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Zombies (and Dancing Queen): Community's Awe-Inspiring Halloween Spectacular

As I said last night on Twitter, I didn't think I could love Community more than I already did and yet last night's episode ("Epidemiology"), written by Karey Dornetto (who previously scripted the "Contemporary American Poultry" episode) and directed by Anthony Hemingway (True Blood), proved me wrong entirely.

In the hands of the immensely talented cast and crew of Community, this Halloween episode transcended all boundaries, injecting horror tropes into its comedic trappings without sacrificing the ephemeral spirit of what makes this show unique in the first place. Rather than offer up a dream or a similar faux reality, Dan Harmon and Co. found a way to have an actual zombies attack on Greendale Community College... and still keep the emotional integrity of the series.

While people succumb to an illness related to a highly classified experimental military compound purchased as "taco meat" by a cheap Dean Pelton and the gang attempts to stay alive long enough, the horror gives way to a storyline in which Troy and Abed's friendship is tested. When their initial plan to go to the Halloween party as Ripley and the Alien from Aliens (hell, there was even a cat lurking about the place) falls apart dramatically, Troy attempts to cast off his "nerd" trappings by reinventing himself as a bare-chested "sexy Dracula," complete with a toilet seat cover that reads, well, "Dracula."

Community did it right by keeping the emphasis on the humor and emotion while juxtaposing their bread and butter with the horror of zombies and a constant stream of ABBA (along with the dean's personal voice memos). The spooky opening credits, George Takei's narration, and zombie attacks set to "Waterloo" and "Dancing Queen" all set the tone for this fantastic installment, which ranks up there with "Modern Warfare" as the all-time best episodes of Community.

And they definitely pushed the envelope in terms of the horror. I was on the set for two days while they filmed this episode (in preparation for this story) and was able to see the initial "ZOMBIE ATTACK!" as well as the gang barricade themselves in the study room... and then watched as Annie was pulled through the broken window by a mob of zombies. The constant biting, the mob mentality, the sheer terror of it all were brilliant brought to life here.

It helped that the costumes for the gang were so hilarious. Abed's Aliens costume (with bike messenger helmet), Shirley's Glinda (which I knew right away that's what she was meant to be), Britta's T-Rex (or "dragon turtle"), Chang's Peggy Fleming ensemble, Troy's Ripley... and even Jeff's lazy, lazy David Beckham.

I'm also extremely curious to see whether the writers address the fact that Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley and Ken Jeong's Chang seemed to have had sex in the women's bathroom during the zombie apocalypse. I expected them to break the scene before Chang actually kissed her but the fact that they slid out of view seemed to point towards some mode of interaction there... and which was seemingly later confirmed by Chang's panicked voicemail message to Troy. Given that Troy is now the only one who knows that something happened between the two, will he keep his mouth shut? Or will Shirley and Chang develop feelings for each other outside of a life-and-death situation?

I was glad to see the Community broke the trend of the black man being the typical horror victim by having Troy outlast the entire gang... and save the day by reaching the thermostat and lowering the temperature in the library. (Or Li-scary, as it were.)

What else did I love? The return of pottery savant Rich (a.k.a. "Chiquita M.D."), Shirley's "end of days" routine, Chang attempting to catch everyone in an act of racism, that cat ("is someone throwing that thing?"), the crawl space, Abed's sacrifice for Troy, the ironic juxtaposition of flesh-eating zombies and ABBA's Greatest Hits, and anything involving Jim Rash's Dean Pelton, really. (What does one do with whole milk if not drink it?)

Ultimately, "Epidemiology" ranks up there with the best of the best of Community, raising the bar of creative spirit for the show and, really, for television comedies in general. Other comedies should wish they could be this gonzo, this hilarious, this experimental. Thanks to Community, the competition all seems a little bit less funny today.

Next week on Community ("The Aerodynamics of Gender"), Abed discovers his inner mean girl; Jeff and Troy embrace a Zen-like spirituality when they uncover a secret trampoline on campus; Pierce lands in the hospital.


Bella Spruce said…
One of the best Community episodes ever and definitely one of the the best Halloween specials. I'm constantly impressed by what this show gets away with (Paint Ball War! Outer Space Adventures!) without ever sacrificing the funny.

There was a lot of humor. And a lot of blood.
Budd said…
I agree, great episode. I love Troy and Abed as much as they love each other.
Tillie said…
this was seriously one of the funniest episodes that they have shown in a while. I loved the whole thing. I'm glad they did a halloween episode!!

ps - i know you gave up on The Office, but it's cold open this week was the best one in a LONG time!
Jace Lacob said…

I actually watched this past week's episode of The Office via screener a few weeks back and agree that the cold open was pretty damn funny. (Sadly, couldn't say that about the rest of the episode.)

Agree about Community. Just an amazing installment that showed off just how incredible and versatile this show is!
Heather said…
I really didn't think it could get better than the paint ball episode. I was wrong!

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