Ben: We’ve made it, folks! This is the season finale for Community’s fourth season. As Jeff prepares for early graduation and a fancy new job doing lawyer-y stuff, we see the study group of the Darkest Timeline attempt to reclaim the lives which they feel are rightfully theirs. One-Armed Jeff, Voice-box Troy, Slutty Annie, and inter-dimensional paintball. Just the works. Did you bring the soda, Nate?
Nate: Dangit. I knew I forgot something.
I’m not sure if NBC is going to bring the show back, but this sure felt like a series ender, to me at least. They left the door open, I suppose, but this might be it, everybody.
The episode starts with Jeff and the gang talking about Jeff graduating early. Graduation at Community College isn’t a big thing; as Jeff puts it: “It’s Community College. You file the paperwork and then they just stop charging you.” This won’t work for the gang, of course, so they all march together to see an emotional Dean, who isn’t quite ready to let go. Jeff relents, and agrees to let the gang throw him a small party.
Annie and the Dean take this as an excuse to throw a wedding, because why not? The next morning, before the party, Jeff decides to roll dice to see who has to get the soda. Then all hell breaks loose.
Ben:This episode was bad. Really bad. So bad I needed several viewings of “Remedial Chaos Theory” and a 30 Rock bender just to detox my frontal lobe. The premise, like many of this season’s high-concept episodes, is dicey and seems all too easy to screw up, and screw it up they did.
Don’t get me wrong; it was fairly funny and many of the jokes could have raised a mediocre episode to fair quality. And the premise of Jeff graduating was not only inevitable but did come off as at least somewhat poignant. But when Jeff decides to roll a die to decide who gets the aforementioned soda and it lands on its side, the episode takes a nostalgia-filled trip into The Darkest Timeline from “Chaos Theory”, an episode widely considered one of the better half hours of television ever. Each of the character’s evil doppelgangers attempts to steal the lives of the regular characters by sending them to the Darkest Timeline using warped paintball guns. ‘We finally found a way to make paintball cool again” says Abed. No, no you didn’t.
Nate: I honest to God had that same joke written down in my notes and you stole it from me. Damn you Evil Timeline Ben!
Ben: Perhaps the most prescient line of the night comes from Evil Pierce, who reveals to the Evil Study Group that no, he didn’t die from the accidental gunshot wound from Annie’s gun, and he’s returned to teach them a lesson. What lesson? “I don’t know! It was more than a year ago!” Damn straight. This episode felt like the writer’s room patting themselves on the back for past great ideas as well as a circlejerk for us loyal fans (complete with “Six Seasons And A Movie” hidden on a chalkboard in one scene). The terrible status of the episode wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t the season finale of what is easily the rockiest season the show has had thus far, and the rancid cherry on this doo-doo sundae is this week is NBC’s “upfronts” where they announce which shows they’re keeping and which they’re sending to the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart. Good timing on phoning it in, guys.
Nate: Perhaps what was most frustrating about this episode was that I felt like they had made huge progress on the last two episodes. It felt like they were finding their groove, as a more stripped-down, streamlined, dare I say “emotional” show. And then, for the big finale, they tried to out-Harmon Harmon and the whole thing ended up a big mess.
This season hit its groove when it focused on what it did well: quick jokes, simplified plots, emotional resonance. They strayed away from that this week, and the results were understandably bleh. What scares me the most is what scares you the most–a tepid season finale and NBC says “Thanks but no thanks, guys. We’ve got a new Matt LeBlanc pilot where his best friend is a baby kangaroo. It’s called Joey and Joey.” (Oh god. They might actually make that show.)
Give the episode its due–Chang had a funny moment screaming “FRIENDSHIP!!!” as he jumped in front of a paintball. And…well, no. That was the only funny moment.
And what the hell happened with the whole City College war set-up?!?
Ben: I know! Where the hell is my giant spider-bot!? That seems to be a victim of the season’s abbreviated run, but the only reference to it was in a tag! No editing it out?
Community peaks when it combines reliable humor and surprising emotional relevance. The show loses this when it gets too lost in the thoroughbred concepts it attempts to recreate (which is a fancy way of saying “up its own ass”). As the Darkest Timeline gang unveil themselves and their intentions, my worst fears seem to be coming true: the show was separating itself from its own reality. Even the zombie episode had some grounding in realism. But, as the inevitable battle in the cafeteria goes down, Abed gives a Winger-style speech to Jeff Winger explaining he’s creating this battle in his mind to cope with the stress of leaving the place which has changed him and/or becoming the douchebag lawyer he used to be (exchanging ball jokes with his former partner at this episode’s beginning is the biggest hint in that direction). So he wakes up, realizes it was all a daydream, and gives the same speech about how much the group means to him we’ve heard him give ten times over, only for Pierce to announce he is also graduating. But no worries! Jeff will get a job at a smaller firm in town so he can always stop by and see the group (presumably at Deus Ex Machina & Goldstein, Attorneys At Law and Convenience).
The entire thing comes across as flat and superficial. The creators have mistaken keeping the show’s soul with cobbling together pieces of the mythology fans idolize to form some twisted Frankenstein’s monster of self-congratulations and references from two seasons ago. What has always been exciting about Community is not simply the show’s universe, but the writer’s ability to build upon this universe. The show is stagnant and has shown minimal growth, with this finale showing perhaps it doesn’t have much of anywhere to go.
Nathan: I can’t add much more to that, so perhaps it’s fitting to just link to Chopin’s funeral march and take a moment to bow our heads.
If this was the last episode of Community, can we all agree not to dwell on the bad moments? [Again, fingers crossed] but if this was the last episode, I’m just going to choose to do with it what I chose to do with the last episode of Seinfeld, the last episode of Lost, and my junior prom–pretend it never happened.
What will I remember? I’ll remember Troy and Abed’s friendship–and the first time the writers tapped into that friendship, with the two of them singing “Somewhere Out There” to their lab mouse. I’ll remember Britta’s paintball prowess and Shirley’s Christmas tree and Pierce’s mansion and racism. I’ll remember Annie’s sweetness and Annie’s Boobs. I’ll remember chaos theory and Kentucky Fried Spaceships and the most offensive Spanish class presentation of all time. YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, FINAL EPISODE OF THIS SEASON AND PERHAPS THIS SERIES. YOU CAN’T.
Ben: While Nathan reprises Frank Sinatra, I’d like to remind the avid, unreasonably loyal fans of this show that chances for a fifth season are actually quite bright. NBC dropped Whitney, Up All Night, and 1600 Penn leaving it with little more than a sixth season of Parks and Recreation and re-runs of The Office, which wraps up next week. The network just simply cannot afford to ditch a show with a small but predictable fanbase, and perhaps there’s the “chaos” in this. No matter how poor the show gets, I’ll still watch it. Hell, this is the worst episode they’ve ever done and I’ve already watched it twice. So keep in mind, Nathan, Abed’s Greendale Babies daydreams, Changnesia, puppets, Brie Larson’s coat-check girl, and Troy using Abed to break up with Britta.
Welp, that’s all for us. It’s been a rollercoaster between excellence, mediocrity, and just pure confusion. Hope you have enjoyed it a tad more than we enjoyed this episode, and remember: Pop pop, Nathan. Pop. Pop.