If you read my last review of the pilot episode, you know that I wasn’t a big fan of it. In the second episode, Spanish 101 the show doesn’t really find its footing but does make a large leap in quality. This has so many staples of the show like introducing Star-Burns who is a man named Alex who has sideburns shaped like stars and hates his nickname. One of the shows highlights is its great cast of side characters, Star-Burns is not even top tier but he has some great moments. He is played by a writer of the show Dino Stamatopoulos and he does pretty well. Here just getting the laugh for being a person who has star shaped side burns. This episode also is the introduction of Senor Chang (Ken Jeong) the group’s Spanish teacher. Chang is an interesting character for the show. He basically goes completely insane and he starts off pretty crazy. At first he is supposed to be a real functioning person which does not fit with the sometimes annoying acting style of Jeong. Thankfully he is used the right amount and does not go too over the top. When he yells “I AM A SPANISH GENIUS!” at the class after quietly asking rhetorical questions to them is a really great moment. As an actor he gets on my nerves and as a character he is really one of the most interesting. He is hit or miss for me, honestly it might be fifty/fifty.
Before we meet Chang and Star-Burns and before we continue looking at the episode I will use this opportunity to say the theme song for the show which is “At Least It Was Here” by The 88, is an amazing theme song. It describes Jeff as a guy who cannot get close to people. It also is just beautiful sounding with dark lyrics. That is basically what the show is, people finding beauty while living in darkness. Also the whole score by Ludwig Goransoon is a work of art being emotion at the right times and poppy to emphasize the excitement they hope you feel when starting their show. It also feels like a score for a show that takes place at a school. Needless to say the music for the show is pretty great including the Aimee Mann song “Wise Up” during the overlong Spanish presentation given by Jeff and Pierce. Also the animation of the cootie catcher that shows off all the actors who are matched with silly drawings is really awesome, just wanted that out there. This was directed by Joe Russo and written by Dan Harmon. Harmon is the creator and says he overseas almost every move, but does not get many main writing credits. He does get the writing credit for the first two though which seems appropriate.
Like I said, the first seven episodes are dedicated to introducing each character and more accurately seeing how they are going to help Jeff become who he becomes. This episode is for Pierce as he and Jeff are partnered up to do a basic Spanish conversation for the class. All Jeff really wants is to be partnered with Britta, switching shirts with Abed to achieve that. In the pilot Jeff does everything he does just to sleep with Britta and here that story continues. He thinks he succeeds in the partner switch and asks her on a date, unknown to him that Pierce has switched with Britta for almost the same reason. As Jeff and Pierce sit down to write out their conversation Pierce pulls out some alcohol that they could bond over which is most likely how Jeff and Britta’s night would have started. Now Pierce doesn’t want to get into Jeff’s pants, but he does want to bond with him and have a forever lasting friendship. As the show progresses it is clear that Pierce is a warning for the Jeff character to see what he could become if he stays on his lazy, douchebag path. He will just become what Peirce has, a lonely old man with no to little friends that is desperate for something real. Here Jeff spends most of his time dissing his partner that they are doing way too much for their small assignment. Later when he finds out that Pierce wanted Jeff as his partner he does the terrible presentation with him. This is the first time it feels he actually grows as a person; it is a long (and believable) journey to make him decent enough. In the opening of the episode it is clear that he will not be that pleasant a person, but at least unlike last time he is pretty charming. He shows up late to study meetings, makes Annie give her Spanish notes, steals a Faculty Parking Permit so he could park closer. By the end of the episode he is making a fool of himself because that is what Peirce wanted.
Chevy Chase plays Pierce and for the first season he is really killing it in every scene. He does a prat fall or trips unexpectedly and it really never gets old. He really does perfect the art of physical comedy. His physical comedy is also prevalent in the presentation which is shown through montage. It is just supposed to be a few lines of dialogue. It is unclear how long it really is but it is long enough for Chang to not be into it at all, then get into it a bit and by the end give them a F and F minus. It is a really classic Community moment so strange which the show needs to be. Weirdness is clearly begging to come out of Dan Harmon and crew and it happens here in this hilarious moment.
The B plot here is a decent one. Britta spouts out that journalist are being murdered in Guatemala which leads Annie and Shirley to do their own protest. Britta gets upset when the protest becomes almost a party including brownies and dancing to music. It really is a B plot, not really important to the plot, but it does lead to a drunken Pierce interrupting a silent protest and catching on fire. It does let the girls bond with each other while the men bond with each other. Troy and Abed are hanging out, this is the first hint of their amazing friendship as they effortlessly do their assignment in no time at all. This also is the start of Britta being a total screw up. Annie and Shirley do break ground and get the word out there that bad things are happening in the world, but they do it in unconventional ways. Britta is the one who claims to protest and care about these issues, but her new friends have made more leeway than she ever did. Other than a few moments the B plot is nothing special. The first season B plots are good to decent, but hopefully if my memory serves me right, it is mostly pretty good stuff.
I DON’T GET THAT REFERENCE: Besides Jeff entering the study group by quoting Fonzie there is not many references to anything specific. Of course this is only the second episode and I feel like Harmon and crew are still holding back quite a bit for the show.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Abed says he loves when the Dean announces something because it feels like the first scene in a TV show. So here is the real beginning to the meta humor the show has. Then Abed says it lessens the effect of it when he mentions that it feels like a TV show, but that is mostly what his character does for a while. It doesn’t bug me that much, but it is worth mentioning. The Spanish rap at the end, I believe, is what kept people watching. It is charming, funny and weird enough to keep the fans.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show picks up in quality, but has a much further way to go to get to its peak. There are more jokes in this episode, but not the amount that they get to later. I am talking a lot about how the show gets better. It really is good now, but has a long streak of greatness in later episodes. This one also is one of the better ones for the first half of the season.