Community: Advanced Introduction to Finality

"Don't logic this one away from me. We finally figured out a way to make paintball cool again."

Abed is sadly mistaken in thinking they made paintball cool again in Community's season four finale (which is not, thankfully, the series finale after all).

Oh, this is horrible. It's just horrible.

OK, to be fair, it wasn't as bad the second time around. As you can see from the 'Quotes' section, this episode raised a smile or two, which is the most important thing for a sitcom to do. But it's still horrible.

Community supposedly exists in the 'real' world, so there must always a real world reason for everything, and so far they've mostly managed to stay just the right side of the line between plausible and implausible (though it's been a close thing sometimes, especially in episodes like 'Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas,' much as I love it). The thing that made 'Basic Human Anatomy' work was that it wasn't really science fiction, it was a Troy character piece. Similarly, the Evil Abed scenes in the season three finale (which I wasn't wild about anyway) were a product of Abed's mental state.

Theoretically, the real world explanation for this episode is that the bulk of it happens inside Jeff's head, presumably as some kind of daydream. But that's like claiming Alice in Wonderland isn't fantasy because technically it's all a dream. So much happens in the dream world that its status as a dream becomes almost incidental. This episode is actually science fiction, and bad science fiction at that. OK, 'Epidemiology' and 'Remedial Chaos Theory' were on the line in that respect, but they were brilliant. And funny. This is not.

This episode also ruins the possibility of a romantic relationship between Jeff and Annie by driving the idea into the ground, which is a shame as I really liked the idea of them as a couple (at least temporarily, anyway). On the upside, the opening reminded me of how good Jeff and Britta were as a couple too, but still, the damage is done. In fact, it's noticeable that Britta, along with Abed, immediately identifies herself as the person who will miss Jeff the most, while Annie's crush on Jeff is literally placed on the same level as the Dean's slightly creepy obsession with him. I guess Megan Ganz, who wrote the episode, must be more of a Jeff/Britta fan, which is fine (I think they work pretty well) but there's no need to play down the genuine chemistry he also has with Annie.

Even outside the science fiction aspects of this episode, the 'wedding-graduation' itself is a bit excessively weird. I liked the scene in which Annie and the Dean plan Jeff's graduation as if it was a wedding, which was quite funny, but actually seeing it play out as a wedding (to the Human Being, apparently) is, again, too strange, and the show has completely lost what sense of reality it ever had. Jeff's graduation should be a huge, emotional moment, the climax the whole series has been building to. Instead, it's a daft and very brief ceremony that shows us our favourite Greendale alumni (Leonard, Vicki, Magnitude, Todd, even a poster of Starburns) without actually giving them anything to do.

All in all, this is dogged with the same problems that have persisted throughout season four. The show is still trying too hard (the meta reference to the abbreviated season is just painful), and missing the mark entirely. Here's hoping season five, with Dan Harmon back in charge, is somehow able to rectify that - though how they'll do so with Jeff graduated, I don't know.

Bits 'n' pieces (a.k.a. things I actually liked about this episode)

 - The final Troy and Abed in the morning (evil version) was kind of funny.

 - And I guess Jeff's final speech is kind of sweet.

 - It is amusing that the world in Jeff's mind is populated by background characters who are all beautiful women.

 - Jeff calls the Dean Craig at the end, that's also kind of sweet.

 - The Dean's wedding dress is stylish and rather gorgeous.

 - I did also quite like Abed instantly recognising an evil doppelganger when he saw one.

Quotes

Mark/Cash: A little birdy told me you're graduating kiddy college. You must be excited to get that lollipop.
Jeff: Hey! It's a sticker.

Jeff: I've spent almost four years here, growing and changing and making dioramas!

Annie: Pierce won't even respond to my texts! I wonder what terrible things Jeff said about him?
Shirley: I've got some guesses.

Evil Pierce: I faked my death to teach you all a lesson!
Evil Troy: A lesson about what?
Evil Pierce: Who can remember? It was more than a year ago.

Trying far too hard. One out of four evil doppelgangers.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

4 comments:

sunbunny said...

My big problem with the episode is that it just seemed lazy. Last season's finale resolved the darkest timeline story in an extremely satisfying way. Why bring it back now? Could you really not think of anything better?

Not to mention, the darkest timeline had ALWAYS been Abed's thing. The others (particularly Jeff) never believed in it. So why would Jeff invent a fantasy with the evil doppelgängers in it? And why did they look exactly the same as the ones that exist in Abed's head?

I do love some time with the evil study group, however. Annie was especially awesome.

ChrisB said...

I agree completely with this review -- the writers were trying too hard and this one missed the mark, badly.

Having said that, I was shocked that Jeff actually graduated. I thought for sure that some "twist" would show us that he was a credit short or something. I am very curious how he will remain part of the group next season.

Thank you for finishing out the season, Juliette. Your reviews were a great way to get me through to the end.

Juliette said...

This episode was better on second viewing, without the initial disappointment, but still just, as you say, lazy!

You're welcome Chris :) I genuinely like Herstory of Dance, Basic Human Anatomy and especially Heroic Origins, so I was glad to finish out the season, even though it meant re-watching Intro to Knots and this one!

Scott Riggan said...

Horrible. No good. Very bad.