And we’re over. Potentially forever. Did you hear that? It sounded like a thud.
Yes, this episode marked the final show of Community’s fourth (and final?) season. To say the least, it has been a bumpy year for our Greendale brethren, marked least by the fact that all these episodes were supposed to air between October and January. It was with a heavy heart and trepidation that I approached this season closer, fearing what the end might bring. Yet, I really wanted to like it. Community has meant a lot to me over the years and for all intensive purposes, it may be the last network show that I truly care about. Also, series vet Megan Ganz penned this one and whether Community returns or not for a Season 5, she has been lost forever with a transfer to Modern Family. Thus, I really wanted to like this episode.
It is almost fitting how hard this episode tries. It is chock full of callbacks to many of the series’ greatest moments: A “Troy & Abed in the Morning” here, a paintball game there. Most of all, it is built around what is for my money the greatest episode in Community history: “Remedial Chaos Theory”. Remember that one where throwing a dice created six (or really seven) alternate realities, including a darkest timeline? Of course you do, because they referenced it repeatedly. They even revealed in the Season 3 Finale that it was all in Abed’s head. Well, it is back with a vengeance for this year’s send-off.
The long and short of it is that Jeff has finished his time at Greendale a semester early. He already has a job offer from a new law firm run by an old buddy who’s doing a Rob Corddry impression. But like an extra in a Vitamin C music video, he is not ready to say goodbye. Ergo, when the equally weepy Annie and Dean plan to throw him a personal graduation ceremony/wedding (it’s community college), he concocts in his head an absurd scenario that keeps him at Greendale.
It turns out that the darkest timeline is real and Evil Jeff and Evil Annie have come to our timeline to punish Good Jeff. They do this by having Evil Jeff insult everyone in the study group (plus the dean) and break their hearts. Alienated, Good Jeff will be forced to return to his predatory ways as a lawyer. On a side note, do lawyers really not need to pass the bar or go to law school in any of these timelines?And yes, they made paintballs cool again.
Good Jeff figures out the ploy and convinces the rest of the study group when Abed returns from the darkest timeline with paintball guns capable of sending everyone’s evil doppelganger back to the dark world from whence they came. Mayhem ensues and Jeff realizes that he is dreaming this all up to avoid leaving Greendale. He snaps back to reality, accepts that he must move on, and has the most fabulous graduation ceremony, like ever! He also pledges to find a smaller firm where he can do pro bono work that’ll let him hang around in case his Greendale alumni will ever need him again.
This was a very, very strange episode. Once more, Season 4 relies heavily on, “It was just a dream/fantasy” storytelling to have a cartoonish episode that is devoid of reality. And again, I am reminded of that NBC exec who told Dan Harmon that Community reminded him of Family Guy. While the “keep it semi-plausible” rule is technically not broken since it is all in Jeff’s head, it still feels like a lazy storytelling device to have their yogurt and eat it too. Whatever the case may be, it does not quite feel like old school Community. With that said, there were some nice throwbacks that were enjoyable to experience. The consolidation of generational power for the Chang Dynasty was hinted at in the darkest timeline when Good Abed visited that location. Also, Evil Abed’s revelation that in this dark world, The Cape was not canceled, but moved to cable where it is awesome actually earned a chuckle. The faintest tip of the hat is even made to Star Burns in this universe where he apparently is having a clearance sale on meth.
However, so much like most of Season 4, it did not quite work. Jeff wishing to become a better person and not just a sleazy lawyer makes sense and is a fine arc for the season finale, even if it is a repeat of last year’s ending. But I would rather have done a full-on episode about Jeff graduating and what that means for him and all the members of the study group. Instead, it gets skirted for a fantasy that dives into classic Community tropes like a piece of earnest fan fiction.
Season 4 is over and the show may never come back. Honestly, I do not care. I love these characters and the actors playing them, but the magic is simply gone. We are not in the darkest timeline. It has not become a disgraceful parody of what it once was like other scholastic themed shows that began in 2009. Ahem. However, besides the story being naturally over with Jeff’s graduation, the creative team behind the show just has, by my count, missed eight or nine times out of 13 trips up to bat.
If Community somehow (miraculously) comes back for a fifth season, I will watch it because I love these guys and am a sucker like that. But this just may not be six seasons and a movie, guys. Maybe it is four seasons and a movie….if that movie is written by Dan Harmon.
Oh yeah, Pierce graduated and left the show. But given that Chevy could barely even show up for his handful of close-ups in the finale, I barely could find the effort to write anything beyond these two sentences.