by Mark Greig
A long time ago, in a community college far, far away… at least for me it is, I'm sure some people live a lot closer to wherever the hell Community is meant to be set. Or is this town like Springfield, a town that is everywhere, and yet also nowhere? And I’m going off track again, back to the finale!
It is a well-documented fact that Community has never enjoyed stellar ratings success. It has survived as long as it has due solely to the misfortunes of its network. If Community had aired during the glory days of NBC it would've been axed on the spot without so much as a second thought. But those days have long since passed. The peacock is now in such dire straits that even a show with Community’s low ratings can survive. But that is by no means a certainty, something Dan Harmon and his team were no doubt well aware of when they came to plan this finale. If Community was indeed going to go down, then they decided that would go down with all (paint) guns blazing.
‘For A Few Paintballs More’ is a full blown epic of a finale, a stark contrast to the low-key finale “which girl will Jeff choose?” finale they knocked out for last season. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. The writers set this episode up as a spoof of George Lucas’ magnum opus, but that idea never really takes off. Ten minutes in and it was more or less forgotten about. This was actually probably for the best as various homages were some of the episode's weakest elements, none more so than Abed as Han Solo. Normally I love it when Abed gets into character, but on this occasion I found his Han impersonation grating. It didn’t help that he gave himself dialogue that was as awkward and clunky as anything from the prequels.
Once the Star Wars idea was more of less abandoned, this episode became something of an unspecific parody of war movies, which I felt was a lot more successful than the Star Wars homages. So much so, that I wish the writers had committed to this idea completely from the start. ‘For a Few Paintballs More’ would’ve worked better if it had been a straight up parody of World War II movies.
To combat the seemingly unbeatable forces of City College, the Dirty Half Dozen, otherwise known as Jeff Winger’s Study Group (I’m sure all of them, bar Jeff, hate that name), gathered the other Greendale students together so they could form a campus wide alliance of rebels (except for Magnitude, who is a one man party and therefore can’t be in an alliance because that’s a paradox, regardless of what Paradox might think). Every rebellion needs a leader and Troy decided that he is going to be this one’s Admiral Ackbar (I’m not sure if he was the actual leader of the Rebellion, he’s just the only one whose name I could remember). This naturally brought him into conflict with the group's nominal defacto leader – Jeffrey Winger.
Has anyone got a ruler?
Their respective plans to save the campus and defeat City College both paid tribute to different types of war movie. Troy’s elaborate (and awesome) plan was a Where Eagles Dare-style men on a mission caper. This meant sneaking around behind enemy lines, facing near crippling setbacks (who thought it would be a good idea to take Garret on a mission that would involve crawling through air ducts?) and someone sacrificing themselves for the good of the mission and then later trying to do a Platoon pose:
Jeff’s plan was like something out of a First World War movie as he suggested the students make a full on assault on the enemy’s machine gun. Obviously Jeff has never seen a First World War movie, or even Blackadder Goes Forth, otherwise he’d know how futile such action so often is. Stick to making inspiring speeches, mate.
Both of these have their pros and cons (mostly cons in Jeff’s case), but because they are both alpha males with serious insecurity issues, Jeff and Troy bicker over which is best. Good thing Annie was there to put them both in their place and get shit done, otherwise they would’ve been arguing there all day. The moral of this story is that next time there is a paintball war, don’t wait for Jeff to reluctantly accept the leadership role when it is thrust upon him, just put Annie in charge from the start. And don’t let Abed play Han Solo. He should play Batman instead. He’s a better Batman.
I was also disappointed that there are no special guest star appearances by actors from that show about those people who were stuck on that island. You can’t just dangle Sawyer in front of us like that then replace him with freakin' Dean Spreck. That’s like being given a cake then snatching it away and replacing it with a coupon for cake. An expired coupon. Spreck made for a very boring adversary. We're also never given a clear motive as to why he is so obsessed with destroying Greendale. It’s not like he can consider the school to be a serious rival, lacking both the money and resources that City College clearly has.
After the events of the previous episode, I naturally assumed that Pierce was being set up as the series’ final level villain. Being kicked out of the study group seemed to finally send him full Dark Side. That was swiftly swept under the rug by the end of the episode when he won the war for Greendale and was quickly forgiven by his group. His switch from evil back to good(ish) came completely out of nowhere. The whole thing came across like a quick fix to get Pierce back into everyone’s good graces. I’m not completely opposed to the idea of Pierce being redeemed as long as it feels earned, which in this case it most certainly did not. I’m not sure if that final scene was meant to make us understand Pierce, or sympathise with him, or both. I only know that I felt none of the above. So we end the season with Pierce maybe, possibly, hopefully, not returning to the study group next season, which is only an effective cliff-hanger if you care about what happens to Pierce. At this point I think it is fairly obvious that I do not.
Notes and Quotes
--Blink and you may have missed a cute cameo from two Cougar Town cast members:
--There’s one major flaw with Troy’s plan. As we learned in 'Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts' Greendale doesn’t have a working fire alarm system.
--The City College flag replacing the Greendale flag has got to be the dirtiest joke this show has ever done.
Britta: "See you at Denny's?"
Jeff: "Denny's is for winners."
Troy: "We just took down a professional paintball warrior."
Dean Pelton: "What? That is absurd! Why would someone who's paid to do things be at Greendale?"
Magnitude: "Pop P..."
Troy: "Pop what? Pop what? What is he trying to say?!"
Dean Spreck: “Greendale students, I understand you've unified and intend to draw this game out. Well, if it's a war you want, it's a war you will lose. City College is stronger, faster, our sperm counts are higher-even in our women. Resistance is as pointless as your degrees. Honestly, ask yourselves-what does Liberal Arts even mean?”
Two and a half out of four Admiral Ackbars.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.