Community’s alternate timeline episode was easily the best show on Thursday night, and that includes Sheldon befriending Wil Wheaton on the Big Bang Theory and a classic Jim prank on the Office.
What has always separated Community from other shows is it’s ability to take chances with storytelling. It’s not just a vehicle for heavy doses or sarcasm and movie parodies. It’s a show where anything can happen. It some ways it comes close to The Simpsons in that regard. The difference is, unlike The Simpsons, nothing is magically forgotten or rest by next week.
The premise for the alternate timeline story was simple. The pizza guy arrives. Jeff roles a die to see who goes to get it. We then find out what happens depending on whose number is rolled. As the title of the episode states, it’s an illustration of chaos theory. Small changes in identical circumstances vastly affect the outcome.
What makes the episode brilliant is that it tells linear stories using the concurrent timelines. As the group dynamic changes each time different perspectives are revealed allowing us to follow the episode arcs.
As the timelines progress none of them really end well. Jeff and Annie flirt in most timelines and eventually kiss in the final one. Brita and Troy flirt to a much smaller degree. Shirley bakes pies, but the gang ignores them because of a secret pact to help her break her burgeoning baking addiction. Pierce wants to torture Troy for moving out.
The stories are woven together nicely, but they’re really part of a bigger story about Jeff. Jeff has been the group’s leader and father since the beginning, but it’s a dynamic that’s been steadily changing almost since the beginning as well. He is a big reason things go downhill in each timeline (though not the only one).
In the final timeline, where the die isn’t rolled, we find out what happens when Jeff isn’t the engine driving the action. Everyone rolls along just fine. Most importantly, Jeff understands that he can slip in neutral and enjoy the ride as well.
It’s a brilliant episode and deserves a trunk full of awards.
Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation and The Office all delivered solid episodes. In The Office I had a hard time believing Jim would self-publish an etiquette book just to trick Dwight. It was funny, but I think it could’ve been a bit more believable. (A website perhaps?)
Whitney has improved slightly despite a mediocre B story. I still think it needs to move to Wednesday nights. It just doesn’t fit in a series of single camera shows.