TV Review: Community S4E03 – Conventions of Space and Time
“Conventions of Space and Time” focuses on the continued friction of the Troy-Britta-Abed love triangle. Both Abed and Troy attempt to figure out how to deal with the fact that they no longer can spend every waking moment together. Meanwhile, Britta, to better connect with Troy, continues to search for something she can enjoy in his interests. It remains to be seen whether Troy will ever return the favor. I suppose that depends on which of the Troys we’re going to get the rest of the way: the thoughtful and empathetic one or the clueless, narcissistic version of Troy we saw throughout most of the first season. Troy telling Abed, “now, you’re sure it’s OK Britta’s here, because she can just wait in the car” does worry me a tad. Yes, Troy was the one making most of the effort to get into the relationship, but now it’s a two-way street and I hope the writers don’t simply focus on commitment-o-phobe Britta’s attempts to change herself for Troy.
The situation is complicated by the introduction of Toby (Matt Lucas), a British Inspector Spacetime fan who they meet up with at an Inspector Spacetime convetion, which provides the backdrop for almost the entire episode. Toby, seeing in Abed a kindred spirit, attempts to destroy Troy and Abed’s relationship, but is ultimately thwarted by Abed’s realization that he and Troy compliment one another so well because of their differences. Abed’s epiphany was rather weak, but the introduction of another character so like Abed brought an interesting dynamic to the plot and some good laughs.
The B plot revolves around Annie and Jeff’s will they/won’t they relationship that for the longest time has been hovering in the background, glimpsed only briefly and usually through Annie’s eyes. We get more of the same here as Annie pretends to be Jeff’s wife in front of the Hotel staff, putting on an elaborate play for herself that ends in her throwing a drink in Jeff’s face for flirting with Lauren (Tricia Helfer), an Inspector Spacetime fanatic who mistakes Jeff, for the actor who plays Inspector Spacetime’s iconic villain, Thoraxis. The plot wraps up nicely with a couch conversation between Jeff and Annie about the nature of their relationship, though the viewer is left with more questions than answers. Ultimately, the issue devolves to whether there is a real romantic connection between the two or not. Are they simply friends who are attracted to one another? Do they both think that things would never work between them or is there something deeper there? I keep vacillating back and forth: Jeff and Annie getting together in the end would certainly be comforting and warm my cockles, but I can’t help but think that they really don’t make much sense together. Besides, it would be an excruciatingly obvious development. We’ve seen it a thousand times on television before, do we really need it again? In the end, whichever path the writers chose, what matters most is giving Annie the strength and agency to make the correct choice.
Pierce and Shirely are relegated to being mostly afterthoughts in the episode, but Shirely still manages to provide one of the best moments as she explains to the TV execs what Inspector Spacetime (and frankly all great shows) are really about: “it’s smart, complicated and doesn’t talk down to its audience.” Of course, it’s Pierce’s comment of “instead of this constable, what about a blonde with long legs and a tennis racquet?” that the execs go with.
“Conventions of Space and Time” is far from perfect, but it sticks close to Shirely’s comment, unlike The Big Bang Theory’s convention episode, “The Bakersfield Expedition.” This not being a Big Bang Theory article, I won’t give much away, but their portrayal of nerdom is a frustratingly schizophrenic one: at times a refreshing take on geeks and their interests packaged up and shiny for a mainstream audience, while at others devolving into the most trite and idiotic nerd-bashing. And that’s not even mentioning the out of character sexism that Sheldon has been displaying on and off this season. There are some great and hilarious moments in “The Bakersfield Expedition”, but they’re overshadowed by the lazy stupidity of the rest. That’s not to say Community’s portrayal of conventions didn’t take a few easy pot shots (the group of guys swarming around Britta was cringe-worthy), but they were few and far between.
Once again, we are left with an enjoyable episode, but not one that was particularly funny or memorably by Community’s standards. I’m left wondering whether we are making progress with these characters or if the writers are just recycling old tropes. Shirely and Pierce being left out once again sure makes it feel like the latter. Oddly enough, it seems to be Abed who is developing the most, but perhaps that makes perfect sense given Abed’s static nature throughout most of the show’s run.
- Chang is still missing.
- Finally, we get to see how far Britta and Troy’s relationship had progressed physically.
- The dreaded truncated introduction returned. There’s no excuse for cutting the best theme song in TV.
- The best part of the episode might very well be all the crazy costumes, posters and props at the convention itself, particularly the Orion Slave Girl poster on the inside of the Police Box.
- Pierce refers to Inspector Spacetime as “Captain Warphead.”
- Annie spitting out the Scotch, then smiling and saying, “Mmm, tastes of bog” was possibly my favorite moment.