In the same style as the previous Documentary Filmmaking episodes of seasons two, three and four, Abed is strictly behind the camera this week. Fellow student and oft-mocked “human spillage” Garrett (Eric Charles Nielsen) wants Abed to film his marriage proposal to Stacy, (Harmontown‘s Erin McGathy.) his Law classmate and girlfriend of the past 16 months, four weeks and two days.
Abed keeps filming through the happy day, (even though he reveals that he never shows these documentaries to anyone) so he captures a lot of the main characters’ selfish disregard for Garrett. They seem to find the whole thing hilarious and when they nearly ruin the ceremony, Garrett’s mother (O-Lan Jones) calls them on it. As usual, their attempts to make things better by making it all about them could lead to an even bigger catastrophe.
But we’ll get to that. The first act of the episode plays with the documentary format as we know it by skewing more towards what the characters are like in private. They’ve been called the “mean clique” before, and that comes back with a vengeance here as they play games like Celebrity Garrett Marriage, doing impressions of Garrett and real life famous figures (Gillian Jacobs’s Britta nails both Garrett and Aubrey Plaza in this game, to cruel and hilarious effect.)
Speaking of their mean clique days, Todd officiates the wedding and reminds us of how dickish the lead characters can be from an objective point of view. It’s a great opportunity to give the supporting characters centre-stage and Nielsen has gone from strength to strength in an increased role all season, apparently in the run-up to this showcase, both as Garrett and his hitherto unseen older brother, Bones.
Although they’ll tell off Abed for making their lives out to be a sitcom, the main group has an almost pathological tendency to view everyone else as supporting characters in their own lives and this episode seizes on that while also giving the ensemble some room to shine in individual running gags.
There’s Britta’s first resort to Godwin’s law, Frankie’s social awkwardness, Annie’s listing of cool names for internal dragons for when she slays her co-dependence and Elroy’s addiction to encouraging white people – the latter of which sees Keith David on season-best form for a hysterical extended set-piece that subverts a long-standing stereotype of wise black characters who serve no other purpose than to give pep talks.