Friday, 10 May 2013

COMMUNITY, season 4 finale – 'Advanced Introduction to Finality'

Friday, 10 May 2013

This is the probable end for Community, unless the producers agree a deal with NBC to keep it on-air for another half-season*. But I'm not sure where you go now Jeff (Joel McHale) has graduated from college, unless they awkwardly backtrack in some unconvincing way, and I think I'd prefer to see Community disappear forever... safe in the knowledge we got two excellent seasons, one good season, and one well-intentioned misfire.

"Advanced Introduction to Finality" was clearly trying to appease fans of the show, as most of this season has done, by blending two of its most popular components: the Darkest Timeline imagined by Abed (Danny Pudi) from season 3's "Remedial Chaos Theory", and the return of paintball (introduced in season 1's "Modern Warfare"; widely considered the moment people sat up and started considering Community as a new geek altar).

Unfortunately, both ideas were used rather poorly. The moment Evil Jeff appeared in the Dean's (Jim Rash) office, Terminator-style, was prime 'shark-jumping' to me—because no matter how crazy Community got, it wouldn't dare do a story where inter-dimensional doppelgängers appeared out of nowhere. So for a large chunk of the episode, I was mainly very concerned a writers' room brainstorm had gotten out of hand. Of course, it was later revealed that the Evil characters were just a fantasy Jeff was having, as he decided whether or not to graduate from college and take an exciting new job offer, but that was arguably even more of an eye-roller. The 'it was all a dream' trope isn't anyone's favourite after decades of misuse, and it made no sense that someone like Jeff would fantasise in a style more befitting Abed.

The thing that almost rescued this episode at times was a certain perkiness to the dialogue and a few of the situations, which I haven't felt very often this season. There is something inherently enjoyable about Community when it's taking a risk, even if the risk doesn't really pay off too well. Megan Ganz is also one of the show's writers from the Dan Harmon days (starting with season 2's "Cooperative Calligraphy") and her 'voice' is probably the closest echo to Harmon's own. She also wrote the "Paranormal Parentage" episode earlier this year, which I quite enjoyed.

But overall, "Advanced Introduction to Finality" was a damp squib of an episode that isn't the series capper I'd have liked. In trying to please the fan-base, this episode (and this season), didn't evolve or take the show anywhere new and interesting. It just tried to create a facsimile of Dan Harmon's vision, when part of the show's appeal was the fact it was unpredictable and kept giving you new things to enjoy. There were very few storylines or ideas in season 4 that weren't extrapolations of things from Community's past, which was the main reason I grew bored of it.

I know the show's indefatigable motto has been 'six seasons and a movie', but I hope NBC close Greendale's college doors for good after this uneven reprieve, so we can enjoy the (mostly very good) memories.

written by Megan Ganz / directed by Tristram Shapeero / 9 May 2013 / NBC
Update: Community has been miraculously saved by NBC and will return for a fifth season. I'm disappointed, but marginally hopeful the writers will take note of what worked and what didn't about season 4, and make the necessary changes. Just try to surprise us!