“This is the Pretty Mediocre Timeline”- Community Season 4 Episode 10 Review- ‘Intro to Knots’
This review contains spoilers because it is a review.
For something that contained as many references to Tom Waits and Die Hard as this episode did, I anticipated liking it more. Seeing as there’s a pretty decent chance that this is the last Christmas episode the show will ever do and that Community has pretty much nailed holidays up until this point, I suppose I just wanted to like it more.
That being said, this episode isn’t BAD by any stretch of the imagination. Its middle section is actually quite well-written (by long-time Community vet Andy Bobrow), although the first and third acts and whatever the hell that tag was really left something to be desired. I didn’t know this was an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, mostly because I’ve never seen Rope.
The first act takes forever to get going. I don’t want to totally abscond with the idea of a “slow burn,” but this is like a stick of dynamite with a fuse that takes seven minutes to go off. And the dynamite is more of a wet firecracker. And the fuse is a tracking shot.
[For the knowledge of all those out there, tracking shots are to me as porn is to lonely men. I loooooove them. My only issue was that while being incredibly impressive technically, it really fell down in the laughs department. And in the anything else department.]
While we’re here, I’d just like to bring up the obvious of how grating the Jeff and Annie dynamic has become. This felt a lot like her storyline in the Spacetime episode, which is still the only episode this season I have assuredly not liked. At this point, the two of them are just dating. Jeff helps her put up homey decorations. She brings over homey decorations. As my friend April would say, “You two should just do it.”
Abed’s earnestness regarding an elaborate Die Hard homage was admirable, and not something I haven’t done myself. However, I’m very glad the show didn’t go in that direction. The throw-away jokes were enough for me. Also, any references to Die Hard would kind of be a retread, as Season 1’s “Modern Warfare” hit on most of the movie’s high-points already.
It’s only when Malcolm McDowell shows up that the episode really starts moving. This is great news since up until this point McDowell (who seems to be game for about anything) was in real danger of falling the same hard fall as a lot of Community’s returning guest stars of being underutilized and poorly scripted, a la John Goodman back in Season 3.
However, I really like the control McDowell’s Cornwallis took of the whole of Act 2, reminiscent of the best TV hostages (my personal favorites being Krazy 8 and Henry Gale). He got the A material in a B- episode, and those of you just waiting for the final grade at the end can stop reading now. Despite doing nothing in his first appearance earlier this season, McDowell will probably go out higher than Professor Kane on the Greendale hierarchy. His ploy was a tad bit obvious, but it also kept the tension rather ratcheted.
But the way he got out of his chair was stupid. The reveal that someone had let him out was my favorite moment of the whole episode. I really wanted to know whodunit. And then it turns out that Chang is pretending that he can’t tie knots. That really defeats the whole thing tension of the episode, and even the idea established back in “Cooperative Calligraphy” that the group could withstand any kind of betrayal.
Why not just make it one of the Group that set him free? That’s interesting. They were doing so much right by the time we got that reveal. They even found something for Shirley to do that wasn’t Jesus or pie, and at this point that’s a damn miracle straight from Jesus Pie.
In episode, it makes sense. It was Chang orchestrating the whole shenaniganza and so why tie Cornwallis up for real? I get that. But I also think that no matter how much sense it makes, it was kind of dumb. And it’s so, so strange that the writers are still relying so hard on Changnesia jokes after we established four episodes ago that it was all a hoax.
Community has always been a show that goes gooey when it decides to go emotional and that doesn’t bother me because I felt like it was being sincere about it. The reveal here with Cornwallis and the presents… It just felt tacked on and kind of unnecessary.
Points to the episode, though, for going for a more obscure Hitchcock parody and not going for Psycho like everyone else ever in the world. But then they did a Hannibal Lecter reference and kind of undid all that good will…
But seriously, though, what was that end tag? Maybe it was just the editing that bothered me, it was nothing but dissolves. In either case… is the Darkest Study Group going to actually storm our timeline? Is that a thing that is going to happen? Albeit, that was how I thought Season 3 was going to end, but it would be an interesting choice and would finally push this show into being a full-on farce.
To sum up, this episode was lukewarm in a season that I’ve mostly liked. I’ve been pretty light on it so far, but that’s because I’ve enjoyed most of what it has to offer, from puppets to Brittastrophes, and think people are being far too hard on it. Most shows slump around Season 4 and Dan Harmon doesn’t get fired from all of them.
Also, more Tom Waits references, please.
And do something with Troy.
Is it bad that I don’t miss Pierce? I’ve liked almost all of his material this season and really think the writers have finally redeemed him, but if this show gets a Season 5 he won’t be sorely missed.
B- -For being clever and interesting without wowing me. Solid second act, but everything else was weak.
Next Week: An episode written by Oscar deaner Jim Rash. It has Troy and Abed switching bodies and something about the Dean at an alumni dinner. I expect our boy Craig will be unveiling something big.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of his own name and phone number on bathroom stalls. Check back here every week for reviews of Community and Game of Thrones, our weekly Mexican Standoffs, and our Good Stuff.
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Dean you later!