Behold the second of our Halloween Countdown, Community’s second-season Halloween episode, entitled “Epidemiology.”
Where to start: the flawless continuity, the fact that the zombie apocalypse has a soundtrack by ABBA, or the fact that this episode, while hilarious, manages to hit on some actual emotional depth? Yes, the writers at Community’s HQ have done it again with this little gem, balancing humor and heart as skillfully as possible. Who didn’t love Troy and Abed’s shout out to Star Wars, quoting Han and Leia’s anguished declaration of love just before the zombies swarmed?
“Epidemiology” isn’t Community’s first Halloween special, but I think it’s the most memorable, so you’ll have to bear with me for skipping season one’s “Introduction to Statistics.”
We start out on the Greendale campus, at the annually-held Halloween dance in the library and get our first glimpse at the Greendale Seven’s choice in (very fitting) costumes; Jeff as David Beckham (complete with soccer ball and $6000 suit), Pierce as Captain James T. Kirk, Annie as Little Red Riding Hood, while Trobed cosplayed Ripley and the Predator from the Alien movies. Shirley, on the other hand, continues the running gag of having an ambiguous costume – just know that she “is not Miss Piggy. I repeat she’s not Miss Piggy” – and Britta as a dragon-turtle/T-Rex.
However, trouble quickly breaks out when it becomes clear that the discount catering the Dean provided – discount rations from an army surplus store – seem to infect everyone with the Z-Virus, a fact that Troy is immediately aware of, starting the trend of calling a pot a pot and a zombie a zombie. What follows is a hilarious, amazingly-shot escape attempt by the Study Group (and Chang), while members drop like flies to the infected, starting with Pierce, Britta and Rich (“from pottery class, remember?”), and ending with Troy as the Final Man, or, as Abed puts it, “the first black man to make it to the end.”
And while the concept is a dark one – a small-scale, not-quite-undead apocalypse, with the zombies being infect with super-rabies— and everything about the lighting, cinematography and set-design scream ‘horror movie’, the execution and ending is light and funny. Most of the humour comes off as dry, originating mostly from horrifically skewed priorities, with Jeff being the most blatant (at one point stopping their escape attempt to deal with a particularly persistent, and literal, Cat Scare, or asking after they’ve been swarmed by zombies and barricaded themselves in the study room if anyone had turned off the Dean’s all-ABBA playlist) or from the characters themselves in such a one-off situation. The complete flip from serious to scary is also funny in its own way, the change enough to give you whiplash if you aren’t expecting it.
Now, is it scary? Well, no. It’s Community. While the make-up on the infected students is scarily good, the overall tone of the episode – complete with George Takei’s opening-and-ending narration – is far, far too entertaining to be considered scary. If you’re looking for thrills, chills and blood-spills, this isn’t the Halloween episode for you. If you want to see some entertaining characters in an insane situation, complete with homages to numerous zombie movies and video games, be sure to see this as soon as possible. I highly recommend it.