The execs at NBC has gone off their meds. First they fire Dan Harmon, leaving him to find out about the news secondhand. Then they renew ‘Community’, but in a shortened order. They delay the start of the season, dumping it towards the end of the regular programming season, where it runs awkwardly through holiday episodes in the wrong time of year. And now, as this poor, tragic saga winds down to a merciful close, NBC renews the show for another season!
You can tell that the writers weren’t expecting that last move, because ‘Advanced Introduction to Finality’ definitely feels like the last episode of a show that knows it’s not getting any more chances. Jeff has enough credits to graduate, and accepts a job with his former partner (Joe Lo Truglio, the one who got him disbarred in the first place). Worried that he might have changed too much to go back to his old life, Jeff accepts Annie and the dean’s offer to hold a graduation ceremony, which morphs quickly into more of a wedding.
Things go awry when members of the study group from the Darkest Timeline (first seen in Season 3’s ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’) break through to this timeline to force Jeff into accepting the job, and thus turn him evil. They come armed with paintball guns that can send people into the Darkest Timeline, leading everything down to a paintball shootout.
‘Advanced Introduction to Finality’ has some good moments. The wedding/graduation ceremony at the end feels like something that the dean and Annie would have cooked up, and Evil Annie is wonderfully played by Alison Brie. However, for what would have been the final episode of the series, it feels too much like a rehash. The Darkest Timeline is ripe for plundering, but hasn’t been mentioned in a long time, and is awkwardly brought back up by Britta just in time for Evil Jeff to make his first appearance. Even worse, the paintball shootout brings to mind the superior previous paintball episodes, which were far more inventive and entertaining than this one.
At the very least, the writers manage to tie the plot up into a nice bow. Even Pierce gets to graduate (and before Jeff). This makes me wonder where on Earth the series will go from here. Will Jeff pathetically hang around his old community college campus? Will Chevy Chase even be asked to participate? Will he want to, given how drastically Pierce has been marginalized this season? I, for one, will not stick around to find out. This season has proven that ‘Community’ is a balancing act that most people can’t pull off. The new staff gave it the old college try, but their best wasn’t good enough. So long, ‘Community’. We’ll always have Seasons One through Three.