“This Episode was a Microwave Burrito”- Community Season 4 Episode 13 Finale Review- ‘Advanced Introduction to Finality’
I have erased and restarted this review at least four times. Every time I try to put into words what exactly it is that is going through my head, I realize that I’ve changed my mind and actually the episode sucked, or I’ve gone back to thinking that this was actually just fine.
There’s a lot of feedback coming in from both sides regarding the quality of tonight’s episode. There are legions of fans rappelling down from the rafters to proclaim this the greatest episode of all time, the best possible close-out for this season, and, very likely, the show. As of the writing of this review, there has been no news yet regarding whether or not Community has been renewed for a Season 5, and, as such, I can’t get too much of a perspective on this episode, which was an episode where I can at least say that I have never seen anything like it on television before.
Then there’s the other side. If you follow the writers of the AV Club on Twitter (as I do), then you were privy to what seemed like an endless wall of descent against this episode and everything it stood for, calling it the worst thing the show has ever done and proclaiming how it retroactively undermined the rest of the series.
Ultimately, though, I believe both of these parties to be wrong. This episode was aggressive middle-of-the-road. It was by far not the worst thing I’ve ever seen (that honor goes to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), or even the worst episode the show has ever done (I’m looking at you “Conventions of Space and Time”). It had some very high moments, and some moments that made me absolutely cringe.
This episode was a microwave burrito, with a hot and tasty outside covering up the still-undercooked insides like a shameful refried secret.
Having sat on this episode for a few hours now, I can say it really makes me long for a Season 5. For a few reasons:
1.) Somehow, I still have unanswered questions. The Jeff and Annie relationship was hugely called into question tonight, placed on a pedestal that looked really great in that dress, and I’d like to at least see some resolution there. There’s also that huge notion that CITY COLLEGE WAS GOING TO ATTACK GREENDALE WITH A GIANT MECHANICAL SPIDER AND WE JUST KIND OF FORGOT ABOUT IT! In the theoretical Season 5, that could possibly be a nice arc for Dean Pelton, as Jim Rash really performed admirably throughout this season and therefore deserves to take down a giant mechanical spider on camera.
2.) I really think we can go out better than this. This episode was really a C+ or a B- (those simply digging for a letter grade can stop here), and show as stellar as Community has been deserves something a bit better.
3.) We are nicely set up for a Season 5. Jeff is working for Joe Lu Trugglio (which is a development that the comedy nerd inside of me adores) and there’s a lot of cool potential for drama in the courtroom; Pierce is graduated, which was just about the best way to get rid of Chevy Chase I could have possibly come up with; and the rest of the group will remain at Greendale, taking classes and being neat together, now with assumedly added Chang after he triumphantly saved Jeff in dreamland, a moment of heroism that really got to me, as I, too, have jumped in front of something and shouted “Friendship!”, and is another piece of evidence that this show is speaking to me.
That mention of “dreamland” means it’s about time I actually talked about this episode.
I cannot deny, no matter how much I may protest some of the narrative ticks here, that my heart wasn’t pumping for a while there, mostly about the time that Evil Jeff met Jeff. I still think the script felt very first-drafty and could have used a few more passes. It was a little sloppy, and the narrative didn’t quite zip the way it needed to in order to make something this inherently ridiculous come together. Writer Megan Ganz still gave us a lot of things to feel affectionate about, but this is something that could have been on another level and ended up being on the ground floor asking the receptionist where the bathroom was.
It was a bold choice, if a rather obvious and insular one, to make what could very well be the last episode of the show an episode where the Darkest Timeline crosses over and has a paintball war. This episode actually bore a striking resemblance to what I thought we were going to get at the end of Season 3, as I talked about a little here.
If this episode has a major pitfall, it’s actually its climax, hindered by some less-than-stellar performances from the Darkest Timeline, particularly from Joel McHale. Sorry, Joel. You’ve done some A material this season, and Evil Jeff just isn’t one of them. Also, the notion of each doppeldeaner fighting their counterpart is cute, but it really hinders the editing choices. The staging for the Shirley stand-off in particular made it looked like Yvette Nicole Brown was standing in front of two equally-flat backdrops at a crappy carnival photo booth.
Not that it was all bad. Evil Troy’s voicebox still makes me smile, and the sight of Evil Pierce brought me great joy, almost the same amount of joy I felt watching Pierce crash Jeff’s graduation party.
The aforementioned cringe-worthy moment came when Abed was talking to Jeff, unveiling everything that had come. Not in the speech itself, which we all should have seen coming. Personally, I thought it was Abed’s fantasy, and the notion that it was actually Jeff’s was clever, reminiscent of the Troy revelation back in the body-switching episode. To those that spent the bulk of the episode bemoaning how it “undermined the reality of the show,” did you really not see this coming? I have written before about how trying to predict things in stuff in bad, and I still saw this coming from the moment it happened.
No, the episode’s low point was the sentence “We figured out how to make paintball awesome again.” Not that there weren’t parts of this paintball that I didn’t really enjoy, but it just felt awful to have Jeff’s Abed bring it to our attention.
There are some logic issues, sure, regarding how this is Jeff’s fantasy, even though the Darkest Timeline stuff was something that only took place in Abed’s head, but we’re just going to ignore that because I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that really matters.
All of this being laid out, though, I still think that the emotional arc of this episode works. Jeff’s graduation is really what the whole show has been building towards, and while we didn’t get a payoff for his steak reservation mentioned long ago, we did get a sweet episode about how much Greendale has meant to Jeff, and he to it, and how great the audience felt when this season didn’t end with Jeff becoming a teacher.
This season has made some mighty missteps, sure, but this is a show I can’t quit. One day it may even turn into an abusive relationship, but for right now I can’t deny the joy it brings me to see all of my favorite Communists in one room watching Jeff go through a kinda-sorta marriage to his absolutely terrifying school mascot.
Tomorrow, assumedly, we’ll know whether or not this show is coming back. I personally have a secret theory that NBC was waiting to see the fan reaction to tonight’s episode before they made their call, but there’s a more realistic part of me that knows they’ve had this decision made for a month now.
If there’s a Season 5, you can bet your fake gun I’ll be back here reviewing it. And if there isn’t, then I wish you all the best of luck and hope we can all find a new show to latch onto. New Girl is actually doing very well over on Fox, and Happy Endings is great, although in an even worse position than we are over here at Greendale.
Episode Grade: C+
Season Grade: B-
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of great movies and TV and present writer of that damn sixth season and a movie. Keep checking back for all things Community, and our reviews of Game of Thrones and summer movies, our weekly Mexican Standoff, and our Good Stuff.
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