Season Two continues its strong start with its brilliant and even heartfelt third episode, "The Psychology of Letting Go." On the surface, it seems to be just your average 30-minute weekly stint in Greendale Community College. Things are more-or-less going as usual with generally sharp writing and top-notch performances... honestly very par-for-course for the series. But if you dig a little deeper. If you look beyond the surface, you'll find some wildly creative humor on display, a great story-line that gives much-needed humanity to the character of Pierce... and one of the best background jokes of all time! And they help elevate the episode far beyond what you might initially think.
Tragedy seems to strike the Hawthorne household as Troy (Donald Glover) discovers the body of Pierce's (Chevy Chase) mother. Trying to console him, however, the rest of the study group realizes that Pierce seems oddly unaffected by the loss of his beloved parent... as he insists she isn't really dead, but merely "physically dead" and capable of being brought back to life in the future by his celebrity Buddhist "Laser Lotus" cult. The group tries to figure out a way to allow Pierce to properly mourn, while Jeff goes through something of a midlife crisis after learning that some blood-work he's had done shows signs of high cholesterol- something he finds inconceivable due to his strict (and obsessive) health regimens. At the same time, Annie (Alison Brie) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) find themselves at odds while trying to raise money for charity, Chang (Ken Jeong) is harassed and abused by Professor Duncan (John Oliver), whom has realized that his restraining order against Chang gives him a sort-of metaphorical "force field"... and something strange can be observed in the background of several scenes that I will not spoil... but has gone on to become something of a legend among eagle-eyed viewers.
As I briefly addressed above, part of the brilliance of "The Psychology of Letting Go" is the fact that there's a lot more going on than it seems. It's one of the most rewarding episodes of the season for repeated viewings and hardcore fans of the franchise. It starts off as your average run-of-the-mill episode... but it becomes more and more as you watch it a second and third time. You pick up on a lot of the subtle details. Some of the gags you didn't notice before become clearer and clearer. And you appreciate its expert development of characters such as Pierce when placed into the grand scheme of the season. It's one of those episodes that's made almost exclusively for the hardcore fan-base. So much is happening that's so important. And it rewards the more fanatical of viewers with its delightful twists and developments.
I was also quite impressed and extremely amused by how the show handled one of the remaining leftover plot-threads from Season One- that being the radical fallout between former-professor Chang and current-professor Duncan, which resulted in a restraining order. Their banter and battle of wills and wits supplies some of the biggest laughs of the episode, as Duncan abuses the power his restraining order gives him to make Chang's life significantly harder. And I'd definitely be doing the episode a horrible disservice if I didn't point out that this one of the best episodes for Chevy Chase as an actor in the series. Chase is a mastermind of comedy, but also a pretty decent actor. And while he's had some good moments in the past, he's often saddled as a broader comedic-relief figure and not often given much to sink his teeth into dramatically. Season Two definitely gives him quite a bit more to play around with than Season One, and "The Psychology of Letting Go" is the first of many that allows him to show his acting chops. He's just delightful here.
It might not be considered masterpiece in the overall run of the series, but I think "The Psychology of Letting Go" is a stellar installment of "Community", and is quite underrated. It's invaluable for several of the lead characters. It contains some masterful pieces of humor and drama. And it's one that I'd highly recommend every fan check out again and again. And so, I give it a perfect 10 out of 10.