When talking about the previous episode, Donald Glover/Troy’s farewell, I highlighted how big a hole he was going to leave and that Dan Harmon’s best bet at replacing him was to utilize the Duncan/Chang/Hickey combo that he now has at his disposal.
Well it looks like Dan Harmon had that same line of thinking; Annie’s first lines officially introduce Chang as a Study Group 2.0 member, and both Duncan and Hickey were given zingers in the opening scene.
But I have to say, I am starting to get a little tired of "ex-cop" Buzz Hickey. The gruff cop thing was hilarious when the show first started playing with it and we could all go, "That's Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad," but it’s starting to get a bit tiresome, even if it’s no fault of Jonathan Banks’. I’ think he deserves to try something a bit more out of his normal repertoire in the very near future.
Duncan and Chang, on the hand, have whittled their characters down to their best bits and are now back with a vengeance. John Oliver’s great at playing the confused man (see: The Daily Show), and Ken Jeong outright stole this episode with his "Bear Down For Midterms” party theme. In previous seasons, these two had a great dynamic, and it would make sense to develop that "friendship" as this season/show goes along.
And speaking of "friendships," the Britta/Abed C-storyline was like one drawn-out stand-up comedy joke about people ruining Game of Thrones for those that haven't seen it (#RedWedding). They’ve never been great 1-on-1 together -- except maybe when Abed turned evil and psychoanalyzes her -- and if it hasn’t happened by now, I don’t think it’s going to happen ever.
But speaking of Abed…
He’s the one character who is going to have the hardest time bouncing back from Troy’s departure, both in terms of his emotional state and how he's going to continue relating to the rest of the group/the world at large. It would make sense for him to gravitate back towards Jeff (see: “Investigative Journalism” and “Critical Film Studies”), but Harmon went in a ballsier route and (re)introduced a love interest into our little robot’s heart. And while I always had a thing for the Secret Service agent, Coat Check Girl lets Harmon play out his John Hughes/Scrubs-esque fantasies now.
It’s an interesting (and risky) move, but something had to be done, and Harmon has never been one to play it safe. Now, he’s just got to hope for the best that this bet pays off.
And speaking of gambling, he’s also put a lot of chips behind Allison Brie.
When Donald Glover (very much a star) left, his power vacuum wasn’t distributed among the other cast members, but gobbled up by Brie. She’s been a major player in almost every storyline we’ve had this year. And while she’s a fan favorite, she’s going to have to work just a little bit harder to help Joel McHale carry the load as a true lead as opposed to just being a strong member of an ensemble.
She's got the acting chops, and she has the looks. It's going to be exciting to see what she does with this opportunity.
And though I fully admit this is unrelated, I can’t end this without mentioning Charley Koontz (aka Fat Neil). His "too soon" speech was absolutely fantastic, and his brief camera time this season has been amazing. I have to imagine his PER number must be off the charts. Keep it up Fat Neil, and long live Clan Duquesne.
GRADE: B -
"Welcome to the labyrinth, kid--only there ain't no puppets or bisexual rock stars down here.” - Buzz Hickey
"My god, Annie, what kind of labyrinth have you created? Certainly not the magic kind with puppets and macho rock stars” - The Dean
"Man, this got Sorkin-y” - The Dean
"No, come back! Let's be fat dogs about this!” - Britta
"IT’S A BEAR DANCE!!!" - Garrett