Ben: Happy Friday, everyone! This week on Community, Abed unveils a massive research project on the gang’s “origin stories” and how they got to Greendale. Jeff as a lawyer, Shirley with bangs, Annie with braces, and Britta with whatever-the-hell that nose thing was. Nate?
Nate: First off, sorry for the long delay everybody. I’ve been pursuing an alternate reality the past few weeks, and this dark timeline made it impossible for me to write a recap. (I was right-armless and defending Annie against murder charges. Long story.)
Anyway, this episode sought to build off of last week’s EXCELLENT episode, where Troy and Abed went Freaky Friday all over everything and hit a new high for this iteration of Community. There was some earned emotional payoff last week, and this week the writers did their best to build on that.
This lead to a flashback all the way to 2008, and this time-jump gave us some of the best jokes of the night–Troy quoting There Will Be Blood and promising that telling someone you’re drinking their milkshake will “never get old” … the gang going for frozen yogurt at “the height” of the fro-yo fad, etc. It was a funny commentary on the fact that our culture is so hyper-sped up these days that we can feel nostalgia for five years ago. Or something.
So yeah, Abed digs deep to their roots five years ago. Was this a funny way to do an ode to Unbreakable, or is this show starting to wrap things up?
Ben: I’d also like to applaud last week’s “body swap” episode. When I first read the premise, it seemed impossible to do right, and although it wasn’t very funny, it definitely hit some rather unique emotional tones.
“Heroic Origins”, however, evens the keel by going back to the character’s roots. We often forget Troy was a star athlete or Annie was addicted to Adderall (or that the two went to high school together). It was fantastic enough to see character’s we’ve been with for four years in their past lives, but it seems a tad tried to connect the character’s as strongly as they do. I do love the superhero premise, and I believe we can be grateful they didn’t attempt an actual “superhero” episode, but let’s cut to the chase:
As the flashbacks begin, we see Annie as curly-haired as ever, popping Adderall in her high school hallway as Troy amazes some popular-kid cronies. Cut to 2008 Shirley, who’s buying a teddy to impress a pre-adulterous Andre while her kids go to see a re-release of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.
Simultaneously, Jeff is getting a stripper off public indecency charges for grinding against a flag pole while Britta is in a protest celebrating Jeff’s fight for a woman to use her body however she pleases–line of the night goes to Britta’s anarchist friend as she quits protesting: “I ate a cheeseburger, and suddenly I’m not cold all the time.” But where’s Abed? Abed is waiting outside the movie theater to tell Shirley’s kids they shouldn’t see Phantom Menace, forcing Shirley to be late to her anniversary dinner with Andre who is waiting at the same restaurant Jeff took the stripper to celebrate their court victory (the same stripper Andre ends up cheating on Shirley with).
Nate: In defense of Abed calling two children “idiots,” that movie really did suck.
Ben: Oh, and we’re officially at the point of hiding Pierce’s face behind things and using old audio clips. And Chang was there.
Nate: Lay off Chang! You have an unwarranted hatred of him and it’s bordering on personal.
Ben: Whatever. Simply writing those paragraphs is giving me a newfound appreciation of this episode. It crams a ton of plot into 22 minutes and makes it immensely approachable (I watched it with a 12-year-old who had no problem following along.) The most comparable episode I can think of is actually the legendary “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Community rarely reaches high and fails. At it’s worst, it’s seemingly mediocre on purpose. But the premise of the episode not only flows perfectly (with the typical cadre of perfect one-liners) but re-establishes a sometimes shaky issue the show has with continuity and sets us up well for next week’s season finale.
Nate: I think, just a month ago, we all would have thought this would be the series finale, and not just a season finale. But with the newfound swagger over the last few episodes, combined with the horrifyingly, despicably, other-adverb-ly terrible roster of shows that NBC has in it hopper, I think the show might be back. Who knew? And strangely, I’m OK with it.
I’m not going to try and tie up all the loose ends of the plot, because all the crissing and crossing would drive us all mad. Safe to say, the gang makes up at the end, and they bring Chang back into the fold, who drops the Kevin act. The Dean from City College laughs ominously, and we’re set up for a battle next week. And…again strangely…I’m excited about it.
Origin stories can be tough…they can seem to tie things up too neatly, or add unnecessary explanation to a character best left mysterious. (For evidence of this, check out the stupid flashbacks in Mad Men.) This is, of course, a very different show, but the origin stories were a fantastic way of flashing us back to these characters’ roots and remind us about all the great moments in the show without doing a stupid “greatest clips” episode. (I’m looking right at you, Seinfeld.) When all was said and done, I felt even more warm and gooey than I did after last week’s more sentimental episode. This show has faults, but these are still characters I want to spend time with. That’s enough to give us another season.
Ben: First off, I will totally defend the flashbacks in Mad Men. Dick Whitman watching his pregnant mother getting rammed by a moonshiner? PLOT.
But back to this show, I agree this could have been an absolute disaster, much like last week’s episode. It’s becoming quickly obvious the writers took their time getting comfortable without Dan Harmon, but they have definitely hit a stride. Also, it seems the problems with Chevy Chase may have influenced the quality of the show as I can’t help but notice my favorites all involve a nearly-absent Pierce. Indeed, even in this very sharp episode, my only complaint would be the awkward and forced explanations for Pierce’s absence, but it’s certainly an odd spot for any show to find itself. A solid A- from me.
Nate: Screw Pierce. A strong B+ from me. Look at that! Agreement.
Next week is the season finale, “Advanced Introduction to Finality.” While we have our fingers crossed, this very well could be the last episode of Community ever, so tune in with us. We promise the show is getting better. We don’t just hand out meaningless B-pluses and A-minuses for any old reason, OK?