This review contains spoilers.
3.20: Digital Estate Planning; 3.21: The First Chang Dynasty; 3.22: Introduction to Finality
In a flurry of Community activity, we were treated to three – count ‘em – three episodes as a way to round out what has been – by network standards at least – a troubled season. Although, where the logic of an enforced hiatus and then running three episodes together lies is clearly beyond mortal understanding, a triple deck of college-based shenanigans can never be a bad thing.
Except when the first of the three episodes is Digital Estate Planning. What may have been a cute idea in the writers’ room – let’s 8bit up the entire episode – was a little stagey in the execution. Once the novelty of the Zelda-esque graphics has worn off (about two and half minutes in) what’s left is a flat, incredibly bizarre scenario that somehow sees Pierce not only turning down his inheritance, but also having foreseen that computer games were the wave of the future. Considering the incredible run of shows this season, Digital Estate Planning, with its static shots and unlikely half-brother that appears out of nowhere, a full year after the death of Pierce’s father storyline seemed exceedingly bland – how often do you get to say that? Everything that is, except for Abed’s new found love of busty wenches with an inexhaustible supply of information. Disturbing? A little, but clearly, this is Abed’s perfect woman – and not just because of the busty inquisitiveness. No, the reason she’s Abed’s perfect baby mama is simply because she doesn’t exist. No less disturbing was Abed’s family of slave children, bred to fulfil whatever purpose he deems necessary. And this is the non-dark Abed.
In a similar fashion to the clip show that isn’t a clip show tradition, the animated episode has also started to make a yearly appearance. Generally, they work beautifully, but 8bit graphics just don’t have the same feel as claymation, and for those of us who perhaps don’t have the same affection for retro gaming, it was an animation too far. Let’s move swiftly on to the final two episodes, where all the story arc action happens…
The second of the triple deck was the excellent First Chang Dynasty, an episode that ties up the Greendale Seven storyline with a caper that would make Daniel Ocean proud. Having turned the college into GuantanoDale, Chang’s dethroning is well past due, and it takes the group and an amazing array of costumes just 20 minutes to unseat him, in hilarious fashion.
Having far too easily infiltrated the Chang army – Do these kids never go to school? Has no one noticed that they haven’t been to class in two months? – with a combination of racial stereotypes and Facebook, during El Hefe’s birthday celebrations, the caper begins. Using a rock and roll magic act as cover – it just wouldn’t be a party if Winger didn’t at some point get his abs out; as Dean Winchester might have put it: Ricki Nightshade is a douchebag – Jeff and Britta occupy Chang as Dean Pelton is rescued. Sort of. As always with these things when George Clooney isn’t involved, the plan goes south – and it’s up to Troy to save the day. Given that season three has essentially been Troy’s season, it’s only fitting that he rescues the group – but he does so at considerable loss to himself. Enlisting the help of the A/C school to get them out of a tight spot means that he must join the school in return – which he does without a fuss. If the goodbye scene didn’t leave a lump in your throat, you’re dead inside.
In any other show, that would have been the end of the season – not so for Greendale. The season finale happens post summer – a good two months after the events of The First Chang Dynasty, and at the end of the enforced extra biology course. Normal service has been resumed – sans Troy, who is still indentured to the A/C School and the creepy Vice Dean. With the Biology final approaching Jeff can almost smell freedom – if he passes he can go back to his old life lying, cheating and generally sliming his way around the US legal system. Thankfully, Shirley and Pierce’s frivolous and let’s face it, in no way legally binding ‘lawsuit’ over the ownership of Shirley’s sandwiches provides Winger with the chance to show everyone how much he’s grown, while sticking it to the man who ruined his very comfortable life in the first place.
It’s telling that the only member of the group not present to hear Jeff’s inspirational monologue about friendship and community is Troy – the only one who didn’t need to hear it. Off solving the murder of the creepy vice dean – made even sadder by the fact that he had finally sorted through his issues, if his lack of French Plait is anything to go by – at the school he joined while saving his friends. Troy is always the first person to offer help, and his one move did indeed change the game, making life better for the group, the college, and even the A/C school.
Just like a regular season finale, it was happy endings all round – even Pierce managed to have his first good idea and recognised that using gay as a derogatory term is a bad thing. Jeff passes his biology final, Abed agrees to stay beard and bone saw free, and Troy is finally allowed to see his friends, although it seems as though he’s staying at the A/C school – as befits a man of his word. Happy endings are all very well, and it’s great that Troy and Abed are back together, but with Winger’s degree complete, will he return for season four? Let’s hope so.
So, we once again say goodbye to Greendale and the world’s most unusual study group. Despite the network back and forth, Team Community once again produced a great season of original and inventive comedy, and it’s to NBC’s (eventual) credit that new episodes have been commissioned. It may only have been on for three years, but the gang have become part of the fabric of TVland for many, and it would be a much poorer place without Troy, Abed, Britta, Jeff, Annie and even Pierce. Managing to stay just the right side of silly at all times, with great writing and some of the best insults ever broadcast ( ‘you’re Jim Belushi’ being a particular favourite), this show more than deserves six seasons and a movie, and if they keep this up, we might just get it. Have a great summer, and we’ll see you in class next year!
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