Thursday, March 20, 2014

REVIEW: 'Community' - The Gang Tries to Reunite Hickey with His Son in 'Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons'

NBC's Community - Episode 5.10 Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Professor Hickey reveals that his estranged son Hank (David Cross) did not invite him to his grandson's birthday. The group decides to help father and son reunite through a rousing game of "Dungeons and Dragons."

"Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" has a huge hurdle to clear. Sequels always do. The first Dungeons and Dragons themed episode from the second season was one of the highlights of that season as well as one of the best episodes in the history of the show. The return to the concept acknowledges that the former did happen - even going so far as saying that Neil is still off in the background have adventures as well as the return of Hector the Well-Endowed.

But the show takes the concept one step further by giving an emotional weight to the game. Hickey's estrangement with his son - the great David Cross - feels much more important and something that we should care about than trying to help Neil in the prior episode because the season has made Hickey an active supporting player. The episode also pulls off some fantastic comic beats - especially Hickey interrogating two hobgoblins both played by Abed and the Dean going in for the hug with Jeff no matter what the consequences. Those were solid bits in an episode that wasn't minute-to-minute with jokes.

The playing of the game was a lot of fun even though it was a straightforward game of Dungeons and Dragons. The first themed episode worked amazingly well because of the way Pierce turned the game on its head in his search for power. This game is simple. Two factions are formed - one headed by Hickey and the other by his son. They separately make their way to the final destination which leads to a grand confrontation - which is another highlight as they all are just yelling at each other and Abed is rolling the dice. But then, the ultimate goal of the game - to defeat the Necromancer - goes unfinished. Instead things are left off with father and son arguing with each other over the game which Jeff claims is the best outcome the group could have asked for. Which is a bit of a letdown but it still was an enjoyable episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" was written by Matt Roller and directed by Joe Russo.
  • Too bad Shirley got killed off early but Hickey had to learn the rules of the game in some meaningful way.
  • I also really enjoyed David Cross calling the gang out on trying to craft the characters in a way to get him to talk to his dad.