Why Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is the Best Episode of Community
- Published on: Friday, February 7, 2020
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Yes I know we saw Neil before, what I meant was he never had any importance when it came to narrative until this episode
The best episode of the best show. Leave a like :)
music by savfk:
My all time favorite NBC sitcom is Community.
Notorious for going over budget, so many episodes of community were shot like they were an entire movie. In fact, many episodes of community were directed by the russo brothers, you may know them for their work on movies like, oh i don’t know two of the top grossing movies of all time.
And while the constant genre flipping and creative, out of the box production of community certainly made it special, to this day it is the characters that keep me coming back to the show.
And that is why i can say with confidence that my favorite episode of community is not one in which there are constant special effects or cinematic angles. Actually, most of the episode is filmed in one room. The episode I’m talking about is advanced dungeons and dragons.
One day dan harmon, the creator of the show who you might also know as a co creator of rick and morty, brought a crate of his old dungeons and dragons books into is writers room plopped it on the table, and begged asked his staff to help him write a story involving the the famed tabletop game. And what they came up with was actually pretty brilliant.
See, for any story to be interesting, there has to be some sort of stakes. The writers’ solution?
They introduce a character with declining mental health, and imply that his dungeons and dragons game with the study group has the potential to influence whether he chooses to continue living or not.
And that is how they figured out how to make the outcome of a tabletop game compelling.
Now it was actually kind of risky to try to get the audience to care about a character they had never seen before and had no reason to care about. But, in my opinion, they do a great job making you care about fat neil from the beginning through the narration of his backstory as well as the cast of this man who just does such a great job of looking vulnerable that you can’t help but care for the dude.
Speaking of the beginning, this just happens to be the first episode I show to people when I’m trying to convince them to watch the show. That’s because I don’t necessarily think the pilot represents the show very well, but also because the narrator gives short descriptions of each character at the start of the episode, so even if you have no idea who anyone is, you’re given a great starting point for understanding the existing dynamic of the study group.
If I’m a new viewer I can watch this and in 15 seconds I already know that Annie is a recovering headcase, troy is dopey, shirley is overly nice, abed is weird, britta sucks, and pierce is a dick.
The show constantly satirizes different film and tv styles too, so the use of a narrator to set the stage is new, but not surprising to the returning viewer of the show. And, most importantly, it allows the writers to get the audience to care about fat neil as early on in the episode as they can, which works in their favor as it makes the conflict more compelling.
After the intro, the entire episode is filmed in one location, with the exception of a couple shots of pierce in a closet.
But, the writing, cinematography, and sound design all give the episode a much more expansive feel.
The writing is well paced and helps to further flesh out the dynamic of the group as each group member delivers lines that further their characterization.
This episode was directed by Joe Russo, who, as I mentioned before, had gone on to work on some pretty impressive projects. One might think the lack or visual effects in this episode would make it easier to direct, but I disagree. If anything, the static location and characters probably provided a greater challenge to Russo as he had to figure out a way to film the episode in a way that was still visually appealing.
When the game starts the shots very simple and stationary, but as the game goes on and the stakes elevate, Russo makes the shots more dynamic as he incorporates more and more camera movement.
The first time the camera really moves is when pierce shows up and the camera ominously dollies toward him. This is significant because pierces introduction to the scene further threatens neil, as well as the success of the game.
The last and, in my opinion, most important piece of this episode that makes it seem larger than it is is the sound design. With every action in the game, there is a corresponding sound effect. It really helps the viewer imagine the scenarios the characters describe, and obviously the score does a great job of impacting the tone each scene is going for.