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Community: Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Review
A lot of people consider Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to be the best episode of Community that Dan Harmon & Co have ever put out. While this week’s episode lacks some of the emotional impact of Season 2’s, it does take the elements and ideas that made that episode so fun and magical a bit further.
Like some kind of superhero team-up, the study group only comes together to play D&D in times of great need. Where Fat Neil’s depression was the centerpiece of the group’s D&D adventure this episode used the troubled relationship between Professor Hickey and his own son as a springboard more than anything else. While this certainly lowered the stakes of the episode a little bit, it did work well enough to enable the group to revisit the same goofy humor and funny writing that made that first D&D episode so memorable.
Of all the episodes so far this season, this episode focused the most on Hickey and it was fun to see Jonathan Banks absolutely go to town. Hickey’s early resistance to the idea of playing Dungeons & Dragons only made his later commitment to the bit all the more fun to watch. It was particularly enjoyable to see that ex-law enforcement side of Hickey manifest when he discovered that he could interrogate the goblins for information. David Cross also did a great job as Hickey’s son and he had great chemistry with Hickey that really brought their father-son relationship to life, whilst also doing a great job of throwing the game into chaos.
Throwing Dean Pelton into the mix this time around was another great decision that the writer’s room made with this episode. The Dean was someone who was curiously absent from the group’s first D&D outing. His back and forth with Jeff here after the two ended up with the character sheets meant for Hickey and his son was one of the most hilarious subplots in the episode. The sequence where he stood up and tried to ward off the sky-spiders was also another highlight (“BACK EIGHT LEGGED DEMONS! I WILL NOT SCOOP YOU UP WITH A CATALOGUE AND LET YOU OUTSIDE ON THIS DAY!”) of his inclusion here.
This is definitely one of the more meta episodes of Community with Abed asking the group if “everyone’s takeaway from last time that we can use D&D to alter people’s brains?” It was also pretty fun to see him get excited when he realized that “a satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off. Many geniuses have defeated themselves through hubris making this a chance to prove that I’m better than all of them!” In spite of the fun presented by these meta-textual quirks, this episode didn’t actually do a whole lot with the rest of the cast. It was fun to see Annie resume her role as Hector The Well-Endowed and Shirley’s reaction to her character being a Druid was good but for the most part the rest of the group played minor roles this time around.
Much like it’s predecessor, one of the standout things about Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was the excellent use of camera angles, which really helped bring the magic of role playing games to life in a way that no other show has really managed to capture. As with Geothermal Escapism, lighting played a huge role here and Annie & Abed’s apartment almost seemed unrecognizable at times. The music and sound effects also deserve a commendation for making the episode feel just as epic of an adventure as the first Dungeons & Dragons episode did.
Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons might not feel as emotionally resonant as its predecessor did but it definitely lives up to its legacy when it comes to laughs – It’s one of the funniest episodes of Community this season and well worth tuning in for.
If you missed last week’s episode you can check out our review of ‘VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing’ here and keep checking the rest of Leviathyn’s Entertainment section for more Community reviews as the season goes on.