Community season 5 episode 3 review: Basic Intergluteal Numesmatics

Review Caroline Preece 10 Jan 2014 - 16:51

Community is back to its old high concept tricks with a David Fincher-themed episode. Here's Caroline's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.3 Basic Intergluteal Numesmatics

Last week’s ‘re-pilot-ing’ of Community was a reassuring return to form for a show that had experienced more problems that almost anything else on the air over the past couple of years, but there’s still a definite sense that fans can’t rest easy just yet. Despite the presence of Dan Harmon back in his creator’s chair, the countdown to Donald Glover’s equally troubling departure has begun and, while it might be wiser to just sit back and enjoy the final hours of Troy and Abed, that’s easier said than done.

Thank God then, that Basic Intergluteal Numismatics was another solid instalment of the show that, through a few creative choices, managed to quell some fears about the post-Troy future of the series. While last week gave us two hours of entertaining damage-control, the third episode reminds us much more of the high-concept Community that got into its stride in seasons two and three. We’ve had Die Hard, Law and Order and (eeek) Hunger Games parodies, and now we can add every David Fincher crime movie to that list.

These ambitious half-hours of Community always seem to split viewer opinion, and I should disclose right now that I’m one fan who enjoys these departures from sitcom norm more than other, more generic episodes. Community is almost always funny and inventive, but there’s something about episodes like Basic Intergluteal Numismatics that draw me in like nothing else. Here, the set-up is that of an ‘Ass Crack Bandit’ on the loose in Greendale – a case complete with a dark filter, ominous music, a final twist and a sexually-charged team up between Jeff and Annie to solve the case.

We also saw the return of several old faces, such as John Oliver’s Professor Duncan, who explained his lengthy absence by claiming he was taking care of his sick mother, and Starburns, who we all thought had been killed off a couple of seasons ago. The supporting cast on Community has always been stellar but, with the departure of Pierce and the introduction of Hickey improving the overall mood of the show, this world seems bigger than ever. And, while I’m not thrilled that Troy got so little to do this week, it did feel for the first time like the show could survive without the dynamic it built itself around.

What’s most strange about this fifth season is how dark it’s become. Despite the fact that this episode was a full-on parody, and hilarious as a result, the three weeks together look utterly grim when compared to past seasons. Is this what Harmon had always intended for the show, but never been allowed to indulge in? As proven by the not-played-for-laughs death of Pierce and the general melancholy of the show right now, maybe Community has reached that stage in its life where it can do and be anything it wants. That darkness has always been there – it’s just been brought to the surface.

Last year proved that any Community isn’t necessarily good Community, but season five has thankfully maintained the rebooted quality that, while not exactly deviating from what came before, is doing things in a slightly different way. If that means more great episodes like Basic Intergluteal Numismatics, then maybe our collective fears will be disproven. It’s the vision of the show, especially in these high concept episodes poking fun at the things we all love, that made us fall in love, and that charm and inventiveness seems thankfully to have returned for good. 

Read our review of the previous two episodes, Repilot and Introduction To Teaching, here.

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