‘Community’ Review: “Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”
On tonight's all-new episode of 'Community,' Dungeons and Dragons is back! When Professor Hickey reveals that his estranged son (played by special and super awesome guest star David Cross) has a son, the group decides to put together a game of Dungeons and Dragons to help mend the pair's relationship.
As Abed rightfully points out in the opening, sequels are hard to do: when not executed properly, they can come off contrived and forced, so 'Community' takes a smart approach with "Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," but would you expect anything less? When Hickey reveals that his son has a three year-old son and the professor hasn't been invited to the tyke's birthday party, the gang puts together a game of Dungeons and Dragons, since Hickey's son happens to be a fan. And since it worked so well to solve a problem back in season 2, it should work again, right? Well...
Having Hickey's son immediately gum up the game by jumbling the characters and literally burning a bridge, causing the group to split up into two factions is pretty clever. Instead of having father and son forced into a scenario where they have to learn how to work together and overcome their differences through the assistance of a game, as would be predictable, the two are kept apart and working at odds in competition with one another for Hickey's right to visit his own grandson. This leads to all sorts of wackiness, with Dean Pelton assigned as the son of Jeff's character, exacerbating his weird fondness for Jeff, and putting characters like Britta, Chang, and Shirley in the background for the most part (though Chang does get a couple of great lines with his troll character, Dingleberry -- "Troll sounds!")
Jonathan Banks is really settling into the role of Hickey, and this week gives him a chance to really show how comfortable he's gotten, using the former cop skills of his character along with his gruff demeanor to play the game rather well. I'm also consistently pleased with how that gruffness is translated into the world of 'Community' -- someone with Banks' natural inflection and tone could be so easily limited and typecast, but there's so many shades to what he does, and he finds a playfulness and quirkiness that has really sewn itself into the fabric of the study group almost seamlessly.
But I have to say that Jim Rash's Dean Pelton continues to steal the show every moment he's allowed on screen, and this week we get quite a bit of him -- and it's glorious! Somehow his attraction to and obsession with Jeff never grows tiresome, and I especially loved his melodramatic reaction to the flying spiders in the game. It's wise to use him as sparingly as the show has, but it's great when we occasionally get an episode where he's more prominently featured, like a special treat.
Although you might think Jeff is the expert on mending father/son relationships, sometimes the best you can hope for is that a father and son can bicker together endlessly, the sole survivors of a game of Dungeons and Dragons. They went from being unable to tolerate each other at all to arguing over the finer points of a game that Hickey didn't really take seriously to begin with -- it's not much, but it's progress, or something. While not the most meaningful of episodes, this week gives us a great guest star in David Cross and a wonderful return to a season 2 favorite, and though it might not entirely live up to the glory of that first outing, it's still a ton of fun.
R.I.P. Crouton. Let's go get some fro-yo.