(This is the twenty-third part in an ongoing series, in which I am writing brief reviews of each and every episode of Dan Harmon's beloved cult- comedy "Community." Originally conceived as a response to NBC's cancellation of the series before it was revived for its final season on Yahoo.)
This is it. The big one. The episode to end all episodes.
This... Is... Paintball.
At this point, there's almost no introducing "Modern Warfare", the twenty-third episode in the first season of Dan Harmon's "Community." It's kind of transcended the series in a strange way. Having become sort-of a mythical symbol of not only the series as a whole, but all high-concept and themed episodes in television at large. It's famous. Beloved. Iconic. Every time someone talks about television and one- off episodes that stand alone, "Modern Warfare" is one of the first things to pop up. And it's definitely for good reason. This just might be not only one of the finest episodes of the season... it might be one of the best episodes of the entire series... And it also might just be one of the best half-hours of television to air in the past ten years.
A loving send-up to all things action and adventure, we follow Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) as he awakens from a nap in his car to discover that Greendale has degenerated in a sort-of post-apocalyptic wasteland. A result of a campus-wide game of paintball announced that afternoon by Dean Pelton. (Jim Rash) Jeff slowly begins tracking down other members of the study-group, who have become ruthless warriors in a struggle to attain the grand price of the tournament- Priority Registration that would allow whoever wins to pick and choose their classes for the following semester before anyone else. And they will be forced to fight against roving gangs of other students and corruption at the highest of levels in their attempts to win!
Part of the great appeal of "Modern Warefare" is that it is quintessential "Community" in virtually every sense... only dialed up to 11 on the insanity scale. The series is renowned and beloved for its wonderful postmodern meta sensibilities, and in every sense "Modern Warefare" is the most dramatic and hilarious example of this. It's one of the most dense and outlandishly hilarious episodes of the series, and virtually every scene... every line of dialog... every visual cue is a callback to something. Whether it be "Die Hard", "Warriors" or "Escape from New York", almost every single aspect in its 22 minute length is a loving homage.
It also doesn't hurt that the episode is helmed by famed action- movie director Justin Lin and written by the talented writer/producer Emily Cutler. Together, the two perfectly capture the essence of the action-adventure genre with ease and deliver laughs and thrills with great consistency. You'll be surprised by just how exciting the episode it, and how Cutler is able to raise the stakes while Lin thrills with dynamic camera-work and top-notch editing. The cast also shines wonderfully, and it's one of those great episodes that gives both Jeff and Gillian Jacob's Britta a lot of keen development and great moments. Which is always appreciated as they are my favorite characters in the series. There's also a few nice sequences with Yvette-Nicole Brown's Shirley, whom often is overlooked in the series.
There's really no other way around it. "Modern Warfare" is a triumphant and iconic episode in "Community" history. A benchmark for the series that came out of nowhere and thrilled audiences. And even to this day, it remains a favorite for fans the world over. "Modern Warfare" easily earns a perfect 10 out of 10.
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