowly starting to make themselves more functional. This made Community a good show and it tied into the show's name. It could be argued this season of Community is taking that version and telling us that they've reached their destination. The group is tight. The characters are able to easily forgive the others. They have managed to grow. What's next? There's always been a hint in the Dan Harmon version of Community that the group would eventually separate. They would outgrow it and leave Greendale better human beings because of that. There is barely a hint of that this season. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it really hasn't come up and I think it should start to. It used to be that graduation would remove the bond that brought them together (Greendale Community College) but this season (and a bit of the end of the third) clearly shows that they'll remain friends after they graduate. You get the sense that the group is together and there's no place to go. This closeness seems to suggest that graduation will not impact their friendships. Which is fine but it needs to start showing signs that the group has stopped needing each other or it needs to have a direction for the group to go in. The season has struggled with trying to recapture the quality of the previous seasons but I think a major problem is that there's very little for them to really go. Would it really be the end of the world if this was the final season? Not because of the quality but because there's seemingly nowhere else to go.
People have been complaining about this season as a sharp downturn in the series. I don't agree with a lot of the old fans that claim this show is bad now. It may not be reaching the heights of the original Community but it's still a generally good show. It's not the same one but there's no way it could be. These people who complain talk about the whole season as if it's lost any edge if might have had. They complain about how they don't laugh, how everything feels forced, and how it doesn't feel the same. The last point is the only one I could agree with but the first two have mostly been wrong. That is except for this episode. Intro to Knots is really the first episode that's as bad as every former fan claims this season has been.
Also, the Christmas episode is not only in April but months after the Thanksgiving one. Really bad scheduling.
Pierce's absence was noticed.