Seasons of Seasons: Community Season 2, “A Fistful of Paintballs” & “For a Few Paintballs More”

Season one’s Modern Warfare is easily one of the five best episodes of Community. The episode marked a turning point for the show as it went from a funny show with wacky situations and likable characters to one that could deftly handle a satirical premise. But beyond that, it ushered in a new wave of fans that would tune in from week to week to see what the show could skewer next. A sequel was inevitable, and it’s fitting that Dan Harmon would use it to cap the second season over two full episodes.

I remember generally liking Harmon’s follow-up effort, but on this watch I was struck by how disparate the tone of A Fistful of Paintballs is to For a Few Paintballs More. The former is a straight-up western spoof from the opening frames, introducing Annie as the lone hero until it expands to the rest of the ensemble. For a Few Paintballs More doesn’t have as naked an agenda, but where it lacks in its genre specificity, it makes up for its hilarity.

A sequel to the Greendale paintball competition would never make sense in any logical world – and Abed points out as much in the finale episode. Community this season has proven it could do spoof/tribute episodes like Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas or Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design while still grounding them in its characters. A Fistful of Paintballs is a pitch-perfect homage to the Sergio Leone films, both in its writing (Andrew Guest) and in the stylized direction (Joe Russo, in both episodes).

Aside from paintball, the narrative lynchpin in both episodes is Pierce, as the group debates whether he should be kept around for the next school year or be exiled. I remembered that Chevy Chase had a tenuous relationship with the show, but looking back at the whole picture now, it’s surprising to me how many episodes and plotlines deal with Pierce’s outsider status. The finale in particular gives him a great redemptive arc as he saves the paintball game and the school, which makes his episode-ending send-off all the more poignant, leaving his future with the group and the school in doubt. Did he deserve the ridicule and exclusion from the get-go? For a Few Paintballs More actually reckons with the idea of which came first: Pierce’s antagonistic behavior, or the group’s reaction to him.

The Annie and Abed material in the finale is another spot-on bit of writing from Hilary Winston, though its purposefully temporary status sort of robs it of its poignancy. The main takeaway I found in that bit was how utterly committed Allison Brie has been all season, digging into Annie’s juvenile yearning for love; she’s basically batted her eyelashes whenever anyone has shown her the slightest bit of affection, including both of these episodes.

Whereas Modern Warfare was little more than an action movie tribute, with some incredible character development between Jeff and Britta, the theme of For a Few Paintballs More is in how Greendale is a place that brought all of these weirdos together, a place that deserves to be preserved from outsiders, no matter how destitute and ragged it becomes. Community was a show that lived up to its name. It believed that it wasn’t a place or a group of like-minded individuals that made people come together. Rather, it showed that it was our differences that most often united us. It showed that, if we treated each other fairly and with respect, we’d ultimately be rewarded. Or, as the final shot of the season shows, it could result in the opposite. It’s been a blast to reminisce on why Community was so beloved at the time and remains so today, and these two episodes were the perfect cap on that reminder.

A Fistful of Paintballs Grade: A-

For a Few Paintballs More Grade: A

Season Two Grade: A-

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