Tuned In

The Morning After: In Dreamatoriums Begin Responsibilities

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Neil Jacobs/NBC

I loved last night’s Community, but I’m really posting here not to review it but to poll Tuned Inland as to what you thought of it. Community’s very-high-concept episodes (e.g., the various pop-culture parodies) tend to polarize viewers, as do the episodes that are lower on jokes and higher on character study (e.g., “Mixology Certification”). “Virtual Systems Analysis” was a rare combo of the two, in which the show brought the Dreamatorium to CGI life, to delve into the minds of Abed and Annie.

Danny Pudi has long been one of Community’s great discoveries as a performer. As a character, Abed can at times be hilarious and moving, at other times simply a vehicle for meta-commentary. “Systems” played to his strengths, showing off his uncommon gift for mimicking his co-stars, while also looking at what makes his character tick and suggesting a way forward for him. Abed’s eccentricities and ways of processing reality and conflict are amusing, but they also can be a challenge (Dan Harmon himself has said the character is likely on the autism spectrum). And one thing I’ve liked about the recent episodes of this season is that they’re forthrightly dealt with the fact that Abed is often no picnic for his friends to deal with.

Having Annie try to introduce him to the idea of empathy—and doing it not by “catering” to him, in her words, but treating him as a peer—is productive for his character and also revealing of hers. And I liked how Annie’s self-insight about the reason for her attraction to Jeff—that if she could get him to love, she could get anyone to—dovetailed with her effort’s with Abed: Annie is a caring person, but as with a lot of us, the reasons she wants to better other people can also be self-interested.

From where I was sitting, a layered, fascinating episode to watch, and one that also managed an even more disturbing Dean Pelton sight gag than I thought the show could imagine. But I bet some of you may disagree, so tell me: do you have good news or bad news? Update: Bonus question for Latin scholars—should the plural of “dreamatorium” be “dreamatoria”? If so, mea culpa.