Hello, Communies! JHeaton here, filling in for the estimable myr_soleil, who is leading a peace delegation to the Community 101 of Earth-2. Let's see what the reviewers here on Earth-Prime have to say about last night's episode.
- Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gives a cursory review--"while I enjoyed parts of it - Annie's tantrum, the floating heads of squeaky-voiced Garret, the first Chang/Britta scene with the eaten, half-swallowed warning note - it did feel a little lightweight compared to some of my favorite episodes of the series"--before turning the rest of the column over to a lengthy dialogue between him and Todd van der Werff, in which they discuss The State of Community Season 3, the problem of pleasing a divided fanbase that prefers high-concept episodes over low-concept (or vice versa), and the difficulty of trying to make your characters grow without taking away the things that define them.
- And speaking of lengthy, van der Werff's own review of the episode over at the A.V. Club was. He gave it a grade of B, which, as he pointed out in his colloquy with Sepinwall, was the same grade he gave last season's "Basic Rocket Science." He liked the idea of Annie having an evil twin, and enjoyed the various scenes of the groups hanging out together, but felt the Jeff and Annie part of the episode didn't work as well as the rest of the episode. "I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Jeff and Annie relationship," he writes, "but if the show is going to go ahead and do it, I wish it would just do it. All of the attempts to make it not seem creepy by hanging a lantern on just how creepy it all is have, instead, just made it seem creepy."
- Kona Gallagher of CliqueClack, on the other hand, said that "acknowledging the inherent creepiness right up front, before anything really happens" has made her "actually okay with the impending Jeff/Annie hookup." (This rounder-upper disputes the contention that Jeff/Annie is inherently creepy.) She also points out that the video for Lionel Richie's "Hello" is several grillion times creepier than a Jeff/Annie relationship could even imagine being. (TRUE FACT.) Having said that, she admits that she's 100% percent behind another completely creepy relationship. "Britta and Chang are a match made in whatever version of heaven you see after chewing a bunch of peyote buttons and eating a bag of day-old Taco Bell. Britta needs to feel that she can rebel in a way that has absolutely no impact, and Chang needs to exert his complete lack of authority."
- Daniel Carlson of the Houston Press Art Attack blog also thinks that Chang and Britta made a nice pair. "They both want to think they're badasses, when they couldn't be further from it." As for Annie's storyline, he admired the special Greendale-style humor and punch the episode brought to a sitcom staple plot.
- Over at TV Surveillance, Cory Barker says that "it is very clear even from these first two episodes that this season is going to be all about the characters addressing their most obvious character traits/faults and trying to figure out how those things play into who they want to be in the future." He
(?)goes on to say that the biggest problem with "Geography of Global Conflict" was that there wasn't enough time to fully address Annie, Britta, and Chang's issue (but concedes that he shouldn't complain too much since it was only the second episode of the season). "Annie’s story in particular could have used another scene or at least one that didn’t directly involve Jeff or any of their underlying, smoldering sexual tension." (Not that he's opposed to Jeff/Annie; he just thinks the holding pattern "is a bit straining.")
UPDATED: Cory Barker is male. I thought he probably was, but I've seen Say Anything... too many times to automatically make that assumption.
- Jesse Carp of Television Blend liked how Community "eschews the cold open for a longer, plot planting opening act."
- Steve Heisler of Vulture says that Community has often been "obsessed with wit and style that the show reads as disingenuous" but that this episode "teased what will likely carry on throughout the season: a reevaluation of character relationships and maybe, just maybe, some real heart."
- The Andrea Towers of Earth-1 calls this episode "just the tip of the iceberg where the word 'fun' is concerned." Meanwhile, Earth-2 Andrea Towers writes, "we find ourselves back in the company of snappy dialogue, heartfelt character moments, and interesting character development – the very things that make Community one of the smartest shows on television." And both agree that the Annie/Jeff relationship is growing on them.
- Mark D Curran of the TV Geek Army was happy to see the return of the traditional Troy and Abed antics over the closing credits.
- Emily Cheever of TVology "was really not a huge fan of [the] episode," due to it being "really convoluted in plot and motivation" and "regrettably low" on laughs. She gave it a score of 5 out of 10 -- "the lowest grade anyone will ever give Community."
- Kelsea Stahler of hollywood.com thought last week's episode was lackluster, but says that "this week, it tapped back into the things it’s good at." She liked Annie's storyline--"There are few things better than Alison Brie flipping her lid"--but thought that Britta's was "completely overshadowed by the fact that in light of the recent violence in New York during a large-scale protest [which] put this whole plot into the bad taste basket." Stahler earns some brownie points by highlighting my favorite gag--Troy taking, removing the lid of, and returning Annie's cup without her noticing or stopping her convulsive jiggling of her straw--but then loses them by calling Chang's stun gun a Taser, which it wasn't. (A Taser does not work by direct contact. It fires projectiles and delivers a shock via a thin, flexible wire. Many, many reviewers made this mistake.)
- Also losing points is Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic, not only for the Taser thing but also for using the word "Jannie" to describe Jeff and Annie's relationship. Let's be clear about something: the proper thing to do with portmanteau ship names is to take them behind the barn and beat them to death with a shovel. I won't go so far as to say that using such terms is an unmitigated evil, but I am thinking it very emphatically. Anyway, Raines notes that the episode "brought back classic group dynamics without any crazy gimmicks."
- Amy Lee (not the lead singer of Evanescence, in case you were wondering) in her recap for the Huffington Post describes Annie Kim as "a competitive, knows-all-the-answers Bizarro Annie," suggesting she may have missed the point of the episode entirely. A Bizarro Annie would be lackadaisical and ignorant, and also would have chalky white skin and say goodbye when she means hello. Annie Kim, on the other hand, was just as competitive and ostentatiously informed as Annie Edison, making her more akin to Hyperman than Bizarro.
- Eric Koreen, in the latest in his ongoing series of articles comparing Community to Parks and Recreation, says "Geography of Global Conflict" was a funnier episode than last week's, mentioning Britta's plot ("constantly hilarious") and the Model UN Battle Royale ("hyper-hilarious") as working particularly well. The Jeff/Annie interaction didn't work as well for him, and he thought Martin Starr could have used more screen time. And he liked P&R better, so he deemed it this week's winner.
- Sean Gandert of Paste agreed with Koreen that the Jeff/Annie interaction was weak, calling it "the episode's main problem." He writes at some length on the pairing, arguing that the ongoing will they/won't they interplay is harming the emotional realism the show strives for. "In real life, people rarely talk about their attraction and decide against it, instead they act out and bad choices are made (or possibly, good choices, who can say). This moment feels like it goes against the humanity of these two characters so that they 'do the right thing.' But the right thing feels incorrect and forced to the audience because for once it’s not real characters reacting to absurd circumstances; at the moment Annie and Jeff talk about things and decide against ever being with each other they become merely TV characters doing what their writers want them to do."
- Robert Canning writes for IGN, "'Geography of Global Conflict' didn't grab me as much as I thought it would." He argues that the "competitive childishness" between the Annies held the episode back. "It was necessary and was eventually revealed to be a key component of what the episode was about, but it was such a generic trigger for everything else that it was difficult to initially get behind." That said, he concludes that "the episode delivered a fair amount of laughs with its unorthodox competition and the special relationship of hippie and The Man." He also liked that they were dealing with the complications of Jeff and Annie's relationship.
- The TV Obsessed (motto: "bylines are for the weak") gave "Geography of Global Conflict" a rating of 8.3 out of 10, but nevertheless thought it was "too weird." She (?) admits that "Community has had plenty of weird episodes in the past, but they always came together in the end for something meaningful between the characters. In this week's episode, however, things go crazy and never come back down to earth."
- Luke Gelineau of Daemon's TV thought last night's episode was "a marked improvement over last week’s not-so-funny premiere," so much so that he used the phrase "marked improvement" twice in the first three sentences. He thought the Model UN story was great, but considered the Britta/Chang storyline "not anywhere near as funny." He was puzzled that neither John Goodman nor Michael K. Williams were in the episode: "we got so much setup for their characters last week, at the expense of the laughs, that having them completely gone didn’t make a lot of sense to me." He also noted that Dean Pelton was nowhere to be seen, which I must admit had escaped my notice.
- Lastly, Yiannis Cove of Sound on Sight called the episode "definitely a step-up from last week’s." He applauds the decision to continue showing Jeff and Annie as being uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing a romantic relationship, saying "I’m still in the minority who thinks that they do not suit each other as a couple. I see their relationship much more as a father/daughter one." To which I say, hooray, I'm in the majority!
Cove kicked off his review lamenting the low ratings for the season premiere, so no doubt he will be pleased to see something of a rebound this week. Ratings were up 6% over last week, drawing a 1.8 rating/5 share in the 18-49 demo. (It's the #JeffandAnnie magic.) That was good enough for third in the time slot, coming in ahead of both Charlie's Angels (1.5, down 29% from its premiere) and The Vampire Diaries (1.3, up 8%). (That said, Charlie's Angels had more viewers total, 7.154 million to Community's 4.045 million.)