Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th-anniversary milestone. This go-round, we’re delving into “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” one of the highest-rated Community outings. It’s an epic battle of good versus evil that takes place in the world of The Caverns of Draconis. Our study group and Neil are pitted against Pierce the Insensitive a.k.a. Pierce the Dickish a.k.a. Grandpa the Flatulent. There are dungeons. There are dragons. Sometimes all at once. Not to mention, there are fair elf maidens with which Hector the Well-Endowed can have his way. Wherein Lavernica, the AT&T of Dungeons & Dragons characters, can save the gnome race.
So, without further ado, let’s Jenga the shirt out of “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.”
The episode opens with Neil a.k.a. Fat Neil (Charley Koontz) and his tale of woe. An epic voiceover explains that Neil has been immensely depressed. People are cruel ashholes and they relentlessly tease him. From an early age, Neil found solace in Dungeons & Dragons. Jeff the Liar (Joel McHale) feigns interest in D&D in an effort to cheer up Neil. However, when Neil gifts him with an expansive collection of D&D books, Jeff and Annie the Day Planner (Alison Brie) sense impending doom. They decide to host a D&D game and invite Neil. Troy the Obtuse (Donald Glover), Abed the Undiagnosable (Danny Pudi), Shirley the Cloying (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Britta the Needlessly Defiant (Gillian Jacobs) participate.
Unfortunately, Pierce (Chevy Chase) catches wind of the gang’s get together. He’s irked about not being invited. Chang (Ken Jeong) is just sort of there. Abed is deemed Dungeon Master. He asks the crew to choose character profiles that are scrawled on pieces of paper. Full disclosure: Abed is not a names guy. Jeff is Marrrr. Annie is Hector the Well-Endowed (which was meant for Troy). Troy is Bing Bong the Archer. Shirley is Zippideedoo. Britta is Lavernica. Chang is Brutalitops, which sounds like a particularly vicious dinosaur. Last but not least, Neil is Duquesne. Welcome to Caverns of Draconis!
Next, Pierce swoops in and swipes Neil’s sword that took the latter 10 years to obtain. This is after Neil gives Pierce a magical cloak to keep Grandpa the Flatulent warm. Additionally, Pierce kills Chang’s character Brutalitops. RIP brutal dinosaur man. Pierce flees the scene. Neil is devastated. The only way they can feasibly catch Pierce and save the sword is to snag a Pegasus. Jeff suggests they head into town to ask the locals.
Then, Britta interacts with a resident gnome, voiced by Abed. Her social justice warrior instincts kick in and she’s overwrought by the plight of the gnomes. However, the group gets the info they need to forge ahead. Meanwhile, Pierce has Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen) grab every book he has on D&D. Grandpa the Flatulent’s plan is to study up on the game and subsequently win it.
Later, our crew encounters an ethereal elf maiden, also voiced by our fearless Dungeon Master. Jeff feels uncomfortable flirting with said elf maiden, so Annie steps in as Hector the Well-Endowed. What unfurls is a magical night of passion that we can only see through hand gestures. Troy takes notes regarding the appropriate amount of post-coitus spooning time. The elf maiden hands over a Pegasus.
Next, Pierce reenters the study room fueled by purpose. He’s reviewed Garrett’s D&D materials and feels he has an advanced understanding of the game. The gang believes they’ve found a dead Pierce wrapped in Duquesne’s cloak, but it’s actually the gnome waiter from the village. Britta’s distraught. Jeff thinks it’s all silly. The gnome waiter was merely a distraction tactic laid by Pierce. He snatches an amulet from a lake that grants him the ability to control a dragon called Draconis. Pierce proceeds to freeze time and enacts a shape-changing spell that makes Duquesne “as fat as Neil.” Additionally, he reveals that Jeff was the one who coined “Fat Neil.”
Meanwhile, Neil uses his turn to have Duquesne pity Pierce. Everyone follows suit by pitying Pierce the Dickish. Then, since Pierce unfroze time, Neil throws his sword at the amulet around Pierce’s neck. He succeeds in shattering it. Draconis is released from the amulet’s spell. He consumes Pierce, then shares his opulent wealth with the crew. After the game is over, Neil asks Pierce if he wants to play D&D again next week. He had fun.
The end credit scene features Troy and Abed arguing over what would be better: to have big ears or a tail. Troy believes that people will know when you’re happy if you have a tail. Abed counters that large ears are perfect for holding backpacks. They wander into the study room to find a different group within. Our favorite dynamic duo asks them to vote on which is best. Large ears win!
The one-liners and gags!
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is riddled with one-liners and gags aplenty. I dig the opening of the episode with the epic voiceover. It really sets the stage. Not to mention, the way Community runs with the “Pierce is a villain” arc in Season Two. His malicious antics are amplified in this episode, making it impossible to like him. That is until everyone starts pitying him because let’s face it — Pierce clearly harbors unacknowledged trauma.
My boy Troy, as per his usual, has some great lines. “You’re the AT&T of people!” never fails to make me laugh. “I attack them using my … additional notes,” is made all the better with Glover’s impeccable delivery. “Shouldn’t there be a board, or pieces or something to Jenga?” sounds like something I would say.
Here’s a fun bit from the narrator: “And so it was that the group began to describe themselves walking. And as they described themselves walking, so did Abed confirm they had walked.” When Jeff succumbs to his standard level of narcissism with “Look at that. What am I not good at?” and Britta snappily responds with “Sex.” Jeff’s face after she says that always cracks me up.
I love the title credits for this episode and how the Community Powers That Be mold it to fit the theme of “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.” Chang’s exit after he’s “killed” in the game is reminiscent of America’s Next Top Model or any other reality competition wherein a contestant loses. It’s so overdramatic and just damn perfect.
Fun fact: Hector was a hero of the Trojan War/Troy, so that could be the reasoning behind Abed wanting to give the character of Hector the Well-Endowed to Troy. On another note, if you look at Neil’s map at the beginning of the episode, you’ll notice the “Good Frozen Yogurt” shop is next to Greendale. That’s the establishment that initially connects the group, which is mentioned in Season Four’s “Heroic Origins.” And if the narration from this episode is giving you Lord of the Rings vibes, that’s because it’s a nod to Gary Gygax, creator of D&D. Gygax was heavily influenced by Lord of the Rings.
The Draconis of it all!
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is, without a doubt, one of Community‘s best episodes. This is an indisputable fact. I even added it to my top 15 Community episodes list. It’s quintessential Community. The epitome of why this show is so great. It’s a haven for nerddom. Plus, we love it when Neil puts Pierce the Dickish in his place. Never forget: Hector the Well-Endowed + elf maiden = one nasty roll in the hay.
And invite Pierce to your crap.
What do you love most about Community‘s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be buzzing about “Early 21st Century Romanticism.” Magnitude will be there. Pop-pop!
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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