When Community is at its best it is almost a magical experience and Epidemiology from Episode 6 Season 2 is utterly enchanting. The episode is able to blend humor with horror at the same time advancing character development all in the span of 22 minutes. Epidemiology is one of my favorite Halloween specials and here’s why:
Costumes: In most other series’ Halloween episodes, writers throw characters into crazy Halloween costumes for an easy laugh. The Fresh Prince’s Carlton dressing as Macaulay Culkin and Kevin from The Office dressing as Michael Moore come to mind. While hilarious, it makes me wonder why the characters chose those specific costumes. Community never has me questioning its characters costume choices. Of course Jeff chose to be “accidentally handsome” as David Beckham. If the situation arose where he didn’t want to be dressed up anymore, he would simply toss away his soccer ball and strut around in his $6,000 suit. Britta tries to be fierce and unsexy as a T-Rex, but instead is darling and helpless, looking more like a “Dragon Turtle”. Is she really that disappointed that she must rely on Jeff to feed her because her mighty claws are too short to reach her mouth? Annie (as usual) treads a fine line between naughty and innocent as Little Red Riding Hood. Shirley’s Glenda the Good Witch costume is again “unwittingly ambiguous” just as her good intentions often are. Troy and Abed start off as Ripley and The Alien but Troy changes into “a sexy Dracula” which brings their friendship into question and is the set up for a solid Troy character arc, but more on that later. My favorite costume of the episode goes to Chang dressed as Peggy Fleming who gleefully corrects assumptions that he is Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan by proclaiming “you have just been proven racist by the racist prover.”
Funny/Scary Balance: For me this episode is one of Community’s funniest. Narrated by George Takei (with a special treat for some lucky Kevins), this Zombie apocalypse is set to the soundtrack of ABBA, interspersed with the Dean Pelton’s personal voice memos. One of my favorite moments is while Pierce is turning Zombie, Annie states, “He’s acting like the impression of him we do behind his back.” The group then proceeds to do a hilarious Pierce impression that you have to see to appreciate. The episode gets a little eerie as Pierce starts to convulse and lose control of himself. Shot in the same style as Zombie movies of the past with low lighting, quick cuts and disorienting camera angles, this episode is downright scary. I don’t know of any other show on television that could pull of this seamless blend of horror and humor. While Jeff, Abed and Troy are escaping the zombies down in the stereotypical but freaky dark basement, an orange cat keeps screeching across the screen. The cat does this so many times that the action finally prompts Troy to ask, “Is someone throwing it?” We know the cat is a gag and a hilarious tribute to Alien but it doesn’t diminish our fear each time it hurls itself out of nowhere.
Character Development: I sometimes find community guilty of choosing parody over character. This is not the case with Epidemiology. One of Troy’s largest character arcs takes place in this episode. He must choose whether to shed or embrace his inner nerd. This choice calls into question Troy’s friendship with Abed. I would like to mention here how much I appreciate this friendship. Community portrays two men who openly love each other as friends without inserting Gay jokes or insinuations. Back to Troy: for the first time his character is set up to be the hero. He is the only character left who has not turned into a zombie. Will he be “the first black man to make it to the end?” You will have to tune in to find out.