This post contains spoilers through the March 15 episode of Community.
I appreciate that the day I wrote a post arguing that Community’s static approach to its characters and their potential—or lack thereof—for growth was one of the benefits of the show, it returned with an episode that moved a number of the characters forward, if in fits and starts.
Community’s sometimes had trouble deciding if Pierce is just an unpleasant, manipulative person, or if he’s deeply wounded, and this episode was a convincing example of the later approach. Dressed up to look like, as Troy puts it, “a wealthy murderer,” Pierce is looking for business opportunities to prove that he can be as impressive an investor as his father was. And the other members of the group point out that he can move one of their number forward as part of his project, turning Shirley’s long-dormant plan to open up some sort of baking business into a reality now that a vacancy’s opened up in the Greendale cafeteria.
But Shirley has to figure out what she really wants. At first, she insists that when she and her husband get engaged again that it means the ends of her plans, at least temporarily. “I am going to start a business! Soon! I just have floral arrangements to pick and a DJ to hire!” she tells Britta. And when planning sessions don’t go exactly according to plan, Shirley complains to Pierce, “I’d rather be with my man planning my wedding, and you’d clearly rather be with Halle Berry in 1999.” But when they get down to brass tacks, impressing Dean Pelton with their pitch—”I cannot believe you learned all this at Greendale!” he marvels—Shirley’s clearly in her element. And she and Andre work things out even after she’s late to the rehearsal dinner when she tells him she’s ready to step up and take responsibility for their family, and he needs to let her. For someone who often seems so mired between frustration and a carefully controlled emotional facade, it’s great to see Shirley standing up for herself because she has a dream, rather than because she’s on the defensive about religion or where she’s at in her life. And I hope she and Pierce can find a way to fight back and beat the Subway: Community hasn’t had a villain for a while, and it would be nice for the study group to have an affirmative cause.
In that vein, I really appreciated Britta’s emergence as a genius wedding planner, even though she dismisses her mad skills at floral arrangement with the reminder that “There are people dying in Uganda.” Her ambivalence about what her talent means for her politics was very funny. “This may shock you, Annie, but I come from a long line of wives and mothers,” she intoned sadly. And as the episode progressed, it was a reminder of why Jeff and Brita are actually a much more compelling pairing than Annie and Jeff: they’re both misanthropes with gooey centers who hate themselves more than they hate the people around them. “I promise to make no more than 70 percent of what you would make at the same job,” Britta promises bitterly as she and Jeff stumble drunkenly up to the brink of a mock wedding. You can hear her terror of surrender.
The C story, in which Troy and Abed decide to normalify themselves to make sure they won’t upset the wedding didn’t carry quite as much heft, and I was sorry for that. The show’s had an interesting debate in the past about what embracing weirdness means to each character, whether it’s Troy figuring out that he’d rather be in a goofy costume inspired by Alien fighting zombies with his best friend than hitting on chicks as a sexy Dracula; or Abed finding a potential flirtation with a secret service agent who sees the world the same way that he does. I wish the episode had more time to explore what it means to Abed to be getting along with a pretty girl at a wedding, for once, what it feels like for Troy to be back in his normal guise. They’ve gained an enormous amount from their friendship, but I’m curious to see what that relationship gains them when they aren’t hanging out in their Imaginarium or shooting Troy and Abed in the Morning.