Community Season 6, Episode 6 “Basic Email Security” Review
Perhaps it’s an unconscious nod to “Parks and Recreation” jumping into the future, but we’ve had iPad robots, and this week “Community” brought us a whole episode based around the scary future of the internet.
The future of “Community,” though, looks much like its past.
The episode starts out with a somewhat standard cold open, with the Dean (Jim Rash) and Elroy (Keith David) realizing that the school has been hacked. The hackers in question have leaked all of the lunch lady’s emails, and threatened to leak more if the school doesn’t cancel an upcoming performance of Gupte Gupta Gupti (Jay Chandrasekhar), an edgy and racist comic the Dean booked.
In the next quick pan around the study room table, the show takes on quite a lot: Reddit, news, branded content, torrenting, the basic principles of freedom of the internet. It’s a rapid fire number of targets to all throw together, and again, it’s a little strange to see “Community” entering the current events mockery/commentary cycle, taking in privacy leaks, canceling comedians, as well as the internet’s seemingly constant sea of outrage and quest for political correctness.
It’s a mouthful of issues, that’s for sure; it’s just not one the show fully digests.
Take Britta (Gillian Jacobs) who takes center stage for most of the episode. She wanted her right to protest the comedian that she wants banned from all college campuses, but the hackers are going the wrong way about it and threatening free speech, so the hackers have to be stopped. Even when “the people” decide that they don’t want Gupti to perform, Britta fights against the very freedom she is trying to protect, but there’s a lot of twists in logic and ironies built into everything from the start here.
(Side note: Why is the pop culture commentary coming from the police officer? Poor Abed (Danny Pudi) has to just grin and nod that he’s excited for the new “Avengers” movie off center of the frame. Also why is the avengers…avengers…avengers thing being picked up by so many characters that have no way of knowing the group actually does that?)
The show has done episodes like this before, usually to great effect. And as I said last week, this was the type of episode the show has needed this season to make some of the new characters gel. One storyline, all locked in a room somewhere. And to be fair, it wasn’t like Annie could lose a pen again.
The episode was just a little too long in getting there (and there’s no way it was accidental that the “there” was a location aside from the study room), but if it was going to be a near-bottle episode, there’s no reason it needed the other dressings and wrapping to go on for so long. It was nearly 10 minutes before the group was yelling at each other, and that’s just precious time wasted. Maybe not in the eternal episode length of the magical Web, but it is in the world where pacing an episode matters.
Looking back, it was episodes like these that knit the group together, but this one may have further isolated Frankie (Paget Brewster) and Elroy. Within the yelling and the leak-looking, we did get a few of those character moments the show needs to bring this new group together. The problem is they were mostly glossed over, and one was just downright unnerving. What really could have been an emotional sucker punch in the revelation of Frankie’s dead sister got lost in the shuffle and fell flat.
Also, as much as I’ve been championing Elroy so far this season, his creepiness is now going places that even Pierce’s (Chevy Chase) never went, and just seems to be a whole different level of offense than what everybody else was doing. Building nude models of the females at the group? I’m a bit surprised they are keeping him around after that. Elroy was starting out as a really break through character this season, and having him regress into the creepy old man role of Pierce is just a disappointment.
With the whiffed character moments, the episode as a whole also felt somewhat flat. The jokes weren’t landing as well as they could have either, and even the best lines of the episode weren’t as funny as the rest of the season has been, which isn’t saying a lot in the whole scheme of things, but still worth noting.
There was a distinct shift in the episode when Jeff (Joel McHale) brought up him and Britta dating. The banter then became more about the show and inside joke world of “Community” than it was about the outside world and public internet policy, with some really good lines about how the group used to be a study group, the misuse of Chang (Ken Jeong), and how this saga was the third in a trilogy that started with Annie (Alison Brie) losing her pen back in the “golden age.”
Those are the type of bits the show pulled off well. And perhaps, in this season of discovery, there’s no better time for the show to really tear itself apart. The third time just isn’t the charm (the show seems to not be counting the puppet episode from the gas leak year) for the same shtick to work as well as it has the previous two times.
Even at the end, the show could have taken all these bits and pieces and made some commentary or lesson out of them. Instead, it inverts that very idea, one the show tends to do often (both lessons and inverting), and decides to unravel the very idea of each episode being about something. The problem is that an ‘unlesson’ really isn’t a lesson, and while it’s a clever upending of the show to sit and talk about what the lesson of the week was, it’s also a cop out (ha!) and a way for the show to dance around actually deciding what the lesson actually is/was.
“Community” at times runs the risk of being too clever for its own good, and this time, took an overly ethereal ending over a grounded and substantial one.
Notes & Quotes:
-“It’s literally a child in an adult sized police uniform. It’s cute but it doesn’t help out situation.”
-“There’re not philosophers, they’re crossing guards with guns.”
-:”For white people.” “With penises.” “We prefer to be called people without color or vaginas.”
-“Might as well bring dinosaurs back. “What? Let her finish.”
-When did Britta get glasses?
“This was a study group?” “Yeah, Chang was our teacher.”
-“We have to stop the people. Their freedom of speech depends on it!”
-The hackers names (Frozen sucked, Captain Titty).
-Still having streaming issues. Le sigh.