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Community – The Dungeons & Dragons episode

"Fat Neil" returns as the gang learns that jokes have consequences. Plus, Chang wears some ridiculously elaborate body paint.

- Season 2, Episode 14 - "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"

I was a little concerned going into this episode of Community. I knew that it was the Dungeons & Dragons episode, and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get a lot of the jokes because I know basically nothing about D&D. However, the writers did such a tremendous job of showing what the game is about that I was instantly caught up. I learned more about this game in thirty minutes than I had learned in the past thirty years of being alive. The story was original, entertaining, funny and touching. It’s probably the best episode of Community that I never want to see again.

This is kind of strange for a TV show, but it happens with movies a lot — Schindler’s List, Requiem For a Dream. Most people have a list of excellent movies that are just a little too difficult to watch multiple times. My sister, for instance, can’t watch anything in which animals are hurt. Black Beauty scarred her for life. For me, I can’t stand watching people get bullied.

This wasn’t the common schoolyard fight that you usually see portrayed in television and movies. This was a much more realistic, insidious form of bullying. Calling Neil “Fat Neil” was portrayed as a joke on another episode, and it bothered me. It seemed like a cheap shot; an easy laugh. But that’s why I respect the writers on this show so much: They showed that a joke, which would have been just a one-off “ha ha” moment on any other show, has consequences.

I thought I was ridiculous because the intro, in which the narrator described Neil’s depression and how Jeff recognized it and tried to help, almost made me cry. I tend to cry over TV and movies in general, but I can generally hold my shit together during Community, if nothing else. However, it turned out that I was only going to get more ridiculous as the episode went on.

Before I get to that, I want to commend those who wrote the actual D&D story. Even in movies, Fantasy is my least favorite genre, but I found this oddly compelling. I was on the edge of my seat as the gang was trying to get the sword back from Pierce. I think I barely breathed the entire time they were making their way across the forest. I was amazed at how much it kept my attention.

This segued really well into Pierce’s return. My nerves were already taut, so his insult after insult really got to me. By the time he said that Jeff was the one who coined the name, “Fat Neil,” I actually started to cry. Yes, I know I’m dumb, but it really upset me. Charlie Koontz, who played Neil, had the most heartbreaking expressions, and I simply could not hold it together. As embarrassing as it is, I fully admit that I cried throughout the rest of the episode – and maybe a little bit after.

So, yes. Community‘s Dungeons & Dragons episode had quite a different effect on me from the one I was expecting. I realize I’m ridiculous, but I honestly don’t think I can watch this again. It just broke my heart. What did you guys think? I’m sure most of you were able to concentrate on all of the funny parts.

Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

12 Responses to “Community – The Dungeons & Dragons episode”

February 3, 2011 at 9:58 PM

I know it was supposed to be D&D based, but I actually loved the opening LoTR spoof. Even down to the Cate Blancett-like narrator and the black backgrounds, it was divine. :)

And I love that Jeff is trying to be a better person.

February 3, 2011 at 9:59 PM

I also appreciated the dignity they gave Neil.

February 3, 2011 at 10:19 PM

. . . . .


If I have nightmares from that picture above, I’m blaming you.

That is all.

February 3, 2011 at 10:54 PM

Blame me — I replaced her pic with that one.

February 4, 2011 at 4:17 AM

I actually screamed for a second upon seeing that image of Chang for the first time. It looks so ridiculously scary.

As for the rest of the show, it was amazing. It took on bullying in a way that was both funny and rather heartwarming. It also made me want to play Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t really imagine that happening. (It could arguably have been the best product placement ever; I’m assuming the company that sells D&D rule sets didn’t actually pay for the episode though.)

February 4, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Ha. Yes, Keith did replace it. I read your comment via email and was so confused as to why you were freaked out by my innocuous photo of Jeff and Neil.

February 3, 2011 at 11:41 PM

The other thing I was really impressed with was how they didn’t flash into the fantasy on screen like in the Christmas episode. They really got the idea of D&D – letting your imagination take over to create an awesome story. :)

February 4, 2011 at 8:56 AM

But how many D&D geeks out there are going to call this episode crap because there’s really no way Pierce could have been throwing out turns like he was? Or maybe I’m missing a part of the rules that allows you to shout out like that without a roll?

February 6, 2011 at 6:08 AM

I have a friend who is super into tabletop games and I told him to watch the episode. While he said it wasn’t necessarily kosher, he still enjoyed it. I believe his exact wording was, “This isn’t as tactical as how we play D&D, but it’s still pretty funny.”

February 4, 2011 at 9:03 AM

I agree. like I said, it was utterly compelling, and all they were doing was just telling a story while sitting around a table.

February 4, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Loved what they did with the credits, I’ve always liked when shows (Supurnatural, Fringe) do that

February 7, 2011 at 9:51 PM

Really fantastic episode all the way through. I loved how absurdly, abjectly evil Pierce was to Neil, but at the same time I felt for the guy. It’s weird how these writers could make me feel those seemingly incompatible emotions simultaneously.

“What shape would you like him to take?”

Pierce is such a horrible person, and yet I love that he is on the show. I want to see more episodes involving side characters. I love almost everything this show does.

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