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While Harmon and Chase are fighting it out backstage, Troy and Abed are fighting onscreen. The golden duo split up last week, forming two different camps in the school. Their feud reaches its climax this week. The episode “Pillows and Blankets” is filmed in documentary style mocking the way Discovery Channel and National Geographic reconstruct battles. Unfortunately, the joke runs out quickly and the episode is a futile attempt to compete with “Modern Warfare.”
This time the battle included—you guessed it—pillows and blankets instead of paint guns. Though the idea is original (and it’s quite enjoyable to watch a pillow fight from the comfort of your couch), it doesn’t really hold up for an entire episode. The voiceover was a funny treat, but only for the first few scenes. Once the story evolved, there was really no reason for him to summarize what we saw. Show, don’t tell. The same goes for the side interviews with people involved, they were genuinely funny at first but soon became a nuisance. Of course, these were all experiments that build on traditional storytelling. Community is brilliant because it dares to try different things. And mainly that’s why I’m not mad that this attempt failed. For the sake of comedy, this episode wasn’t brilliant, but in every other way, it did deliver.
At this point, the ironic tragedy of battle has been played out. Annie and Abed made out while a paint bomb exploded, there’s really nothing more melodramatic and ironic than that. So, why they wanted another episode like this is beyond me. Yet, in terms of character development, it still touched upon some nice things. I said last week that I was surprised the show wanted to take Abed and Troy’s friendship this far, but now that it has, I’m certainly glad. The fight felt so incredibly real that it was basically the only story that worked throughout the episode. Forget predictability, when swooped away by the possibility of a diminished friendship, even the most skeptic viewer has to give in to his fears. For a second, it felt as if Abed and Troy would never be themselves again. It sometimes happens, and that’s what the story played into. Sometimes friendships end and, if there is ever a reason, it’s typically because one doesn’t respect the other enough. Of course, this very topic couldn’t be addressed right now, so the matter was forgotten completely. This was because, in the end, Troy and Abed didn’t want to not be with each other. After the war had ended, they kept on hitting each other with a pillow because it “would be the last thing [they] ever did together.” That’s some heartbreaking stuff right there. Soon, everything went back to the way it was and Troy and Abed were cracking jokes again. Nothing was resolved, but we surely got our duo back.
The episode didn’t really do much else. Annie and Jeff exchanged texts, which was narrated, just like Leonard’s Facebook activity. It was a nice way to include social media into the episode, which was also an experiment, but again, it didn’t deliver on the comedy side. The only really funny thing about the episode was Britta’s attempt at taking pictures. “Just because they are in black-and-white doesn’t mean they’re good,” the episode’s voiceover said to Britta and every hipster teen with a smartphone out there.
All in all, the episode was a special one, with an extraordinary format and original execution. It didn’t work at all, but the show gets points for trying. After all, almost every format this show has pitched to us has worked, whether it was a clay animation or an alternate timeline episode. It’s admirable that Community is keen on trying new things, so a few bad episodes are the price we pay. Because, even at its worst, the show delivers on the character front. Even if it’s in the form of hats you cannot see.