The fourth season of Community has thus far been a disappointment, to say the least. Eager fans like myself were still hopeful that the series would continue in its quirky glory following the ousting of showrunner Dan Harmon, but our hopes have been dashed, and last week’s episode was just as disappointingly mediocre as the previous ones have been.
“Alternative History of the German Invasion” follows two storylines: the study group’s reunion with the infamous group of germans from Season Three’s excellent “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” and Ben Chang’s, or Kevin’s rehabilitation from amnesia (changnesia). The Chang storyline has always had promise, but even in this episode it has yet to fully develop enough to be scrutinized.
Meanwhile, the main storyline was mediocre at best. The conflict between the Germans and the study group is meant to have a war motif, but it is barely realized. The Germans were hilarious, but seem lacking in this iteration, especially without Season Three’s star German Nick Kroll. The story is generally pretty mundane, and the supposedly feel-good ending comes across as lazy.
The differences in this new era of Community are quite apparent in this episode. Many of the jokes in this episode, especially ones relating to major World War II terminology (such as “appeasement” and “reparations”, have to be explained, whereas earlier seasons would leave those jokes as easter eggs for the fans who could catch them.
Also, “Alternative History of the German Invasion continues a pattern seen in almost every episode of Community this season: recycling old jokes from earlier seasons, often fleshing them out to the extent that they are not as funny as they initially were. The Germans from “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” were hilarious side characters that were never fleshed out or referenced again. These characters were great one-offs, but like many little jokes in Community, they do not hold up to intense scrutiny or emphasis. This would be fine, but this season has spent most of its time emphasising and fleshing out these little jokes or references, whether it is Pierce’s mansion, Inspector Spacetime, or these Germans.
This episode of Community is not horrible, but it fails to be original and unique, adjectives that Community has previously embodied with such episodes as “Modern Warfare” (paintball) and “Critical Film Studies” (a metric ton of great film references). The show is threatening to become generic, and it makes me, an avid fan, quite worried.
Overall, while the side story of Ben Chang’s “changnesia” could have promise, it has yet to be fully realized. The main storyline of this episode was weak and very unoriginal. This season of Community has included more mediocre episodes already than any season before it. I will certainly keep watching, but I am apprehensive, to say the least.