Thursday, January 23, 2014

COMMUNITY - Truths After the Funeral

Article first published as COMMUNITY - Truth After the Funeral on TheTVKing.

In the latest installment of NBC's Community, "Cooperative Polygraphy," the study group gathers in their usual hang out after Pierce's (Chevy Chase) funeral. Pierce's lawyer, Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins, Justified), shows up and tell them that Pierce has left them all something in his will, but to get the inheritance they must submit themselves to a polygraph to prove they didn't murder him. Chaos ensues as the questions Pierce leaves are as antagonistic as ever.

I love when Community does bubble episodes, just the main cast together in one place. It gives them a chance to show off their wonderful chemistry, usually resulting in fights, but also finding a stronger bond by the end of the half hour. "Cooperative Polygraphy" is no different in that regard, as it's a wonderful character-driven episode with moments of beauty for each of the group.

Most of the conversation is fraught with strife. Pierce reveals secrets about them all, such as Abed (Danny Pudi) having put tracking chips in his fellows. Yet, as always, they find a way to work through it. Jeff's (Joel McHale) voice of reason, constantly trying to prevent a schism, is totally expected, and it continues to work, even if there are bumps along the way

It almost feels like Piece is back, as Mr. Stone serves as his mouthpiece and sits in his seat. At times, Pierce was annoying, but Chase is a brilliant comic actor, and his presence is missed. The instructions he leaves behind are classic Pierce, and his voice comes through in the perfectly crafted dialogue. This the next best thing to having Pierce back, and a fitting way to send off his character.

It's a shame that Pierce won't be returning to Community. Chalk it up to contract junk from all the messiness last year. But at least the show addresses and serves him, even if Chase can't appear, except when filmed alone on an empty sound stage, as he was for the hologram scene in the premiere episode. This satisfactorily explains his absence, but the hologram leaves the door open for more guest appearances in the future.

In fact, given Community's track record, it would be simple enough to bring back Pierce, if the behind-the-scenes stuff could be worked out. Starburns faked his death, and for awhile, it looked like Pierce's father did the same. Why not Pierce himself? That would be a welcome development, indeed, sneaky, insecure Pierce spying on his friends to see if they cared about him or not, then being caught doing so. The viewers would accept it.

But for now, life goes on without Pierce, but his death affects each of the rest of the cast. The sincere moments at the end of the questioning tell us something that many suspected about Pierce, even if it was never obvious - he did care about his friends. And they care about him. His final praise for Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Annie (Alison Brie), and Britta (Gillian Jacobs), especially, is heartfelt and touching.

The character who is most changed by the experience, though, is Troy (Donald Glover). Pierce issues him a challenge to sail around the world before earning Pierce's millions of company stock. Troy accepts. The two always had a special bond, Troy even having lived with him for awhile. Plus, Troy has always seemed the most aimless character, never quite knowing what he's looking for. "Cooperative Polygraphy" serves as a continuation of this story, and gives Troy a launching point for his departure, one that makes sense and fits his character. He can always come back later, scheduling permitting.

Abed gets nothing from Pierce, other than the obligatory sperm, which is sad. Yes, Pierce says he never understood Abed, so perhaps he doesn't know what to leave him. It's easy enough to accept that they couldn't connect, the two being such drastically different people, representations of their generations taken to the extreme. This is a realistic choice, but one that does hurt, emotionally speaking.

The only weird thing about "Cooperative Polygraphy" is that Chang (Ken Jeong) is included in the questions,  but then walks out without Mr. Stone even trying to stop him. Did Pierce know Chang this well, too? Or did the writers just want to give Jeong a part in the episode and weren't sure how to do it? I feel like there's missed opportunity here, Chang could have been desperate to be part of their club, but it's a minor gripe in an otherwise fantastic episode.

Oh, and where was Gilbert (Giancarlo Esposito)? Esposito is starring in Revolution, which may have made his presence difficult to obtain, but a line mentioning him wouldn't have been too hard to include.

But overall, a terrific installment for an awesome series. Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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