Community, Season 4, Episode 13: “Advanced Introduction to Finality”
Written by Megan Ganz
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC
Community suffered a severe case of senioritis in its fourth season. Sure, there were some high points. “Paranormal Parentage” was promising. “Herstory of Dance” and “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” airing in series made it look like the new creative team may have finally gotten it together. Those were exceptions. When the show didn’t feel like it was trying too hard—and this episode is a good example of that—it too often felt like it was going through the motions, doing the bare minimum necessary to make it through the season, and here we are.
Has anything been resolved? We had a season-long arc involving Chang serving as a mole for City College. While Chang eventually realized he belonged at Greendale, the moment wasn’t afforded much weight. His self-sacrifice in tonight’s episode could have been meaningful if it wasn’t quickly tossed aside and forgotten, never to be mentioned again. What was learned from Troy and Britta’s relationship? What is going on with Jeff and Annie? Annie has reverted to a more intense version of her season one self; it’s as if her time in the dreamtorium never happened. Abed seemed primed for growth when he developed feelings for Brie Larson’s coat-check girl, but she was never referenced again. Abed has kept being Abed.
This stagnancy might have been forgivable if the episodes were stellar, but they aren’t. “Advanced Introduction to Finality” is a prime example of that. The pieces are there, the group dealing with Jeff graduating is rich territory. The callback to the darkest timeline could maybe have worked, the paintball thing is probably beyond saving at this point (but it was handled particularly poorly here), but when you put them together it comes off as patronizing, like you’ve lost trust in your audience, that you feel they’ll only respond to pandering. The “it’s all in Jeff’s head” twist only serves to further cheapen the proceedings.
That is a feeling that has pervaded the season. Part of it probably arises from an insecurity on the part of a showrunners, a desire to reassure the fanbase, to proclaim “this is still the show you know and love!” The problem is when you aren’t Dan Harmon and you try to make a Dan Harmon show you merely underscore the fact that you aren’t Dan Harmon. This isn’t a problem endemic to Community. Not-Matt Weiner trying to make Matt Weiner’s Mad Men would run into the same issues. The problem with season four of Community is it’s a show afraid to be itself, and that brings with it all the annoying characteristics we associate with someone trying to be something they’re not.