Community: Modern Warfare

“Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.”

“The Art of Discourse” sucked. But it’s a freakish aberration, and Community is back with its A-game in “Modern Warfare,” aka “The First Paintball Episode That Is Totally Awesome and Sets the Standard for a Four-Shirley Episode.”

The Glee club lures people with song. The debate team fell to infighting. The chess club uses pawns to draw people out. “Checkmate, bitches!” The drama club’s tears really will be real, and the Mexican standoffs will be colorful. In other words, “Modern Warfare” is Community’s post-apocalypse episode, and the end of the (Greendale) world is no laughing matter. The desire for priority registration—and the possible six-day weekend superpower one could acquire—has turned men into animals, and women into…wanimals.

(I brittaed that, didn’t I?)

Anyway, Community works every action-movie cliché into just 23-minutes, from the craziness of Chang’s suicidal paint-plosion to Jeff suddenly losing the gs on all of his frakkin’ gerunds. There are innumerable specific references to various movies, but in general the structure of the paintball fight follows the hallowed tradition of How to Build a Blockbuster, and includes such important scenes as the Plucky Heroes Huddle Around Fire and Lead Characters Have Sex At Odd Moment.

The frame narrative that begins and ends the episode consists of the study group, around the study table, in the study room, which is remarkably (in the final segment) free of paint. The group reminds us of the waxing and waning sexual tension between Jeff and Britta, as well as Shirley’s love for her kids and desire to spend more time with them. Who knew the answer to those conflicts would be paintball?

That Jeff and Britta finally had sex doesn’t resolve the tension, just tweaks it. Now, we’re left wondering if they’ll keep having sex, if Abed will figure out what’s different, and whether their friends-with-benefits relationship will turn into something else. (Probably not.) More importantly, Britta sacrificed herself to help Jeff win, and Jeff sacrificed his win to help Shirley get a class schedule appropriate to a mother with young kids. For two characters who don’t think they’re good people, those are awfully good actions.

Mark Says...

What can I say about 'Modern Warfare' that hasn't been said before? Well, I can think of something quite specific to say. Something I'm fairly certain none of you were ever expecting me to say, but I am going to say it anyway; one of the highlights of this episode, for me at least, is Chang.

Yes, you read that right, Chang. This guy:


While 'Contemporary American Poultry' was a parody of a single movie, 'Modern Warfare' is a lovingly crafted homage to the entire action genre. It is easy to imagine the writers getting together one night, watched every action movie ever made and making lots of notes. As such we get references to Terminator, Die Hard, 28 Days Later, The Warriors, and John Woo films like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard Boiled. Chang's brief appearance is a tribute to reference to Woo's Hong Kong work, with the study group's insane Spanish teacher cast in the role of Chow Yun-Fat. This is how Chang's unique brand of OTT craziness should be used, in short, controlled bursts. For once the episode actually benefits from his appearance rather than suffers as a result of it.

That said, I still wouldn't say no to someone dropping a cargo container on his head, like Riggs did to that evil South African in Lethal Weapon 2. New discussion topic; what action movie death would you most like to see inflicted on Chang?

Cool Cool Cool:

• That Guy: “The prize! The prize! We—we turned on each other like…animals!”

• Shirley: “Troy made God mad!”

• Jeff: “Oh, no! Oh, wait. It’s just blood. I thought it was paint, but it was just blood. Thank god.”

• I loved Jeff waking up from his car nap to the end of the world. And I love it not just because it’s a great reference to apocalypse movies and shows that start with the hero in a coma, but also because I, too, sometimes took naps in my car at school.

Four out of four Shirleys

6 comments:

celticmarc said...

AHHHHHHHHH

Dear God ! THE ONE about the first paintball war ! The pinnacle of the first season and one of (my) the top five of the series.


I shall return.....supper.

celticmarc said...

Full stomach.

Perfect review guys. And Mark's right : minimalist interventions by Chang are preferable indeed...And this one was awesome & perfect.

Imdb.com says this one was written by Dan Harmon and Emily Cutler. Ah !!! Brilliant !! (and/but I'm still apprehensive for October 19th)

See you in 2013 so I can make the difficult task of choosing my top 5 of the series and telling you. But you already know #1....

Greg Quinnell said...

For the record, "That Guy" has a name. It's Garret, and he's always sunny!

Harry Earle said...

Ahh I love this episode, it made my ardour for Community slip over the edge into full blown obsession.

I completely agree Mark, the showdown with Chang was the highlight of the episode for me too. It was a proper climax, especially the paint bomb, and set-up Jeff's war hero demeanour in the Dean scene afterwards.

Juliette said...

I had the disadvantage of watching this after I'd seen some of the highlights of season 2 (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Epidemiology) and before I saw most of season 1 (good thing they had that conversation about Sam and Diane in the cold open so at least I knew what was going on!). So it didn't have quite the impact on me it could have. But it's still pretty great.

ChrisB said...

What a great episode of television. I laughed out loud so much I watched it again just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Does it make me a bad person that Jeff’s waiting by the open door for Disco Guy to run into it made me howl, even the second time through?

While I loved the send-up of the action genre, my favorite part was Jeff and Britta sleeping together. Unlike so many “epic” couples we have shipped over the years (such as Sam/Diane and Ross/Rachel), these two are not in love and we haven’t been waiting for years for the kiss or hook-up. It was, therefore, much more fun to watch than so many of the long awaited kisses and hook-ups simply because it was unexpected and I had no expectations.