The Last Three Weeks of The Walking Dead Were Terrible


 

The Walking Dead title card

I have a love hate relationship with The Walking Dead, so much so that I’ve banked on this joke three times now. At its best the show effortlessly creates incredibly suspenseful horror with the perfect blend of human emotion and moral ambiguity to pull at your heartstrings, but at its worst it’s a logically frustrating show that loses focus from time to time. Normally the show would find ways to keep drawing me back in, either through high-energy finales or hanging story arcs waiting to be resolved. However these last three episodes of season four may have finally pushed me over the edge, so much so that it’s stirred me out of my two month writing hiatus to try and explain to myself what went wrong. I’ve found nothing but high praise for these last three episodes of Walking Dead and I’ve begun to question my own critical compass. So consider this not a review, but a public plea for help to understand why these last three weeks of The Walking Dead were terrible.

Fair warning the following paragraphs are going to be discussing The Walking Dead in detail with spoilers. If you aren’t caught up with the most recent episode of The Walking Dead then I suggest you skip this until you have watched through the mid-season finale.

The problems with the last three episodes of The Walking Dead can be traced back to last season. Season three had its moments but it was often weighted down with the task of introducing a new cast of characters in Woodbury, specifically the main villain, the Governor. It also didn’t help that the show ambitiously decided that this new cast was strong enough to hold up entire episodes on its own, which didn’t turn out to be the case. Despite the talents of David Morrissey, I never felt the show ever developed the Governor as much as they think they did. I always felt that we were told more about his evilness more than we were shown (save for his treacherous interaction with Maggie) and I only felt like the Governor was ever a big deal because he was a big deal in the comics (which could also be said about Tyreese). Sure, decapitated walker heads in a fish tank isn’t exactly a sign of wholesome goodness, but it’s not exactly evil either. Sure, keeping zombiefied love ones is also weird but isn’t that what Herschel did with like twenty of his family members back in the barn?

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Maybe my memory is failing me but I’m having a hard time coming up with memorable scenes where the Governor acted with pure malice instead of just his own sense of retaliation and justice.* In ways there were few differences between Rick and the Governor and I never felt convinced for this evil reputation the show promised but never delivered. However, I looked past it and decided to buy what they were selling, mainly because the show was still entertaining when it wanted to be. A season of back and forth blows between Rick’s prison group and the Governor’s Woodbury group was seemingly leading to an all out war to end the confrontation between the two. However, the finale was nothing short of unsatisfying, wasting a lot of built up energy that fizzled out with nothing much changed. In the end the Governor was left alive, albeit alone and on the run.

* I’m currently in the process of rewatching all of The Walking Dead and I’m specifically going to track the progress of the Governor with a more critical eye in regards to the show’s ability to create a convincing villain.

This loose Governor plot line hung over the series’ fourth season like a dark cloud. I had many conversations with friend stating that I would be entirely okay with the Governor staying away from the show as long as possible. The Governor’s only real strength was his golden voice and the fact that he had already amassed a following willing to do his bidding. Now that he was alone and exposed for the untrustworthy person he was he had nothing to fight back with. The only way he could serve as a potential threat to the prison group is if he somehow found a new group of mindless followers, or became a super villain capable of taking on the prison who clearly out numbers him. The former option would feel too much like a reset of last season and the latter ultimately ridiculous even for a show about the walking dead.

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However the fourth season seemed to be headed in the right direction. Focusing on the aftermath of the supposed ‘war’ with Woodbury we saw a new prison group working hard to restore a sense of society. A much more calmer Rick turned farmer grappled with his demons and shied away from the gunslinger he once was. The season opener posed the question how far is too far-gone and do we get to come back from the bad things we’ve done? This narrative theme held together an impressive string of five episodes that dealt with an entirely new type of threat that the group hadn’t faced before. A fast moving flu virus outbreak began to plague the prison and set off a chain of events that introduced us to a lot of great stories. New characters were introduced, old favorites were tested, and we ultimately received one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead has seen with Internment. There were a lot of plot lines setting up for interesting conflict among the group. Daryl and Bob were at ends after the incident involving the alcohol, Tyreese was on a war path looking for Karen’s murderer, the prison was left in shambles from flu, and of course the awaited reaction from Daryl after Rick’s decision to let Carol go was on the horizon. The half season could have ended here and I would have been entirely happy with these five episodes instead of what was still to come, but unfortunately the show’s dark cloud couldn’t stay away forever, coincidentally answering its own question posed in the opener.

Coming to a complete halt, season four shifted its entire focus from the prison to the Governor in the sixth episode. My initial reaction was indifferent but after some mulling over I began to warm up to it. Despite the series once again banking on its overconfidence in the strength of a new cast to anchor a whole hour, the episode was able to inject a little more humanity into the Governor than we ever saw last season, even if it did beat you over the head with its symbolism. I actually liked this version of the Governor more than the one we got last year and I actually cared more about his exploits. Realizing his mistakes we saw the Governor try to turn a new leaf, start a new life, and become a better person. It was an interesting way to handle this character and it mirrored the story line we were watching unfold with Rick. I wasn’t fond of the vacation slideshow like progression of the characters, especially the forced love angle between the Governor and Lilly, but even still I was prepared to eat crow for my doubt in the return of his character. That is until the show decided that it wanted to go back on the work Live Bait had started and give us back the super villain like Governor in Dead Weight.

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So it turns out the Governor can’t change who he is and returns to the psychotic killing machine we knew before in Dead Weight. Not that big of a deal but it meant we were entering the first scenario of the Governor’s return that I feared. He brings Lilly, her daughter Meghan, and Tara to a new group run by his former partner Martinez. When Martinez unexpectedly dies (at the Governor’s hands), the next in line to step up is Pete. Then after Pete unexpectedly dies (also at the Governor’s hands) the Governor steps up to take charge of the group. I find it hard to believe that in roughly 48 hours two deaths go unquestioned and the group willfully allows this mysterious newcomer to take charge of the camp. Especially if we take into consideration that Pete’s hot headed brother Mitch knows the Governor killed Pete. Yes the Governor’s power is his golden pipes of persuasion but getting this peek at how he amassed such a following like he did the first time around is like finding out that the force is dictated by a person’s midichlorian count. There are some things better left unexplained. The biggest crime of all is the fact that Dead Weight leaves the previous episode Live Bait ultimately feeling pretty useless. Why spend the time making an argument for a changed Governor just to do away with it the very next episode? It’s a frustrating way to lay foundation for this big Governor return and it only gets worse.

Too Far Gone takes the cake as far as The Walking Dead blunders go. After two weeks of being singularly focused on the Governor we finally make a visit back to the prison and try to pick up right where we left off, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a little too late. The episode tries to rekindle the energy left hanging on the line by shoe horning in moments that didn’t feel nearly as impactful without the proper build up. Rick’s confrontation with Daryl lost the impact it once had after this two-week hiatus. Bob and Daryl didn’t get the time it needed to hack out their differences and Tyreese’s outrage is lazily paired with the almost forgotten rat plotline that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. These little plot lines feel rushed in favor of the Governor vs. the Prison round two in a last ditch effort to make up for last year. However, Too Far Gone is filled with so much annoying frustration and logic that it boils down to nothing more than hollow action. It had its exciting moments but in the end this finale is even more frustrating than the season before it.

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Rallying at the prison fences the Governor calls out to Rick with a small militia and tank at his side. He’s captured Herschel and Michonne and is giving them until sundown to vacate the prison. Despite holding all the cards, Rick pleads with the Governor and his people to take the civil way and share the prison. Although he makes a convincing argument, delivered wonderfully by Andrew Lincoln, the Governor calls Rick a liar and slashes through Herschel’s neck with Michonne’s katana instigating the war.

The Walking Dead is no stranger to dealing deaths to characters that are fan favorites but for a character I loved so much, a character that delivered a powerful performance in Internment, a character brought to life by that amazing talents of Scott Wilson, I felt nothing for the death of Herschel. Instead I was only annoyed by the show’s mishandling of all the emotional build up wasted from the first five episodes in an attempt to bring back a Governor who had long out stayed his welcome. Herschel deserved better than that and the show made a huge mistake not capitalizing on the energy built up from Internment. On top of that, the death of the Governor isn’t even that satisfying. Michonne delivers a heavy blow by stabbing the Governor in the back while he was busy strangling Rick, but instead of finishing the deed Michonne walks off leaving the Governor to lie on the ground.

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It’s not the group we cared about getting to deal the final blow on the Governor, but Lilly who hadn’t even been a factor until these last two episodes. I get that it was suppose to be a big moment for Lilly since apparently she and the Governor were in love, but when the show only took an episode to establish this love it seems like the wrong person got revenge especially when the characters the Governor impacted way more suddenly didn’t care to finish the Governor off for good. Oddly it seems fitting that the writers were so unsure who got to finish the Governor that he gets passed around like the confusing character he was so that everybody gets a piece of him. In the end the Governor left the show much like he reentered it, meaningless and trying too hard to be symbolic.

I’ll concede that the virus storyline may not have been the flashiest string of episodes that The Walking Dead has ever done but it at least made sense narratively and worked well together. Slamming on the brakes to insert the return of the Governor disrupted so much of the season that it questions what exactly the show was trying to accomplish. Was keeping the Governor alive and well last season worth bringing him back for just three more episodes? One of which didn’t matter, and the remaining two that felt like nonsense. The only way the Governor even convinced his camp to take on the prison was by lying to them and telling them that the prison group were murders that could not be reasoned with. It was them who deserved the protection of the prison walls and it was theirs for the taking. However, even after Rick pleads with them to take the civil way and live together, basically offering entrance to anyone of them who wanted to go in, the group still blindly follows the Governors orders to kill them all. They damage the fences, they blow up the concrete walls, and they attract more walkers to the place that they’re supposedly trying to take over for their own protection.

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Where was the logic in that? Why did no one besides Tara decide to listen to reason and realize that the Governor was insane and power hungry? As a whole they were basically faceless characters whose only purpose were to serve as a weapon for the Governor to wield against the prison in this season three reset. It was a huge mistake calling on them to hold up entire episodes on their own, especially when the show isn’t exactly known for it’s great character development. If they were so dead set on this Governor story than why not weave it in and out with the first five episodes to fill out the season? It would have at least been more effective paralleling Rick’s character. Both Rick and the Governor were two sides of the same coin and it’s interesting to see the different paths they took. At least in this way we still get the emotional build up from the virus arc all while knowing that the Governor is slowly stirring against the prison. The inevitable wrath of the Governor paired with the almost insurmountable threat of the virus would have created so much drama and suspense for our beloved group at the prison that it would have been more satisfying. Herschel’s death wouldn’t have felt all for naught and the powerful performance’s that the actor’s gave would have been complimented nicely with good story telling. Despite Too Far Gone being the finale we deserved last season, there was nowhere near the same amount of energy leading up to the conflict like there was last year even without its payoff. It’s such a shame that the show seemed so focus on correcting last season’s wrongs that it hurt this season even more. Instead The Walking Dead should have listen to the advice Rick gave to Carl. Don’t look back. Just keep walking.

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The simplest answer to why these last three episodes of The Walking Dead were terrible is that different people have different opinions and ultimately it’s just a TV show, but the discussion is what makes it fun. So what’s your take on season four so far? Are you happy with the way things have turned out or are you close to calling it quits as well? The only thing keeping me coming back for the second half of season four is the fact that the Governor is finally gone and the hope that Scott M. Gimple and the rest of The Walking Dead crew can pick up the pieces from here. This constant cycle of starting strong and finishing weak is getting old and it won’t be long before The Walking Dead is too far-gone.

The Walking Dead’s second half of season four returns to AMC on February 9th, 2014!

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @TreyRSolis
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

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Community Review: Basic Human Anatomy (4.11)


Summary:

Basic Human Anatomy brings the familiar Community charm by inserting a wacky theme while still keeping it grounded in reality. The episode touches on the awkwardness of the romantic relationship between Troy and Britta and gives more depth to it in one episode than they have all season. There is a nice flow between the plots that makes great use of the study group and their fast paced banter. The joke density is high in this episode and we see a lot of strong story pairings between the group.  Overall the episode finds the perfect balance between emotional depth and crazy humor.   

All season I have been waiting for an episode of Community that would be the stand out episode for the season. I have been on board with season four of Community since the get go but I do acknowledge that there seems to be something off. There have been a few gems here and there but nothing that seemed to hit on all cylinders. Though we still have two episodes to go, last night’s Basic Human Anatomy (4.11) made a really strong case as the standout episode for this season.

Community Logo

The episode opens up with the gang as they’re discussing their last history project for the semester. Annie and Shirley are both concerned with the group’s effort due to their neck and neck race with becoming valedictorian, while Jeff is content with a doable and passable grade. Meanwhile Troy and Abed celebrate their three-year anniversary of the first time that they watched Freaky Friday by accidentally swapping bodies.

Community - Season 4

Basic Human Anatomy marks the first episode written by Oscar Winner, Jim Rash (The Descendants), aka Dean Pelton. Rash is able to capture the spirit that seemed to be lacking in season four while still maintaining the new tone and direction. One of the things that I liked most about this is episode is the fact that it was able to make use of the group without feeling like anyone was particularly isolated, save for Pierce but that’s a different story. The joke density is solid and is probably one of the more quick-witted episodes this season. The fast pace banter around the study room is back and provides a lot of great laughs.

The episode works to the strength of the cast and we see the return of some nice pairings. The competitive nature between Shirley and Annie has always been delightful to watch on screen, and even more so now that they introduced the race to be valedictorian.  Troy and Jeff also get some nice screen time and we Jeff acting as a father like mentor to Troy.

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One of my complaints this season has been the romantic spin that the writers have placed on this season, in particular with Troy and Britta. Although last season saw the two pair up, it never really developed into a full relationship and often felt out of place. Not only does this episode acknowledge this but it gives depth to a relationship that has been so flat all season. It’s amazing how many emotional chords this episode is able to hit despite its wacky body-switching theme.

I was apprehensive to say the least when I heard that this episode would be tackling a Freaky Friday homage. This season has proved that the new crew hasn’t quite figured out how to nail high concept episodes yet, and I was worried that it would fall flat. However, the Community charm shines bright in this episode and it’s able to insert a wacky idea like Troy and Abed switching bodies and still keep it grounded in reality. We see so much emotion from various characters in a scenario that is easy to roll your eyes at but the talent, and the writing are able to make it work. It was very reminiscent of Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas from season two. It’s episodes like Basic Human Anatomy that proves a fifth season would be worth it, especially if they give Jim Rash more episodes to write.

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Basic Human Anatomy brings the familiar Community charm by inserting a wacky theme while still keeping it grounded in reality. The episode touches on the awkwardness of the romantic relationship between Troy and Britta and gives more depth to it in one episode than they have all season. There is a nice flow between the plots that makes great use of the study group and their fast paced banter. The joke density is high in this episode and we see a lot of strong story pairings between the group.  Overall the episode finds the perfect balance between emotional depth and crazy humor.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Community Review: Intro to Knots (4.10)


Summary:

Overall, Intro to Knots is a solid and humorous episode that drops plenty of subtle references and callbacks.  The inclusion of Malcolm McDowell as Professor Cornwallis is a very welcome appearance and his antagonistic spirit gave the episode plenty of bite. The dark tone brings the group to a new low and doesn’t do a good job of redeeming them. If you can look past that fact, you’ll be rewarded with a comically sharp, and cleverly written episode that show’s Community isn’t down and out just yet.

With the last two episodes of Community being less than favorable I was a bit worried heading into Intro to Knots (4.10). The quality this season has been an up and down roller coaster and ratings have been dipping pretty drastically. Being so close to the end with bad ratings made it look very grim for Community but hopefully last night’s Intro to Knots was a good indication of a strong three-episode home stretch.

Community Logo

The episode opens up with Annie arriving early at Jeff’s apartment in order to set up Christmas decorations. One by one the group members arrive and the holiday festivities begin. Once everyone is settled in Annie reveals to the group that she has found out that the group has received a failing grade on their history paper. Annie invites Professor Cornwallis to the party in an attempt to coerce the professor into raising their grade up.

Intro to Knots starts off a bit slow and awkward. The episode pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, and features long continuous shots in the earlier scenes. It comes off as strange and out of place for Community especially if you don’t catch the reference. Personally I wasn’t familiar with the reference material so this bit was lost on me until I was able to look through discussion boards online. The episode abandons this technique as the show continues so it’s not that big of a distraction.

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There’s also a strange opening scene with Jeff and Annie. Conventions of Space and Time (4.03) revealed that Annie often likes to plays house with Jeff in her imagination. It was a rather creepy revelation and Intro to Knots brings that creepiness back into focus this episode. She arrives and immediately begins decorating the house as though she was living there. The exchange between Jeff and Annie is a tiny bit uncomfortable but fortunately it is dissolved once the other members begin to arrive.

Once the episode hurdles past those opening setback the episode quickly moves up as one of my favorite episodes this season. The inclusion of Malcolm McDowell as Professor Cornwallis tied this episode together really well. McDowell fits right in with the cast and brings an antagonistic energy that gave the episode bite. Once Cornwallis discovers that he is being sucked up to he slowly begins to try and dismember the group by verbally turning the members on each other one by one.  His manipulative dialogue and dry delivery kept me captivated from scene to scene.

The episode shares a very similar spirit to season two’s Cooperative Calligraphy, which is one of Community’s best. The group always seems to be at their best when they are attacking and calling each other out. The dialogue was humorous and sharp and produced a lot of laughs. It also introduced a very interesting plot about Annie and Shirley’s competitive academic performance at Greendale. There’s a dark vibe to Intro to Knots that makes it feel similar to an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We see the group reach a very low point and it doesn’t do a very good job of redeeming them as good people. This is the make or break factor for the episode but personally I was able to look past it.

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There are few aspects to Intro to Knots that feels a bit tacked on. I know NBC is to blame for a Christmas episode airing in April but I don’t understand why the writers felt the need to make a Christmas episode that wasn’t really in the holiday spirit aside from the decorations. Christmas episodes are gems from each season and it feels like this one was a waste, especially given that they tried to tie in a Die Hard homage that didn’t quite reach the mark. Abed is the only one that ever seems to make any mention of Die Hard throughout the episode and he continuously spouts off references to the movie. His passive observational comments while the group was in a dire situation are humorous and it did set up for some funny visual gags. However, I would have rather waited to see a Die Hard Christmas episode given the proper festive treatment it deserved instead of tacking it on here.

Overall, Intro to Knots is a solid and humorous episode that drops plenty of subtle references and callbacks.  The inclusion of Malcolm McDowell as Professor Cornwallis is a very welcome appearance and his antagonistic spirit gave the episode plenty of bite. The dark tone brings the group to a new low and doesn’t do a good job of redeeming them. If you can look past that fact, you’ll be rewarded with a comically sharp, and cleverly written episode that show’s Community isn’t down and out just yet.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Community Review: Intro into Felt Surrogacy (4.09)


Summary:

For such a high concept episode Intro into Felt Surrogacy feels so forgettable. The episode features a cute but hollow charm that manages to produce smiles and laughs. Dig deeper and there’s little to be found in this episode. The guest stars are so underused that they come off as nothing more than ratings boosting star power. The puppets lack necessity or explanation that made the other concept episodes believable. The musical numbers lack humor and are used as nothing more than progression from one scene to the next. Maybe the shine and denial is wearing off but these past two episodes of Community have been rather underwhelming and as a die-hard fan it makes it extremely disappointing. I’ve been on board for majority of the season and would still love to see the show go on. There’s hints at greatness here but a mixture of behind the scenes drama as well as built up pressure are hurting the show. Here’s to hoping that these last few episodes can pull Community from out of this late season slump especially when ratings are on the decline.

Community is no stranger to bizarre concept episodes, which for the most part have been some of the series’ strongest episodes to date. DnD, paintball, Claymation, musicals, and video game episodes are just a few of the concepts that the show has tackled. Last night’s Intro to Felt Surrogacy (4.09) marks the shows first foray into felt puppetry and despite a few laughs it doesn’t prove to be one of their stronger concepts.

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The show opens up with the group as they nervously stare each other down. The tone is awkward and there is obviously something so unsettling among them that they refuse to talk to each other. Inter-dean-ing, the Dean decides to use puppets to help the coax the group out of their silence.

Overall the episode felt like a one off episode that didn’t further any of the season’s over arching plots. Majority of the show is a flashback of the events that took place outside the episode with the group being in puppet form. Occasionally the group breaks out into song to progress them from one scene to the next but it comes off cheesy. I know this seems to be parodying most puppet shows but it didn’t work so well here.

The episode did feature some pretty entertaining banter between the group as they were seated around the study table. The Dean’s humor lacked subtlety that made him entertaining to watch in previous seasons. Jim Rash’s delivery is still comedy gold but the way they’re writing the character seems to have all but openly expressed his feelings for Jeff. The episode featured some great one-line jokes from both Troy and Britta as well as some nice bickering banter between Britta and Jeff.  In all honesty the humor was there but the puppetry, music numbers, and some of the big names attached this episode felt like a distraction.

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The puppet versions of the study group is cute and did manage to place a smile on my face throughout the episode but it never felt like it reached its full potential. When we got the Claymation episode we were viewing Abed’s point of view when he was in the middle of a mental break down. When we were introduced to the video game study group it was because they were digitally copied into the game. In this episode I don’t understand why the group is remembering themselves as puppet version of themselves during their trip. It feels unnecessary and with no other purpose than to just be puppets.

Musical numbers have always been a grab bag for me ranging from catchy to funny but these felt rather forgettable. With very little jokes in the lyrics the music only described the character’s action from one scene to the next. Although it’s never a bad day to see Yvette show off her music pipes the songs never get pasted feeling shoehorned in.

Jason Alexander

To say Intro into Felt Surrogacy underused Jason Alexander would be an understatement. Both Alexander and Sarah Bareilles felt just as necessary as the puppets with little more to do with the episode than just star power. Alexander had a few lines and one song and then was quickly written away with little explanation or retribution for drugging the gang. Bareilles is given one verse in a song and then used as a deus ex machina in the end. The time devoted to the songs, the guests, and the puppets could have been allocated to focusing on a tighter story.

The big reveal is that the study group is nervous around each other due to the fact that they all believe they revealed a dark secret about themselves that would negatively affect their image within the group. After Shirley reveals hers, the group suddenly remembers that nobody can remember each other’s secret except for the fact that Shirley just blurted hers out. To make up and allow each other to feel better they willingly and soberly divulge their secrets. All of which, aside from Shirley’s, seem to come out of left field and are so haphazardly thought up that most aren’t even that dark or are character ruining. The worst offense is the way Abed treats Shirley after her emotional breakdown. Despite being friends for almost four years he decides to call it a wrap and go watch a movie while she’s on the verge of tears. For lack of a better word it was a dick move and felt so out of character for Abed.

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For such a high concept episode Intro into Felt Surrogacy feels so forgettable. The episode features a cute but hollow charm that manages to produce smiles and laughs. Dig deeper and there’s little to be found in this episode. The guest stars are so underused that they come off as nothing more than ratings boosting star power. The puppets lack necessity or explanation that made the other concept episodes believable. The musical numbers lack humor and are used as nothing more than progression from one scene to the next. Maybe the shine and denial is wearing off but these past two episodes of Community have been rather underwhelming and as a die-hard fan it makes it extremely disappointing. I’ve been on board for majority of the season and would still love to see the show go on. There’s hints at greatness here but a mixture of behind the scenes drama as well as built up pressure are hurting the show. Here’s to hoping that these last few episodes can pull Community from out of this late season slump especially when ratings are on the decline.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Community Review: Herstory of Dance (4.08)


Summary:

Overall Herstory of Dance feels like it fits right in the comfort zone of this season. Once again there’s an imbalance of comedy and tender moments. The episode does end on a heartwarming note but having one week to week begins to take away from the effect. The episode further delves into the study group’s romantic relationships, more so with Abed and new girl Rachel. Brie Larson brings a wonderful personality to Rachael that serves as a great on screen counterpart to Abed. The chemistry is great and it’s nice to see the writers create a romantic interest for Abed that’s not just a female version of him. With only a handful of episodes left Herstory of Dance seems like a weak foot to start on in this final stretch. 

Community returned last night from its one-week break with the airing of Herstory of Dance (4.08)! We’re down to the final stretch of episodes and there’s still a lot of ground to cover between now and then. Unfortunately last night’s episode didn’t feel like a step in the right direction.

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The episode opens up with the group in the study room as Pierce is discussing his new love for the American version of Inspector Spacetime. The Dean interrupts the gang announcing that there will be a Sadie Hawkins Dance where the women will be the ones to invite the men. Offended by the sexist undertones Britta vows to throw her own gender equality dance to upstage the Dean. Meanwhile, Annie and Shirley decide to set Abed up with dates for the dance but Abed has plans of his own in mind.

This is the first episode of the season that really didn’t do anything for me. I was more forgiving in the earlier part of the season when the episode weren’t able to provide a steady stream of laughs but after eight episodes it’s concerning that episodes are still having a balancing issue. The episode does end on a heartwarming note but after so many of those tender moments week to week it begins to feel so formulaic. There are chuckles here and there but overall I didn’t find myself bursting out laughing. It’s still enjoyable given the wonderful talent and my interest in these characters after so many seasons.

I feel like the B plot with Annie and Shirley was a rehash of an earlier episode in season one when the gang tries to set up Abed with a mystery girl despite Abed’s reluctance. It seems redundant that the gang would try and do this again especially when Abed clearly stated he has no problem hooking up with girls, he just prefers when they approach him instead.

Community - Season 4

Strangely enough this plot line was the strongest aspect of the episode and I actually liked the pairing of Abed and Rachael, played by Brie Larson. The chemistry between the two worked really well and it was cool to see them create a character that shared enough interests without just making a girl version of Abed. I wouldn’t mind seeing Brie Larson becoming a regular for a while to flesh out this relationship a bit further, especially since after this season the group will be minus one due to the departure of Chevy Chase. More on that later.

One of my biggest worries after watching the first few episodes of season four was that Community would return to romantic driven relationships that dominated season one and it seems as though my prediction may have come true. Although the relationship between Troy and Britta may be on the back burner it seems as though the writers are trying to heat things back up again with Jeff and Britta. These two have way more chemistry than Troy and Britta but it’s a bit uneasy to watch the two flirt with each other without a mention of Troy. I like the idea that this group is a family and undercutting each other like this ruins that dynamic. They did it once in season two and it was quickly resolved. The relationships within the study group are messy and personally don’t do much for me but if this is the route the writers are going I hope that they can clear some confusion relatively soon.

A few positives this episode. Pierce returns to his wise old man status that has been dearly missed since season one. Going out of his way to help Britta with advice and support is a great change of pace for him and watching him put Jeff in his place was refreshing. It’s such a bummer to watch these last few episodes with Pierce knowing he’ll be gone after this season but I’m glad they’re giving us a great Pierce to remember before he leaves.

Britta

Pairing Shirley and Annie is always a fun experience though it does seem that the two didn’t reach their full potential this episode. Watching Britta’s struggle through the dance preparations was an easy way to connect with her this episode and the eventual payoff was rewarding. It was also nice to finally see her taking action against using her name as a verb to indicate something bad happening. It always felt like that slipped in uncontested from Britta. The episode also felt like it didn’t know what to do with Troy but the small gags he was in were chuckle worthy.

Overall Herstory of Dance feels like it fits right in the comfort zone of this season. Once again there’s an imbalance of comedy and tender moments. The episode does end on a heartwarming note but having one week to week begins to take away from the effect. The episode further delves into the study group’s romantic relationships, more so with Abed and new girl Rachel. Brie Larson brings a wonderful personality to Rachael that serves as a great on screen counterpart to Abed. The chemistry is great and it’s nice to see the writers create a romantic interest for Abed that’s not just a female version of him. With only a handful of episodes left Herstory of Dance seems like a weak foot to start on in this final stretch.

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