Community Slaps On Another Coat of Paint

Community is now halfway through an ambitious two-part finale that has brought paintball back to Greendale and is delivering one of the most conceptual episodes of the show's short life. "Fistful of Paintballs" isn't a true sequel to Season 1's seminal "Modern Warfare," a fan favorite and essential Community episode. But it's impossible not to compare the two; while they may not be identical twins, they're at least distant cousins.

As fun as last night's episode was (and on its own, it was very enjoyable), I simply couldn't ignore the feeling that Community had done this before. And that's not really a feeling I expect from Community. The show has become one of TV's best comedies thanks to its ability to distinguish itself and not fall back sitcom tropes. It's not just "different," it's intelligently different. Much of the fun of watching the show comes from being completely blindsided by each new episode, and the element of surprise that drenched us in "Modern Warfare" evaporated quickly in "A Fistful of Paintballs." There's a debate raging over which episode was better, but I don't think it's even close: It has to be "Modern Warfare." But that's because "Modern Warfare" was so good and so fresh.

Of course, it's one-million percent pointless to debate which was better, because "Fistful of Paintballs" is only halfway over (next week we'll close out the season with "For a Few Paintballs More"). And aside from lacking an element of surprise, the episode was ridiculously entertaining. Who didn't love those animated character cards and the stylized show introduction? Community is great at sticking to its guns and seeing a concept all the way through, and "Fistful of Paintballs" lassoed the Spaghetti Western format and rode it into the sunset.

Annie (in Western wear, *drool*) was the centerpiece, and rightfully so. "She's pretty awesome today," said Abed. True, but she's also awesome every other day, and every night in my dreams. The episode further explored Pierce as a villain, and Annie as the only member of the group who doesn't have the heart to cast him out of the study group. The fact that we saw this whole showdown through her eyes leads me to believe that the next episode could be the one we've all been waiting for: the episode where Pierce finds his redemption and stops being a jerk every week. Pierce has been a dividing force in Community's excellent second season, and believe me, the producers are very aware of this. If something like Shirley's pregnancy or an entire episode devoted to reminiscing about the past season aren't good enough subjects for a finale, then addressing Pierce's behavior has to be, right?

Guest-star Josh Holloway (Lost's Sawyer) was perfect for the role of The Black Rider, fitting seamlessly into the great cast (who I promise I voted for when we compiled our Best Ensembles list yesterday). I just hope he scrubs that paint off and returns next week. But the episode really belonged to Alison Brie, who showed off the seldom-seen-but-always-enjoyable adventurous side of Annie. Plus, let's not beat around the bush here, she was firecracker-hot from start to finish. Hottest woman on TV!

Aside from rehashing some familiar territory, "Fistful of Paintballs" was more a visual treat than an all-out laugh riot. But the best part of it? It's only halfway done!


Extra Credit:
... Though its silliness and themed episodes grab the headlines, Community thrives on the strength of its characters and their relationship to each other as the best study group ever to never study at an institution of higher learning. There's something warm and fuzzy that occurs whenever Jeff gives one of his near-the-end speeches and we realize this misfit crew of strangers simply belongs together.

... That's what has made this final stretch of Community so strong. Two weeks ago, we got a genius clip show that employed a fantastic concept—never-before-seen clips of the gang on wacky misadventures—to emphasize the togetherness of the group. Last week, high concepts were shelved in favor of resolving one of the season's biggest storylines: Shirley's pregnancy. Both episodes could have easily served as finales—they were that good. I'm hoping "For a Few Paintballs More" continues to explore the group and its dynamics instead of simply concentrating on the pizazz of paintball.

... It was entertaining, enjoyable, easy on the eyes, but was there something missing in this episode? Could it have been funnier?

... Dean Pelton continues to be hilarious, especially of late.

... Part 2 needs some Magnitude! POP POP!


How would you compare "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "Modern Warfare"? Is it even fair to compare the two?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (33)
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@ Television4me No need to be snarky... I just don't happen to see how an egotistical, self absorbed jerk turning into a whiny loser who lubes himself up to chase monkeys through ductwork, argues with hermit crabs and chases his backpack around in a circle is considered "development." In a similar way that I don't see how characters having changes that are borderline bipolar is developed either. This is my favorite show on tv, in a long time for that matter but being completely honest it was unclear whether this was going to be picked up for a third season and turning characters into charicatures without a good reason is a good way to jump the shark.
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@ fachizzzzle Agree 100%, If it weren't for the surprise factor in modern warfare this IS definitely Better, also... wasn't it Jeff that didn't want pierce out?
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I disagree, I didn't get that "haven't they done this before feeling" from this episode. Usually I watch community the day after it airs (on Hulu etc.), but I waited until today, because I wasn't excited for it. I didn't really like "Modern Warfare" (because I don't play the game), so I went into this episode with a "Here We Go Again..." attitude. That being said, I was hooked within the first 5 minutes. This episode was SO much better. There seems to be an actual story being told, as opposed to an episode theme playing out (*cough* Modern Warfare). This episode was so awesome that I might actually watch it live!
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@Ethakk. It's called "character development"
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I could watch a whole season of paintball episodes. This just brings a smile to my face. I can't wait for next weeks finale!
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Yes its been done before. IT was great last time and it was great this time. Plus I love me some paintball.
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Why are we arguing about best comedy on TV by far,what about all those other shows that people call comedy and those are not able to
produce one funny show in all season and all I can see on TV.com is talk
about community,is it good as previous episode,is it good as the last season.
Can u see it even you don't have any other show to compare it to
so u r using Community to compare it to...Community..really
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That said this is still the only show other than maybe Fringe or possibly Bob's Burgers (yeah I know but I still like it lol) that I intentionally turn the tv on to watch.
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I don't really understand this season to be honest. Chang used to be just be a selfish jerk, now he's insane and annoying. Britta used to be kind of a hipster but somewhat normal, now she is an in your face feminist blah blah blah which is even more annoying than what they did to Chang. Pierce used to be likeable but "old fashioned" now he's borderline evil which is fine if that was just some overarching plot point. Annie seems to be insanely girly and "childish" as opposed to trying to be more adultlike than the rest of them. Troy and Abed seem to be the only ones who's characters are the same people. I also hope they don't go too over the top with episodes like the Halloween one next year, while funny....zombies.... As far as this episode I preferred it to Modern Warfare except for the John Wu/Chang entrance in Modern Warfare lol.
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I totally loved it, it was funny and while not a totally new concept this one was a great fresh approach to paintball. Can't wait till part 2!
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I would have to say you can't really compare Modern Warfare and A Fistful of Paintballs, as they are brilliant episodes in their own way. The only thing they have in common is the paintball game.

Personally i rank A Fistfull of Paintballs as the better, but thats only because i do not really enjoy war/action movies, like i do with western movies. So the jokes/spoofs in this episode was much funnier to me atleast.

Also props to Josh Holloway and his black rider for perhaps the best guast appearance on this show :D
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i agree with what was said earlier in the article about modern warfare being a better, more complete, well written episode. whilst a fistful of paintballs payed considerable homage to the spaghetti western, it was more a visual treat than a sequel. and yes, we need some more magnitude! even if he just comes in and does, "pop! pop!" and gets gunned down. i mean, what's he good for? are they really gonna develop him into a good side character like starburns or leonard? either way... pop! pop!
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Tim, I think your looking too far into whether this episode was better or worse than Modern Warfare. Community episodes really do stand on their own and so does this one. Its another amazing episode from an amazing show.
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best scene was annie running.
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this was a fantastic episode...I'll agree that Modern Warfare came first, but this was still incredible. I will say this...I don't think anything will ever top Chang's scene in Modern Warfare lol
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Loved it, one of my favorites. Don't care that they kinda did it already, it was pure brilliance. Loved the style. Also does anyone else think Josh Holloway should be in season 3 of Justified? Seems like he could fit perfectly into that universe.
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Part of me feels like this episode was better; I found myself completely entertained throughout. It was as if they took the greatness of Modern Warfare and added extra greatness, lol. As soon as the episode was finished, my natural reaction was "best episode yet." But, yes, as Tim said, Modern Warfare came first, and that, in itself, offers something great: unfamiliarity. Sure, Modern Warfare came near the end of the first season, so we had already been accustomed to the hilarity and uniqueness of the series as a whole, but I remember not having a clue as to how awesome Modern Warfare was going to be -- and after watching the episode, it kind of blew my mind. So as great as A Fistful of Paintballs was, it wasn't nearly as a surprise as Modern Warfare was, because ever since I'd read that they were doing a two-part paintball episode as the season's finale, I immediately assumed it would be awesome, based on how effectively they made Modern Warfare (and other themed episodes). It doesn't really make one better or worse than the other; A Fistful of Paintballs may actually have been slightly more entertaining, but the element of unfamiliarity and freshness certainly helps Modern Warfare.
More+
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I disagree with this episode not being as funny as it could have been, I laughed almost the entire time. I'd still say that Modern Warfare was better, but this was still an amazing episode that delivered everything needed to justify doing paintball a second time.
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amazing episode,
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I still wouldn't compare this episode to Modern Warfare. Community pretty often uses this formula (choose a genre, make everybody act according to it, etc.). For example the episode with Chicken Fingers. So I don't think last night's episode was a remake of Modern Warfare - just because of paint-ball? No. And A Fistful of Paintballs was better if that matters, it was brilliant in every way possible.
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great episode, and although the concept is amazing.., i hope this doesn't turn into an "every season recurring thing" . That would defeat the whole purpose of the show
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Simply amazing! I actually think it was better than Modern Warfare in certain aspects, namely the character relationships. But both were amazing, as I'm sure the next part will be!
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Another epic episode. I was leery going into it, but I was not disappointed. It's difficult to compare this ep with Modern Warfare. But I would agree that MW has the advantage because it was so new and different at the time. It may not have had as many jokes as other episodes, but there were a lot of great lines.
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I love "we just call him the Black Rider" "but he's not riding anything...". I prefer Modern Warfare because it was fresher and not a "back by popular demand" plot, but also because I just love spoofing action movies more than westerns. Still a great episode. If I was a guy, I would be all over Annie, but speaking for my team, I love any opportunity on this show to get Jeff in a cowboy outfit. Smokin. (Yes he has a problem, Troy, but Josh Holloway has never really been my type so I'd say Jeff IS more attractive!)
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TIM!!! "Too late, Bean Allergy, you blew it."

You totally forgot to mention The Black Rider's last line, nick naming Annie! Totally reminded me of something Sawyer would have called someone on LOST. That had to be intentional, right?
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I loved the 'Cristina Ricci' part... God, I love Annie.
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I really liked but maybe not quite as much as Modern Warfare. I did love Chang continuously running around, trying to join different people's groups and Josh was great as the Black Rider.
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@Sokkappa: best line ever! (especially since I just graduated college and am now on the depressing job hunt...*sad face*)
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To compare "Modern Warfare" and "A Fistful of Paintballs" is like comparing Ocarina of Time with Majora's Mask. They are both great games, even though they use the same mechanics and hardware, which doesn't hinder the greatness of them at all. Sure, us avid TV viewers might want to tell ourselves that the producers of Community are holding out on us, but when they can still revamp an idea like that into an entire new episode, that takes something most producers don't have.

Also, I miss Lost...
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"Resistance is as useless as your degrees!" they really out did themselves.
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This episode was art. Pure art. I do understand the comparison to Modern Warfare, and that some think Modern Warfare was a better episode. And I agree that Modern Warfare was definitely more fresh. One kind of new what was coming in Fistful of Paintballs. But the thing is that Fisful of Paintballs was good on a different scale. It explored the relationships between the characters on another (and maybe even deeper) level than Modern Warfare. And I agree with kryptonkalel27: Watching old school silly sitcoms isn't the same any more after seeing Community and other similar shows like Arrested Development, The Office, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, etc. Why on earth would I waste my time watching silly stuff like the wannabe "comedies" The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half men, when I have Community?
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This episode was simply AWESOME! Once again this show managed to transcend the typical comedy genre experience. It's shooting style alone is something to awe at, combined with wicked comedy and brilliant characters... Definitely one of the top 10 comedies of ALL TIME. Especially the last 2 minutes of the episode which read like a really badass conclusion trailer, this show truly does not pull any punches. I don't know about you guys but when i watch community and go back to silly sticom comedies, it isn't the same anymore. Success to season 3.... oh and Alison Brie was indeed SMOKIN HOT! and SAWYER??!!!...AWESOME!
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i think it was amazing! maybe it wasn't as funny as "paradigms of human memory" but it was such a perfectly excecuted wester/action "film" that it was just an outstanding half an hour of television!
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