One of my concerns after hearing that Community would be doing a stop-motion claymation Christmas special was what in God's name would they put directly before and after it. When I saw that there was an episode the week before the Xmas special (and also a week after a Thanksgiving break), I was concerned that this may be the week they burn off an episode that tested poorly, without concern for it hurting the next week's ratings. I'm not sure if Mixology Certification aired out of shooting order, as some first season episodes did, but it certainly felt that way at some points. With a episode title implying copious alcohol consumption, I was hoping that the group's hijinks would be elevated to the next level of awesomeness, but instead we were presented with an awkward and emotionally disjointed episode that took a step back from some of the emotional gains achieved over the last few weeks.
The plot of the episode centers on Troy realizing that he is turning 21, not 20 as his mother led him to believe, "Everyone is 10 for 2 years so they can do 5th grade twice." The group decides to take him out drinking and eventually they end up at the Ballroom where Annie assumes the identity of her fake ID, Jeff and Britta argue over how to drink liquor, Abed is propositioned by a gay man who loves Sci-Fi, Pierce gets stuck in the doorway, and Shirley tries to get rid of all the evidence that she used to be a regular drunkard at the Ballroom. The one name absent from this list is Troy, the birthday boy, and in one of the episodes better plot devices Troy is the only one who doesn't drink at all at the bar. Jeff tries to equate Troy's ascension into manhood with drinking, but in the end Troy sees that becoming a man is more about realizing you're smarter and more caring than you thought you were. Also, getting to drive a nice sports car helps. Troy is certainly the most childlike character in the show, although they all have their moments, and it was a nice finish to let him grow up on his own terms and not by taking 21 shots (though that would have been funny). Donald Glover did an excellent job dialing down Troy's usual giddiness, and his forceful adult actions at the end of the episode were very believable. With so much going on in this episode his performance really helped carry the emotional wreckage happening around him.
The other characters' plot lines, however, fell way short and the episode felt like it regurgitated the themes we already dealt with and moved past in Season One. Things like: Abed has no social skills, Annie wants to let go of her uptight self and live a little, Pierce does not want to feel like he is getting old, Shirley despite her self-righteous exterior has some demons in her closet, and Jeff and Britta like to argue about how different they are, but in reality they are very similar (Commence make-out scene), were common issues in the first season and I didn't quite understand the backsliding except maybe to highlight Troy's growth as a person. The show has largely moved away from these issues to address the strength of the group dynamic, and that has pushed this second season into being far and away my favorite show on television. Yet, Mixology Certification felt like an early Season One episode, where the focus was more on the individual and not how these people have evolved together. Overall, a mediocre episode of Community is still better than 98% of what is on TV, but Mixology Certification did not have the heart and laughs that Community has been producing the last several weeks. Hopefully Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas can get us back on track before the show takes a holiday break.
Grade: B- (maybe a little harsh, but I expect more from this show)
-"Alcohol, it's the Lifetime movie of beverages"
-"The hotter you are, the more likely they'll take the risk." Britta's comment was so true.
-I really want to watch all the Kickpuncher movies, especially Kickpuncher: Detroit
-"Abed, would you like to have gay sex with me?" Paul F Tompkins was solid as Abed's gay counterpart.
-Interesting chemistry between Troy and Annie at the end. Maybe the feelings she had in Season One will return, as it appears Jeff and Britta will be doing their best Ross and Rachel impersonations for the unforeseeable future.
-I really want that bathroom poster of Shirley to hang in my house. Just an awesome drunk face.