Community season 5 episode 10 review: Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Review Caroline Preece
21 Mar 2014 - 09:15

Community delivers a sequel to a fan favourite this week by returning to Dungeon & Dragons...

This review contains spoilers.

5.10 Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Whenever Community does a follow-up episode, or sequel as Abed called it, it instantly has more to prove than your standard half-hour of the show. Such is the case with Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which not only dares to rehash an old idea for new laughs, but happens to be rehashing one of the most beloved episodes from the show’s entire history. Season two’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons has been deservedly celebrated by fans since it aired and, in a different era of Community and with a largely different cast, could season five recreate those same feelings?

While it wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, it just didn’t feel the same. This season of Community as a whole started with fans holding their breaths, crossing their fingers and hoping for the best but, while we’ve had a string of solid episodes that evoke thoughts of the glory days and quell many viewers’ fears, it’s still a show that’s trying to reinvent itself. In other words, this isn’t exactly the time to be going back to well-executed ideas from old episodes, and any criticisms of Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for unoriginality are probably deserved.

But then, the new Community is quite a good Community, and much preferable to the ‘gas leak year’ in so many ways. This episode brought the new cast (including the Dean) together away from the study table for one of the first times, showing off the new dynamic after the sudden departure of two of the show’s integral characters. It also smartly put Hickey at the centre of things, as the group planned to play Dungeons and Dragons in an effort for him to reconnect with his estranged son (guest star David Cross) after the latter didn’t invite his dad to his son’s birthday party.

With a mix of enthusiasts, the converted and cynical newcomers, the idea of reintroducing the game itself definitely worked. It’s not often we get to see the Dean enjoy playtime with the rest of the gang either and, if season five has done anything right (and it’s done a lot), it’s widening the study table world to include teachers and previous outsiders. While some of us could all probably live without Chang (as we did in this episode), all of the new and returning additions to the central crew have managed to mend the damage done last year, and including the Dean here seems like the final stage in that welcome transition.

But I can’t help but feel as if the episode didn’t have enough substance to be particularly memorable. The Community episodes that end up being fan-favourites (like the original Dungeons & Dragons episode) have as much heart as they do funny bits and shenanigans but, in addition to the idea not being fresh, it was also a problem that the episode was more concerned with how the players dealt with the game than how they dealt with each other. As previously said, Hickey has been an excellent addition to the show, but that’s meaningless if he’s not interacting with the core five – especially Abed, as the pair have surprisingly great chemistry.

While it’s not really fair to compare two episodes separated by three years, it’s pretty impossible not to at the same time. Putting them side by side, then, Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comes up seriously short but, as an episode of this fifth season exercise in damage control, it was another solidly amusing instalment that should reassure those still worried about a Community without Donald Glover. There’s definitely life after Troy but, despite an entertaining half-hour spent in these people’s company, new ideas always trump resurrected ones.

Read Mark's review of the previous episode, VCR Maintenance And Educational Publishing, here.

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