Friday, May 18, 2012

3x20 "Digital Estate Planning" (To Friendship, Greendale, and Family)

"Digital Estate Planning"
Original Airdate: May 17, 2012

I've said it before throughout these blog-reviews that I genuinely do not have a least favorite character on Community. I'm not a huge fan of Pierce, however, but if there is one thing that watching this show has taught me, it's to never underestimate how valuable and fragile a character can be. Pierce Hawthorne is the type of person who audience members generally brush off as the crazy, racist old character. And, generally, that's how the rest of the group treats him as well. At the beginning of the year, even, Jeff's "Biology 101" fantasy made it clear that he believes life would have been better without Pierce in the study group. And - going even further back than that - throughout the entire second season, he served as an intra-group villain. We, as audience members, at that point in time may have even been a bit relieved to see him go... until he redeemed himself at the end of "For a Few More." And that's the thing about Community, really: there is always a chance for redemption. Not every character decides to take the road, but it's ALWAYS offered to them. Jeff and the rest of the study group learned first-hand exactly how much they need each other - how much they need every member of the group in order to feel complete. And Pierce, for all his rants and comments, actually needs the group too. But he doesn't feel worthy of them, and that makes him both vulnerable and pity-able. But one important thing to note is that in spite of the fact that Pierce mistreated the group and in spite of the fact that they don't always want him around, they are willing to fight for him. Because they love him. And that's what love is, really: you can love a person that you don't always like ("I love you, Binky. But I don't have to like you right now." Name that movie and you win a cookie.). You can get annoyed with their quirks and habits, but at the end of the day, you'd still do anything for them. You'd still spend two hours playing a video game because you know how important it is to them, so it's important to YOU. 

So, in the off chance that you completely zoned out for 90 minutes last night and were just happy to have a triple Thursday of Community and forgot what the plot of "Digital Estate Planning" was about, you're in luck because I am here to assist you. So we opened the first of the final three episodes of season 3 with Pierce taking the rest of the study group to a warehouse because he was told that he needed to be there to collect his inheritance. He was told to bring seven of his closest friends, and I think it's endearing and says a lot about how much Pierce actually cares about the group that he took all of them along. He hasn't always been on great terms with them all (Jeff and Britta are arguably the two he has been on the worst terms with in the past). Nevertheless, we meet Gilbert -- assistant to the late Cornelius Hawthorne, who informs the group that Pierce's father had a dying wish: that Pierce and all of his friends would play a video game. Whoever won the game, we discover later, would win the Hawthorne inheritance.

And I think it's intriguing that the group didn't protest to all playing a video game. Perhaps all of them, like Jeff, were merely intrigued to see how Pierce's father developed a video game. Or maybe it's just the sheer fact that since they have been expelled from Greendale, they have nothing better to occupy their time. Nevertheless, since it was something that they weren't required to do and did voluntarily (for Pierce, no less), I am impressed.

The majority of the episode is an 8-bit video game, and it was amazing. The study group begins to play around in the game, jumping and running with little likenesses of themselves. The entire concept seems like a lot of fun (minus Jeff accidentally murdering Annie and then getting murdered himself by evil zombie-like hippies within the first few moments of the game), until the 8-bit version of Cornelius Hawthorne throws a wrench in the fun. And Pierce, in a fundamental moment, sticks up for Britta. This intrigues me because he's so used to calling Abed "Ay-bed" and he usually refers to Britta as "Brittles," so it's endearing and sweet that he defends the blond member of the study group especially because - arguably, like I noted before - those two are one of the least close pairings among the study group. So it speaks volumes that he is willing to stick up for someone who isn't his favorite person, but who is a friend (re: "Introduction to Statistics" with Jeff and Pierce). 

The other, of course, fundamental moment occurs a few moments later when Pierce discovers that he must win the video game in order to claim his inheritance, or risk losing it. Automatically, his thoughts likely return to the last time he played a game with the group and how terribly that turned out for him (not to mention how much they wanted to beat him - and did). So he wants to strike first before they have a chance to strike him. And that's the thing about Pierce, and something he noted in "For a Few More." Pierce is the type of person who pushes people away because he's afraid they won't like him to begin with, so he gives them reasons not to. He purposefully tries to sabotage relationships, and the ones that stick are the ones he can count on as friends. That's what happened with the study group during their second year at Greendale -- he managed to push the group away and they pushed him back. And, in that moment, Pierce believed they weren't really devoted to being his friends. It's this weird sort of insecurity that paralyzes him, but it's intriguing to see how the study group last year handled him, and how they did so this year. This year they realized that they could pretty much handle anything together -- as long as they were, in fact, together. Completely. Even with their craziest, racist old friend. Pierce is still learning that he is wanted and needed and accepted just the way he is.

When the group assures Pierce that they won't be fighting against him to try and steal his Hawthorne inheritance, Gilbert notes that the group is playing the game wrong -- they're supposed to do battle, not join forces. "But Pierce is technically our friend," Jeff insists. "And we're not going to watch you screw him over." I think the most poignant thing about this remark is who it comes from -- Jeff. Jeff, the person who would have done anything to get rid of Pierce, but who has come to accept him as family. And maybe it's just because this year Jeff realizes exactly what Greendale means to him and what this group means to him. And maybe it's because he finally understands the feeling of belonging. And he wants Pierce to know that feeling too.

Since Gilbert is fighting against the group to gain the inheritance, he kills them all and sends them back to the beginning of the game. They all agree to band together and win the game for Pierce. But the elderly man has reached a point of desperation -- after his relationship with his dad, it's not just the inheritance that he fears losing, I think. He fears losing the rest of his identity and the very last shreds of the person he used to be. (Now, ironically, Jeff will feel the shreds of who he used to be slip away in a few episodes, but in a much better way.) Britta is the group member who comforts him, and I think - again - it's significant that these two support each other throughout the game. Britta is the person who is attempting to be a therapist, the person w ho usually Britta's it with crazy schemes and half-baked ideas. But when it comes to genuine emotions, Britta is the heart of the group and knows and relates to people better than she gives herself credit for. They're fighting for friendship, she assures the elderly man, which means they can't lost.

So the group sets out on their venture to get the white crystal from the black cave and take it to Hawkthorne castle, where Pierce can claim his inheritance and win the game. The group encounters a village and Abed talks to a computer character in order to get information. It's, of course, worth mentioning that Abed connects to the computer villager - Hilda - more than anyone else. And it's worth mentioning because of that fact -- he connects to people, even if they're not real. And I know that this moment may have been utilized to demonstrate that Abed has robotic qualities, but I think it's just an indicator that Abed is capable of caring about things that most people (like the rest of the study group) brush aside.

The group splits up -- Pierce with Troy, Annie with Shirley, and Jeff with Britta -- to locate weapons or anything else in the village that might help them on their journey. Annie and Shirley accidentally murder two people in the game and then set fire to the blacksmith shop where they committed the crime. Whoops. Pierce and Troy lose their clothes in a game of poker. Double whoops. And Jeff and Britta manage to locate some sort of apothecary where she brews a potion and Britta's it... sort of. I think that it's (as I've said before in these reviews) both ironic and endearing that whenever Britta attempts to succeed at something, she never quire does so in the way that she anticipated. She set out to prove that one of the study group members was crazy, but ended up proving that it was better not knowing or labeling. She tries so hard to be a good therapist that she says and does the wrong things and then, in doing so, somehow manages to become an even better therapist than she set out to be in the first place. She's backwards and messed up, but she's someone the group needs too. And she's someone who helps them out by Britta-ing the potion, because Gilbert kills Britta and takes it, only to find that it causes him to die.

After Britta returns from the beginning of the game, she discovers that Abed is bidding the group farewell. He's going to stay with Hilda, he informs them, to help her rebuild her life and town. And when the group reminds Abed that Hilda is just a program, he counters with: "People have said similar things about me." See, here's the thing -- we judge Abed for relating to things through movie and television. We cast him out sometimes as the weird one of the study group and berate him for the way that he acts toward others. Is his passion misguided? Often times, this is the case. But here is a moment where Abed's heart has never been more evident. He cares about people, even if they aren't real, because he knows what it feels like to NOT be cared about that way. It's sad, but it makes Abed even more human and compassionate to feel that way about something that isn't even living. And perhaps it's because this makes sense to him -- of course he would want to help someone and be there for them when he can totally and completely understand them. Maybe it's just more difficult for him to relate to people who don't share his similar view of life.

Gilbert returns from the beginning of the game just as the group retrieves the white crystal. The study group all die and -- in the real world -- Jeff leaps out of his chair and yells: "You're cheating! Which I have no problem with, except you're getting caught. And that's not cool!" (Oh, Jeff. How in some ways you have not changed.) Pierce joins Jeff in berating Gilbert for the way he's acting because he's not even family. But, in a plot twist, it turns out that Gilbert is family -- Pierce's half-brother, to be exact. This revelation hits the group and Pierce and they return to their chairs to continue the video game. 

The next move that Jeff makes is to mobilize his forces and give a speech. He says that even though Gilbert has the crystal and is close to beating the game, they have all died and been reborn. And that's what makes them heroes. Of course, the hilarious (and ironic) part is that Jeff's words are often just that -- words to inspire and to not really DO anything. And in the end, these speeches don't actually end up helping most of the people he is around. (Which, I know, is a deep way to interpret him giving a speech and then the group dying at the hands of the zombie-like hippies a few seconds later but... well, you've read these reviews, haven't you? Analysis is kind of my shtick.)

When Gilbert makes it to the castle, he encounters the video game version of Cornelius who informs him that if he wants to win the inheritance, he must sign a legal agreement that will force Gilbert to never disclose that he was a Hawthorne. The group, mobilized thanks to Abed (who built an entire city and baby!Abed army with Hilda), attacks the video game version of Cornelius and nearly manages to win the game together. However, the study group forfeits and I think it's significant that Pierce, out of all of the members, is so open about letting someone else claim his inheritance. This is the person who wrapped his entire life up in what he used to be (much like a certain ex-lawyer). He introduced himself in the pilot this way, and I think that it's likely because he just felt more comfortable in knowing WHO he was, even if he didn't like it. Even though Pierce despised his father, he was still a someone and that was better for him than being a no one. But the fact that he has come so far from that point and learned to accept himself as he is -- well, that is just evidence of how much Pierce has developed as a character.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- "I didn't bring my likeness!"
- "Jeff, you just murdered Annie." "Well, better than doing nothing!"
- I love the fact that Troy spends the first few minutes of the game just jumping around, which then causes Jeff to start hitting him.
- "Is he being ominous? Why are you being ominous?"
- "... I guess there's no hug button."
- "Yeah, I used to love dying, but that speech really turned me around."
- Some of Hilda's knowledge includes topics like "hover puppy" and "giant ant dance club."
- The Annie/Shirley scene in the village had me gasping for air because I was laughing so hard.
- "Stop playing like a girl."
- "Don't WE look comfy at a cauldron?"
- "I thought we could count on Britta to not screw up drinking!"
- "Unbelievable. Jeff bet all our lives on Britta... and won."
- "Annie. Let's find the Tin Man's heart later."
- "Troy and Abed shooting lava!"
- Whenever "Greendale is Where I Belong" plays, I kind of lose it.

All right, folks. Last night was triple the Community, which means triple the reviews! Thankfully, @elspunko helped me take some notes because I only had time to do one re-watch before bed. Be on the lookout for the reviews of "The First Chang Dynasty" and "Introduction to Finality" later on tonight (hopefully before 11 PM, EST!). :)


  1. Is the Quote from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? I swear I hear Kate Hudson saying this...

    I loved loved loved how the gang rallied around Pierce. Genuinely touching. How far they have all come...


      (Also, I'm *just* now going through my comments and replying to them. Whoops!)

      I sincerely love how this season was SO different in that regard from last season. :)