Community: Basic Story Review
"What do you call the units of bread you use? Breads?"
Basic Story is a pretty hard episode to review. It’s the first time in several seasons that the show has done a proper two-parter and while it’s a pretty entertaining (and at times, quite clever) episode, it’s ultimately all setup for next week’s season finale. That said, there was definitely a lot to like about the episode.
This penultimate episode of the series threw a bit of a curve-ball at viewers when it comes to the actual plot. In spite of its title, most of Basic Story was spent with the cast trapped in a sort of narrative purgatory. Greendale is faced with an impending insurance appraisal but given the good work that the Save Greendale Committee has done this season, everyone is more or less content with the state of the campus and opts to let things run their course.
Given that this could very well be the second-to-last episode of Community, there were plenty of nods and references to running jokes that stretch back further than this last season. There’s a lot of bittersweet nostalgia in the episode and it was interesting and one of the episodes’ bigger surprises to see the relationship between Jeff and Britta get reignited.
The return of the duo of school-board members and their later transformation into villains was also a fun plot point and good use of their characters. The similarly evil return of Subway to the Greendale campus also made for some good lines and product placement.
Michael McDonald did a good job as the insurance appraiser. From his bizarre introductory speech (“400,000 gallons of liquid horse meat!”) to his bold demonstration of vending machine safety protocols (“Each year in the US, six people die this way and five of those are insurance appraisers so I take this very seriously”) he definitely brought his own brand of quirkiness to a show that’s already drenched in that sort of humor.
As is often the case in Post-Bon-Troyage episodes, Abed ended up on his own for most of this episode with him undergoing a meta-narrative struggle of creating, dodging and then disrupting the episode’s story. This was by far one of the best applications of his character this season and and between his line about building a fake particle accelerator (Something that die-hard Community fans will know as a scrapped idea from an early draft of Repilot) and redirecting the attention of the story to the teacher’s lounge, it was an absolute blast to watch unfold.
One thing I didn’t like about Basic Story was the way that it once again pushed Shirley, Hickey, Chang and Duncan to the side of things. It especially stings a little because this could be the last time we’ll see these characters and we’re limited to a short drunken sing-a-long with Duncan and Hickey (however brilliant this scene was) and another jaw-dropping strange song by Chang.
The clincher of the episode was definitely the moment when the study group realized that by saving Greendale, they’ve resolved the setup for the show – they’ve reached the end of the story. It was a genuinely well executed moment that bounced effortlessly between witty dialogue and a strange sort of terror that the well of strangeness that is Greendale could potentially be extinguished next week. It was fun to see the dynamic of the episode change following this scene and the episode leaves things in a fun place that has me very eager to tune in next week.