Community season 2 episode 4 review: Basic Rocket Science

We’re back at Greendale for more college-based humour as the Community gang joins the space race. You read that right.

2.4 Basic Rocket Science

As avid viewers will be well aware, the guys at Community like movies. They like them a lot. They even, occasionally, make references to some of the movies they like in the show. Last year, everyone’s favourite mafia and horror movies were given a Greendale makeover. This season Community turns its attention to the space/disaster movie.

Yup, Basic Rocket Science, shockingly enough, is Greendale’s very own space opus. Complete with much high fiving, slo-mo walking (no camera trickery here, just a really long walk) and uplifting score, Community shows Bruce Willis just how it’s done.

The plot, such as it is,  involves a 30-year-old KFC-sponsored flight simulator, a rivalry with City College, and a mildly offensive flag, which our beloved ‘students’ are responsible for. The coin purse flag is now Greendale’s official pennant, and as a punishment, the gang has to clean the Winnebago-sized Atari system, and wouldn’t you know it, they get trapped inside when Pierce inadvertently locks them in. Well, almost all of them.

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Abed, off changing into an outfit more befitting the situation, is left behind when the Winnebago is towed for being parked in a disabled space. What follows is a race against time. The gang has to make it back to campus before the official unveiling of the ‘simulator’ that afternoon. It’s as tense as you think. Pierce is imprisoned for space madness, or just being old, Troy takes the trip, as he does everything, way too seriously, and Jeff finally loses some of that cool when he tries to bust out of the bus, and fails miserably.

It’s a stretch, admittedly, but the paper thin conceit leads to a butt load of space movie references, rip-offs and plain surrealism. It’s Community, after all. Apollo 13, 2001 and Armageddon, among others, get the Harmon treatment, and Abed is at the centre of most of it.

In an episode set almost entirely outside of the usual locations, there’s no room for cameos, but Abed’s commitment to the NASA-style control room, and his mission to guide the gang home means that cameos just aren’t necessary. After last week’s background action, Abed is once again front and centre, and the cigar chomping astronaut that he never was is a joy to behold.

Back on the KFC-imulator, the group bonds some more when they discover that Annie is still trying to leave and that it was she who set up the towing of the Winnebago, but the gang convinces her that, although the college is horrific, it’s their college. Or something like that. Whatever the reason, the gang survives, intact, to homage another day. Gotta love a happy ending.

Elsewhere, we got a wholly unwelcome glimpse into the Dean’s extra-curricular activities and the ‘three thumbs’ comment is, thankfully, left hanging, and we found out that, if you so desire, Greendale will give you a degree in theoretical phys ed. Which explains why the Annie still hasn’t transferred. Where do I sign up?

While not on a par with the amazing Goodfellas episode, Community‘s latest love letter to pop culture had some fantastic touches: witness mission control, the Dean’s Ed Harris impersonation, and the smoke filled, ever so slightly smug return of the crew. But the real highlight of the episode was the amazing soundtrack , note-perfect, and beautifully orchestrated, something that’s sorely missing from so many shows.

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Over the top for 22 minutes of TV it may be, but it wouldn’t be a disaster movie without it. 

So, another week, another great Community episode, and although it’s early days, season two appears to be shaping up very nicely, indeed. 

Read our review of episode 3, The Psychology Of Letting Go, here.