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‘Community’ Review: “The First Chang Dynasty”

Community
NBC

In the second of tonight’s three ‘Community‘ season end episodes, the gang – still expelled from Greendale – must infiltrate the campus to dethrone Chang, who has replaced the Dean with a “Dean-elganger” (or “doppel-deaner”) and is running the school with a squad of unruly teens.

It’s a Chang-filled episode this week as the group formulates an ‘Oceans 11′ style plan to rescue the Dean, who’s been imprisoned by Chang and replaced by an impostor.

“The First Chang Dynasty” is sort of a weak episode to air following the impressive brilliance of “Digital Estate Planning.” And the few one-liners that Ken Jeong lands as Chang are only further proof of the character’s ability to work better in small doses. As analogies go, Kenneth Parcell is to ‘30 Rock‘ what Chang is to ‘Community.’ They both serve their respective shows better when they show up once or twice each week to deliver a joke — you know, like a real supporting character.

Instead of using the ‘Oceans 11′ theme to drive the episode like Ken Burns’ documentaries in “Pillows and Blankets” or ‘Law & Order’ in “Basic Lupine Urology,” this week’s episode uses the pop culture reference as simply that: a reference. It’s a welcome respite after the heavy duty 8-bit assault in tonight’s earlier episode, but it’s the smaller character moments that gel here.

Chang throws himself an elaborate birthday bash of appropriately Chang-y proportions, and aptly dresses himself in full-blown Napoleon garb. The group uses this opportunity to infiltrate the heavily-guarded school using an elaborate series of costumes and misdirects, some of which are later revealed in a montage. Jeff plays the role of a rock n’ roll magician (a la Criss Angel) by the name of Ricky Nightshade, complete with leather vest and eyeliner. It’s the only real highlight out of all the costumes the group has chosen, though Troy and Abed’s plumbers come in close second.

Jim Rash makes his much anticipated return as Dean Pelton, and, like most of this season, delightfully steals every scene with his presence. Near the end of the episode when two school board members find the dean and his “dean-elganger” in the hallway, the two engage in some seriously hilarious slap-fighting.

The episode isn’t that much of a superficial wheel-turner, though. Britta and Troy’s flirtation is revisited, making Troy’s possible transfer to the A/C repair school that much more upsetting. Troy makes his Han Solo move in a moment of desperation when he resigns himself to join the A/C repair school to get the group out of danger. This pays off in a brief moment with John Goodman at the episode’s end. It’s good to see that the writers haven’t ditched this plot thread — or John Goodman’s character — entirely, and I’m anxious to see what they have in store for the final episode.

Troy’s A/C plot line hasn’t been a very strong one, with Goodman’s character only really showing up to stir the pot. It’s inevitable that Troy will return to Greendale proper and his friends, but predictable as that may be, it’ll be interesting to see how the writers bring everything together in the final episode.

Quotable:

“I’m working on a cop opera.” “COPERA!”

“Dance off, sundae bar, one of those Ed Hardy street magicians…”

“Peachy keen, Avril Lavigne.”

“Fire can’t go through doors, stupid. It’s not a ghost.”

“It is hard out there for a fake Moby!”

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