Community: “Basic Email Security” Season 6 Episode 6 Review

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The third time is not always the charm.

There’s a term in comedy writing called a Comic Triple or The Rule of Threes. It basically states that things are inherently funnier when they’re packaged in thirds. This applies to anything from slogans, to catchphrases, to recurring jokes. Three just makes everything more satisfying (see what I did there?).

Everything, that is, except for this most recent episode of Community. Towards the end of “Basic Email Security,” Abed bluntly states that this week’s plotline served as the closing act that started with season 2’s  “Cooperative Caligraphy” and continued with season 5’s “Cooperative Polygraphy.” Each episode employs a narrative that involves the entire cast spilling each other’s secrets, and becoming even more bonded after thoroughly hashing it out.

Abed’s quote was unnecessarily on-the-nose, even for a meta show like Community, but it got me thinking. The Rule of Threes might exist to enhance comedy, but the third part in any franchise is often its weakest. Yes, Toy Story 3 is an obvious exception, but for every great third act like that one, there are a million lesser outings like The Matrix RevolutionsSpider-Man 3, and X-Men: The Last Stand (though, to be fair, that series has since redeemed itself with First Class and Days of Future Past).

Perhaps this episode was destined for weakness all along. If so, it’s a shame, because it uses one of Community‘s best plot devices. The way the characters are able to interact, and eventually come to terms with each other, in these situations is usually exciting and very hilarious.

Okay, I will give “Basic Email Security” some credit. The scene in which the gang admits to reading each other’s leaked emails—the result of an anonymous hacker trying to stop a racist comic from performing at Greendale—is a rapid-fire confessional that’s ultimately engaging. The secrets that are revealed are deliciously shocking, and, more importantly, we learn more about Frankie and Elroy’s backgrounds.

The best parts of these episodes is how they use this form of storytelling to expand on the characters. Frankie’s sexuality is apparently a great point of curiosity for the group—something that started during “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing”—and her defensiveness of it makes me think it will come up again at a later point.

Elroy, meanwhile, is apparently very lonely. Though Keith David has given fine performances since his insertion into the show, this is the first time we really discover something about his character besides the fact that he’s a tech expert. This is a backstory that I sincerely hope gets brought up again, because the more well-rounded a character is on this show, the more importance there is to all the crazy shenanigans.

Still, this one scene can’t hold the entire episode together. It’s strange how quickly everyone agrees to allow their emails to be hacked in order to protect freedom of speech—although it is nice to see everyone support Britta, for once. Additionally, the final minutes feel rushed, as if the writers couldn’t figure out how to effectively close this trilogy, so they decided to make a joke about how the didn’t know how to close the trilogy. The tag at the end was just…the worst.

One of the best moments from the scene in the cafeteria arrives when Frankie and Elroy marvel at the way things used to be run. Chang used to be a teacher and the Save Greendale Committee used to be a study group. It’s funny to stand back and look at how much things have progressed.

Unfortunately, this scene also made me long for the show’s glory days, and made me think about how much this episode would’ve benefitted from the presence of Pierce, Shirley, or Troy. I’m not saying that Community has lost all of its charm, but the jump from network TV to online streaming service seems to have caused a greater dissonance than I realized. This could play out like the X-Men or Scream franchises, with things getting back on track after a brief bump in the road. Or, it could be like the Transformers franchise and just get continually worse. I’d hate for the latter to be true. Grade: B-

 

 

Some Other Notes:

– My biggest pet peeve of the entire episode is that Britta has a FLIP PHONE and we are all supposed to believe she can access email on it?? Get real, you guys.

– I briefly wondered is this was supposed to be a parody of the Sony hacking scandal, but then does that mean that the racist comic was The Interview?

– Chang’s one-liners are usually best ignored, but he won the episode by saying “…and frankly, I haven’t been well utilized since!” after Frankie is shocked he was a teacher.

– Dean Pelton’s “computer no worky” bit at the beginning cracked me up. Jim Rash always delivers.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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