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'Community' Recap: "Advanced Introduction To Finality

Jeremy Fuster |
May 10, 2013 | 10:11 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Is it possible for a show to create an episode so terrible that it kills all passion I have for it? An episode that makes me want to throw up my hands, walk away, and not care at all if I never see another new episode of that show again?


I got the answer to this question from a line spoken by Abed Nadir in the season four (and possibly series) finale of 'Community': "We finally found a way to make paintball cool again."


No, Abed, you haven't.  What you have made is what is unquestionably the worst 22 minutes of television that this once excellent comedy series has ever presented. "Advanced Introduction To Finality" is an episode that is supposed to mark the end of the overarching storyline that started Jeff Winger's adventures at Greendale Community College. Instead, it's just an ungodly mess of fan service, terrible pacing, stale gags, and a farewell that is stripped of its emotional weight by all of the above.


In this episode, Jeff has finally completed his degree at Greendale and is able to become a lawyer again.  He receives an offer from one of his old associates to work at a new firm, but after all of his experiences at Greendale, Jeff is worried that he is going to go back to being the same jerk he was at the start of the series, and that the fast lane life of being a lawyer will be too much to resist.


This inner turmoil gets shoved off to the side, however, as the episode descends into total stupidity in an attempt to blend all of the series' greatest hits into a single poisonous concoction. The darkest timeline from "Remedial Chaos Theory" makes its return, as the one-armed Evil Jeff and the deranged Evil Annie attempt to destroy Jeff's relationship with the rest of the study group so he can turn away from Greendale completely and go back to his old life without looking back. 


The end result of all this is an epic paintball shootout between the good and evil study groups with guns that send their targets to another dimension. Wait, did I say epic shootout? I meant a bunch of lame green screen camera shots in which the evil versions act like imbeciles while their counterparts off them with a single squeeze of the trigger. Also, the evil counterparts wear outfits that reference 'The Matrix,' because this show has completely forgotten what it once was and has resorted to making cliched movie references for the sake of making them.


All of this absurdity is supposed to be excused because, as Abed explains at the end, this is all just happening inside Jeff's head as a way for him to cope with his fears about graduation, but I roll my eyes at that because it completely lacks logic. First off, the episode has a B-plot in which Abed is sent to the darkest timeline and works with his evil counterpart to find a way to stop Evil Jeff. Why would Jeff create an independent experience for Abed within his own head? Furthermore, why would Jeff choose the timeline crap to begin with? From the moment the concept was introduced, Jeff has made it clear that he doesn't believe in alternate timelines, so why would he create something like that in his head? 


The whole concept of Evil Jeff creating a plan to destroy his good version's life doesn't sit well either. Even in the darkest timeline shown at the end of "Remedial Chaos Theory," Evil Jeff still doesn't believe in alternate timelines and Abed's "sci-fi crap," because he's focused on the real problems he's facing. Now suddenly he's replaced Evil Abed as the diabolical cross-dimensional villain? This entire story, while imaginary, completely betrays everything established about Jeff, both in the main series and in this timeline concept that the writers have allowed, no, encouraged to go completely out of control simply to pander to the fans. It says nothing about how Jeff has been changed by his time at Greendale or how he has come to a decision about his future, because despite what the writers want us to believe, Evil Jeff is nothing like the Jeff we met at the show's pilot. It's nothing more than a flimsy pretense to allow the writers to resurrect all the greatest hits of the show (paintball, timelines, etc.) with the belief that the fans will get excited by their mere presence regardless of whether or not they have any substance or quality. 


Sandwiching all of this is the real world conflict that Jeff is facing and that this episode should have addressed. This is supposed to be the day that Jeff has been waiting for since he arrived on campus. He's finally going to receive the piece of paper that will allow him to be a lawyer again, and he's suddenly realized that it is much more bitter than sweet, because Greendale has given him more than anything else in his life. It has given him friends. It has taught him how to care for others. It has given him the courage to stand up to his father and put an end to years of pain and repressed anger. This episode should have reflected on all of these things and placed more attention on the actual temptations of the world Jeff once lived in, where the old, selfish Jeff is prized as an cutthroat, effective case winner and the new Jeff is seen as a weakling that allows his emotions to get in the way of success. Instead, we got bullet-time paintball.


And this is why this single episode of 'Community' has soured my thoughts on the season as a whole and my desire to see any future seasons. This was supposed to be a major payoff episode that had to give a satisfactory conclusion to the show's biggest story arc, and it totally failed. Even the genuine, well-written speech given by Jeff at the end wasn't enough to save this. The writers chose to sidestep the inner conflict over how Jeff will start the next chapter of his life, a conflict essential to completing his character development, by giving us a flashy reference-palooza of a finale that said or did nothing of substance and had no lasting impact.  If they can't get this important moment right, what's to say that they won't do the same with important resolution episodes in future seasons? What's to say they will continue to cling to the same old tried-and-tested material from the Dan Harmon-era because coming up with new original material will be considered too risky?


As I write this, NBC has yet to hand down its verdict on the future of 'Community.' I expect it will get a fifth season, for no other reason than the fact that 'The Office' is on its way out along with all the other shows NBC is canceling. 'Community' will be spared because they need SOMETHING to carry over into the next fall lineup. But episodes that evoke the show I once loved will be rare, possibly one or two every season. The others I will likely find mildly entertaining at best, but not the avant-garde material that made this show the smartest thing on television. I can't even say that I want another season just because I want a better series finale, because we already have that. The final episode of season 3, "Introduction To Finality," did everything that this "advanced" version should have done. It tested how much Jeff has changed by putting him in a face-to-face conflict with the man who embodies his past life and who cost him his job in the first place. It provided a sense of closure for everyone in the series, and it even managed to shove in that darkest timeline crap, because the character that provided the vehicle for it was Abed, the only character that can make the whole good/evil counterpart thing work. Maybe I'll just go into Fanon Discontinuity mode and pretend that NBC decided to not give 'Community' an abridged fourth season, making that improvised finale the imperfect but satisfactory ending to an incredible, three-season cult hit that never got the ratings it deserved.


After watching this episode, I saw the 'Community' Facebook page encourage people to tweet the hashtag #SixSeasonsAndAMovie in an attempt to urge NBC to renew the show. There was a time I would have joined them. Now it just seems like another gag that's being beaten like a dead horse in an attempt to preserve the hardcore fans that are still onboard after this inconsistent season. So let me end this review with a hashtag of my own:





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