Friday, May 18, 2012

Community "Introduction To Finality" Reaction


There were three new episodes of "Community" last night, which resulted in a bit of giant cookie syndrome -- there is such a thing as too much of a good thing (as Troy learned, painfully, in the Season 1 finale). "Community" episodes usually need to be watched at least two or three times to capture everything that's going on, and you can't do that when three episodes air in the span of two hours.

So let's put aside the frantic first two episodes, "Digital Estate Planning" and "The First Chang Dynasty" and focus on the true finale, "Introduction to Finality".

(At this point, it's worth noting that based on production numbers, "Digital Estate Planning" was actually supposed to come last in this sequence, though that could've been due to the added production needs of the video game sequences. "The First Chang Dynasty" really should've come first, because it's the final episode of the arc that started with Star-Burns's "death" in "Basic Lupine Urology".)

Upon first viewing, I felt like "Introduction to Finality" was one of the more grounded episodes of "Community", but that's only the case when contrasted with the earlier two of the evening. It has the ridiculousness of the air conditioning repair school, an appearance by Evil Abed (complete with felt goatee) and multiple weird Dean Pelton outfits. It's a touch crazy, but not by "Community" standards.

The episode itself takes place after another time jump, skipping ahead to the end of summer school. Jeff is about to take his biology final, and doesn't want any distractions. So, of course, he faces nothing but distractions: Pierce and Shirley are fighting after the Dean agrees to let them have their sandwich shop but needs one of them to be the sole owner, Troy is still stuck in the AC repair school separated from the group and Britta is giving Abed therapy, but Brittas it so badly that she's left in shambles and Evil Abed escapes the dreamatorium with a plan to cut off Jeff's arm.

Yeah, on second though, this episode was REALLY weird, but in a grounded way, because all that weirdness was happening in the name of character development, primarily with Jeff. For three seasons Jeff's primary goal has been to get out of Greendale as fast as possible, so he could go back to his job at the law firm. He even starts off this episode reaffirming that desire, emphasizing that failing Biology and having to pick up a class along the way would be a huge setback. But then as he's representing Shirley in the trial to determine who owns the sandwich shop, he gives up that goal to do the right thing and support his friend. That selfless move actually leads to Pierce and Shirley making Jeff the official owner of the sandwich shop, a move that essentially completes his character growth: he's got a purpose beyond "become a lawyer again", a group of people who count on him and who he cares about and, more importantly, currently no chance of going back to his old law firm. I'm sure he'll go through more ups and downs in however many episodes remain, as all people do, but he's definitely emerged from the dark tunnel and come out stronger on the other side.

Speaking of darkness, this episode also wrapped up the "Evil Abed" timeline arc that started way back in "Remedial Chaos Theory." The conversations between the two Abeds, as well as the therapy session with Britta, were incredibly insightful into the character of Abed. He's probably the hardest character to write, and not every Abed-focused episode has been a hit this season, but this was him at his best. I also loved that in Evil Abed's first appearance, he appeared to have a real goatee, while in later scenes, it was clearly a felt goatee, indicating that the later scenes with "Evil Abed" were actually "our" Abed, playing a role.

Troy was also great, if only for the subtle way in which he's matured. At the end of "The First Chang Dynasty", Troy agrees to join the AC repair school as a way of saving the group. In this episode, he gets out of that "destiny" by stepping up and being the mature person in a group of crazies, something that was hinted at with the end of "Contemporary Impressionists", but comes to the forefront here. Troy is no longer the carefree, easy-going "do whatever anyone asks" guy we met three years ago. He's confident, he's smart -- in his own way -- and he's not going to be pushed around.

It was kind of cool to see Jeff, Troy and Abed (and even Pierce, with one comment to Alan at the end of the "trial") grow so much, but it was also a bit bittersweet. It felt like a conclusion, made more so by the montage at the end of the episode. This episode was clearly a season finale, but came across more like a series finale. Thankfully, we know we're getting at least 13 more episodes of "Community", and hopefully #sixseasonsandamovie. Cool. CoolCoolCool.

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