By the beard of Gary Gygax, I really enjoyed last night’s Community. It always seems to be the episodes that take a small conceit and blow it up into something crazy and wonderful that work the best for me. Paintball becomes all-out war, a lost pen sets off a bottle episode that teaches us the phrase “bottle episode,” and a game of Dungeons & Dragons becomes a magical quest of sorcery and sarcasm. Which is really what D&D’s all about anyway. (Not that I played it, I wasn’t a nerd. Plus, I was too busy with all my super-awesome cool-kid stuff like, um, Magic the Gathering and preparing for the Mathlympics.)
To me, though, the most interesting thing about last night’s episode was what they did with Pierce. After a season and a half, everyone else in the study group has settled comfortably into their form-fitted character slot: Jeff is the wiseass with the devil-may-care attitude that eventually turns into a begrudgingly devil-does-care attitude; Britta is Jeff’s foil and the annoyingly self-righteous crusader; Annie is the good-girl-gone-bad or the bad-girl-gone-good depending on how you look at it; Troy is the earnest puppy; Shirley the den mother; Abed the pop culture Rain Man and occasional Christ figure.
Pierce was always the odd one out, character-wise. I mean, he’s got plenty of traits and tics: Old, cranky, oblivious, casually racist, aggressively racist, mind-bogglingly racist, etc., but he’s always seemed to be more on the periphery, tossing in a joke or an ethnic stereotype when the occasion called for it, but not all that much else. The last two episodes, however, seem to be reshaping him into something new. Last week he manipulated Annie, let his ego take over the play, and convinced a room full of children that drugs were awesome. And this week’s episode pushes him even further in the realm of outright villainy. In D&D terms, he rolled an 18 in total assness.
Sitting on his throne of evil (and file boxes) Pierce was basically the Sauron of the episode, taking over the game meant to boost Fat Neil’s self-esteem and dishing out more nasty comments than Don Rickles playing the dozens. And what’s more, he’s totally unapologetic at the end. Which makes me wonder: Is Pierce essentially becoming the show’s Cartman, a hilariously terrible person that we love to hate and love even more to see get his comeuppance? I think I could go with that. Pierce is always funniest at his meanest, and making him the go-to villain would at least give him something to do.
What do you think? Do you like Pierce as the bad guy? Is he the chaotic evil to Jeff’s chaotic neutral and Abed’s neutral good? Are you a total geek if you understood that last sentence? (Yup. Embrace it.)