If you haven't watched Community than the latest episode 'Remedial Chaos Theory' is an exemplary model of show at it's finest. I highly recommend watching the new episode even if you've never heard of the show before. I will be discussing the episode in some depth, and so there will be a fair amount of spoilers ahead, consider yourself warned.
Why this episode was so damn good...
I don't believe I was the only one whose heart was breaking from the beginning of season 3. While none of the first three episodes were particularly bad, the second I would rate as 'quite good', we couldn't help but be concerned about the longevity of the show. Its ratings were already less than stellar, and with a mostly new writing staff they failed to alleviate any doubts we had about we've been presented with so far. But Community bounced back this week, gloriously. This episode took all the aspects we've come to love, play it out 7 times, and more impressively manage to fit it all in just over 20 minutes. The existence of its quality in any TV show is a phenomenon, even for Community who has brought us jewels such as Modern Warfare, Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas and Advanced Dungeon's and Dragons.
To save time being wasted from reading an exposition, I'm just going to assume you've watched it. Firstly this was the first high concept episode of the third season, the convention this time being alternative time lines. We witnessed this device being used before in Malcolm in the Middle and Scrubs (props for whoever can name both those episodes), and from a writer's point of view it must be a nightmare to pen, pace and produce. The interesting observation about this episode, was that it was really about anything, there was no real storyline and if you subtract the alternative time lines, the sequence of events post-title only lasted a few minutes.
But that doesn't mean the episode was about nothing. This episode was clever way of exploring the group dynamics, particularly the role of each character through their omission. You learnt more about what each character has to offer by removing them temporarily from the group and then observing the effects of their subtraction. One reason I've always adored Community is for it's ability to 'show not tell', whereas other series tend to fall back on over exaggerated reactions, because it assumes its audience is too stupid to appreciate subtlety, despite Community having a character who explicitly points out nuances and character traits there is always something more to be had.
I could honestly go on and on about the heavy stuff (brevity isn't my strong suit), but I don't want people to forget the episode was also fucking hilarious seriously the Norwegian Troll admist the flames had me in stitches, I had to pause otherwise I would have missed the rest of the episode.
So instead I am opening the floor to you guys. So for the TLDR group here are some questions and I will come in and out of the discussion:
1) Did you like the episode? Did it redeem the previous three?
2) How do you feel about the change in group dynamics since season 1?
3) Did you feel the show handled the concept of alternative timelines?
4) Jeff and Annie?
5) How did it rate against episodes from Season 1 and 2?