Community Season 4, Episode 13 Review: “Advanced Introduction to Finality”

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For about fifteen minutes out of “Advanced Introduction to Finality”‘s twenty-two, I was almost speechless at how inept of an episode it was. Season four had been mixed for sure, but it also had a fairly solid run of fix-to-six episodes that hearkened back to the Dan Harmon years. Because it seemed that the show had found its grove midway through the season, I saw no reason that the season finale – and as the writers likely though of it and could still be the case – the series finale, wouldn’t be great. But as I watched Evil Jeff enter the real world, thus breaking the reality Community had always tread so deftly, I couldn’t believe the writers thought this would be a good ending for the show.

Of course, it all turned out to be a dream, and even though I breathed a sigh of relief that Community hadn’t jumped the shark, it still didn’t make up for the awfulness that came before it. I could critique how as a dream sequence it didn’t make sense, but instead I’ll critique the choice of a dream sequence for a finale. When an episode is our final look at characters we love for a season – and in Community’s case, possibly forever – why would you devote most of the episode to their doppelgangers? I realize that this is bringing back a subplot from season three, but it was a subplot that almost everyone responded negatively to. No one was clamoring for more Evil Abed or Evil Jeff like they do for Magnitude and Leonard. And if the subplot hadn’t been adequately tied up last year, I could almost understand, but “Introduction to Finality” tied it up with a somewhat-misshapen-but-serviceable bow. Instead of letting everyone forget about it, Community tried to fix it and ripped the bow in half.

And I wanted to like “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” I really did. Megan Ganz, a great writer for the show, had written it, so as I saw her name in the opening I got excited. The opening itself was even pretty good. But instead of watching “Advanced Introduction to Finality” be good, or even slowly falter, it just spontaneously combusted a good back-half to season four.

Community - Season 4

I‘ll give Community a little credit for delivering a solid graduation. Once we went back to reality and I finished face-palming, I was able to enjoy Jeff and Pierce graduating. It served as a good ending for Pierce and a solid one for Jeff’s time at Greendale. The following scene with the study group where Jeff told everyone he would try to stop by was also nice, so at least the episode ended on a good note. That scene also made me hope the show continues, if not only so “Advanced Introduction to Finality” wouldn’t be the series finale, but because I love the show and its characters.

I could continue to tear into “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” but in case this was the final episode of Community, I don’t want my closing thoughts on the show to be negative. Community was a show that in its peak could stand with the greatest sitcoms of all time, and in its worst was still pretty darn good. Even season four, a deeply troubled season, turned out to be alright. Would this season have been better with Dan Harmon? Oh, absolutely. But when I wrote before the season premiere that I though Community would be okay with Harmon, I turned out to be half-right. There were episodes like this that were a zombified version of Community, but there were also “Intro to Knots” and “Basic Human Anatomy” that were just as good as anything from seasons two or three. When I look back at season four – hopefully there will be others that follow it – I’ll think of the good aspects of the season and not the bad parts. Because Community has always been a positive, happy show. There have been dark moments, like “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” but even that had a bittersweet core.  That’s why the dark timeline stuff always felt so inherently wrong, and why “Advanced Introduction to Finality” fails in indulging it. Hopefully we’ll get a season five so we can forget about “Advanced Introduction to Finality” and the show can be given a proper ending. If not, we’ll always have “Introduction to Finality”, and we’ll always have

#sixseasonsandamovie

I will have a season four retrospective this Saturday. We should find out Community’s fate tomorrow, so I’ll be writing it following the good or bad news.

But what did you think of “Advanced Introduction to Finality”?

  • “but it was a subplot that almost everyone responded negatively to.”

    A little piece of advice: In future reviews, don’t speak for other people. Especially not when it’s both unfounded and a massive generalization.

    Also, I think the idea for this episode was to act as a “greatest hits” of sorts for Jeff; a way for him (and us) to reflect on his time at Greendale and its highlights (paintball, timelines, etc.) on top of delivering a new story about him struggling with whether he wants to evolve as a person or know who he is (season 1 quotes, amirite?). It also nicely concluded Dan Harmon’s story circle, as he is now back where he was, but changed. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, but that was just my take on it. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

  • All the reactions to the dark timeline I’ve seen have been negative. You’re the first.

  • Tony Ponce de Leon

    Put me in as the second person in the world, I guess, who absolutely loved the idea of the dark timeline. I always hoped for some sort of showdown, and was totally okay with the way it was used in Abed and the S3 finale. A revist? I was totally pumped.

    Let me backtrack first, though. We’ve seen all of Season 4 now. I’ll admit, I’m probably one of the bigger S4 apologists out there. I feel like there was theme this season (HISTORY) and it was stuck to VERY well. A lot of looking back for our greendale 7 and growing because/out of it. If you wanted to talk about it at length, except for maybe one or two episodes, I can link each one to the theme of History and why it worked as a S4 ep. A lot of people felt this season become stale. Too many callbacks. Too much fan service. But really, a lot of that can be linked back to the show’s decision to “look back” and sort of stay in place while contemplating just how they got here and coming out of that anew/with growth…

    But let’s talk about this one. An episode that focused on Jeff’s inner struggle to leave Greendale. Something that’d been talked about, but not really worked on. And as jarring as it was for seemingly everyone to have him grapple with this decision of his, not only in his head, but through the darkest timeline story, I found it more than fitting. Jeff’s a changed man from the Pilot episode. He’s someone who has found a new family in the Greendale 7. He’s someone who will never forget the absolutely bonkers adventures he had with these guys. I found it downright perfect that the way he broke down his decision to leave was through a very Abed way of thinking of things. Darkest timeline. Doppelgangers. Paintball. (all things from the past… Community’s HISTORY). It was him, going all out with his best friends one last time. And to come out of that dream sequence, learning something? A dream sequence he never would have had had it not been for the life long friends he made the past 3.5 years? It just was… a great way to end the series.

    I won’t get the dislike for this episode. I can’t. It connects to well with the theme of this season, and as an end of journey for the show’s main character? Works as good as it could have. (I’d only take off points for that battle sequence that could have been greatly improved with more time, higher budget, better direction). I guess I’ll have to be in the minority here, but boy do I feel great. If this is the way my favorite show for the past couple of years goes out, I’m happy.

    (thanks for reading, anyone who did! That’s too many words for me to read.)