Community Season 5, Episode 12 “Basic Story (Part 1)”
Written by Carol Kolb
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Season finale airs 4/17 at 8pm ET on NBC
As one half of a season (series? say it ain’t so, NBC!) finale, it’s hard to judge “Basic Story” in a vacuum. Double that when it’s an episode where nothing actually happens – until everything is happening, and the fate of Greendale is in the balance, as is the sanity of every member of the Greendale 7 (except Shirley, I guess? She just kind of vanishes at some point). In those final moments, it does feel like Community is straining a bit to give its finale purpose, throwing in tease after tease (including one I’m really hoping is just a big, fat mislead for “Basic Sandwich” to demolish) – though again, the episode plays things so close to the chest it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on.
At first, “Basic Story” is just that, a call back to the earliest episodes of the show: Jeff’s trying to not get involved in campus affairs, the Dean is dressed as a normal person, and Abed’s freaking out over some sitcom/film trope he’s either experiencing, trying to recreate, or disseminating in the way only Abed can. As Chang so eloquently defines it, Greendale and its inhabitants are content, absent of the normal hijinks that turn episodes of Community into The Godfather homages or riffs on specific film genres… things are peaceful as the Save Greendale committee finishes fixing up the school in the wake of the gas leak.
However, all that good will towards their school has made it profitable – and with that realization (and the arrival of Ronald Mohammed, played by the always-fantastic Michael McDonald), “Basic Story” transforms from a reflection on the nature of sitcoms (which depict “normal life”, except that every episode features some outlandish, super dramatic life situation) into a preview of the season finale, where Greendale becomes property of Subway (Subwaydale?) and Jeff and Britta are thinking about getting married (a callback to the pilot and the reason Jeff formed the study group, but is a jarring, head-scratching conclusion that feels like there’s another shoe waiting to drop there). With no resolution (often Community‘s strongest quality), it makes the entire episode feel incomplete, a series of scenes tough to disseminate (beyond their obvious thematic allusions and connections) without the perspective of knowing what happens. The drama isn’t in this episode – something Abed goes way out of his way to point out – but in what is to come, making this entire half-hour feel inconsequential in the short-term.
Again, all of this could be leading nowhere: the buried treasure map could be a mislead (as treasure maps can often be known to be… since when does anyone follow a treasure map in a film and actually find the treasure they’re looking for?), as could Jeff and Britta’s sudden desire to settle for each other (please let this be fake; a married Jeff is not really a character I’m interested in seeing, though Britta fighting back against domestication would be hilarious). The only thing I can say about “Basic Story” is that it is trying to come full circle in a LOT of ways – and while many of those ways could lead to interesting directions in “Basic Sandwich”, there are times when it feels like “Basic Story” is reaching (season four-style, going heavy on self-referential material) to create a “finale-like” atmosphere. I suppose there’s nothing to do for now except wait and see.
– next week’s review will encompass the events of this episode: designed as one whole part, none of this will make much sense (in narrative terms; thematically, it’s pretty obvious) until after “Basic Sandwich”.
– two “callbacks” I really enjoyed: the Dean finding his ‘wedding ring’ from the pilot, and Annie wearing a skirt for the first time this season.
– I don’t know if we needed to kick the sleeping dog that is Community season four, but calling the Troy/Britta plot “the most boring thing” nailed it.
– Allison Brie’s “Buried Treasure” dance.
– the opening tag was so heartwarming: “Aww, how nice… I love you guys!” We love you too, Dean.