Community Review: Ep 23, A Fistful Of Paintballs
by Faith-Ashleigh Wong
The end of the season is in sight and this season Community finishes off with a paintball-bang. So gear up, grab yourself a paintball gun and plenty of ammo because Greendale Community College is becoming a paintball warzone again.
A Fistful Of Paintballs is essentially the sequel to last season's Modern Warfare. Clearly choosing to forget the chaos of last year, the dean decides to hold another paintball competition. This time he teams up with Pistol Patty's Cowboy Creamery, an ice cream company, who offers up a very generous prize of one hundred thousand dollars in cash to the last student standing. Cha-ching!
This two-part episode pays tribute to the good ol' spaghetti western; specifically it is inspired by the Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone. The title of the episode very closely resembles the first film in that trilogy, A Fistful Of Dollars, and even the title sequence is a nod at The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
As with last year's competition, the study group's friendships and loyalty to each other are put to the test. We soon find out that the group have split into different alliances. Annie appears to be going it alone. Pierce has set up Fort Hawthorne. And Chang proves an untrustworthy and flaky teammate, hopping from group to group betraying each one at every step in his bid to survive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode even though I generally am not a fan of the western. I really thought the episode captured the genre perfectly though. Loved the freeze frame animated panels with the study group's new western names. The action sequences were really well choreographed and skilfully edited with excellent camerawork, in particular the use of slow motion and close-up reaction shots. What I enjoyed the most was the accompanying soundtrack; very appropriate to the genre and perfectly complemented what we see on screen.
Annie really shone in this episode. She is transformed in the big bad world of paintball and takes on a persona that is clearly her alter ego. Being at paintball war evidently brings out her bad-ass-ness and I like it! Abed was another standout for me but it comes as no surprise. If anyone's going to excel in a fabricated reality that is mirrored after a film it's going to be the study group's resident cinephile.
Abed manages to convince Annie to join him and Jeff and the newly reunited trio soon run into Britta, Shirley and Troy. Unfortunately it is on less-than-friendly terms as the latter trio have drifted to the ";dark side" and are working for Pierce and his saloon-style safe zone. It seems Pierce has ordered for Jeff's arrest, with a very generous ";gay and alive" bounty on Jeff's head.
The group are temporarily united as one when Pierce suggests they work together to win the game and split the money seven ways. While not entirely convinced by his ";warm and fuzzy" sentiments, they agree to the plan. However an encounter with a mysterious paintball-shotgun-wielding contender – ";The Black Rider" – not only serves to threaten Jeff's alpha male status but also confirms their suspicions, that Pierce is still who he has been all season: the villain of the group.
Now definitely in the need of ammo because of Pierce's betrayal, the study group go to confront a very traumatized dean (who ironically was found hiding in a closet!) and demand he give up his secret stash of paintball ammo so they can put an end to the madness. Annie, on the other hand, is more determined to put an end to Pierce...with a paintball machine gun. And boy does she handle it like a pro! Pierce soon confesses his true motives: he wants to get back at the group for excluding him from a game of cards a few days ago.
His plan backfires however when Annie confesses that they weren't playing cards but were actually doing a secret ballot on whether to keep Pierce in the study group. The observant ones would have noticed that Annie's western name is the only one that was a red card – Ace of Hearts. This turns out to be no coincidence. In a clever little twist, we find out that their card names actually represented their vote on whether to keep Pierce in or out.
Having his worse fears confirmed, Pierce goes rogue and leaves the group, vowing revenge. Meanwhile a lost and blindfolded Chang gets executed by paintball turret gun and subsequently we discover that the paintball war is not finishing any time soon – in fact, it is only just beginning.
In my opinion, this trumps Modern Warfare in every way. Fantastic execution overall – the cast were in top form, narrative arc was written and paced flawlessly and the paintball gun battle sequences were action-packed and visually exciting. It was just such an entertaining watch from start to end. It's not one of the funniest episodes but there are still some really great one-liners, particularly from Jeff being insecure about his large forehead and The Black Rider's ";big guns".
Judging by the previews for next week, we are in for one hell of a ride! I think the storylines from this episode did well in setting everything up and building the tension and excitement for what is to come which is quite clearly one epic paintball battle to (hopefully not!) the death.