May 10, 2013

Community: "Advanced Introduction to Finality"

By Nico Danilovich


“Advanced Introduction to Finality,” whether it ends up being just a season finale or a series finale, was slightly underwhelming in that it dealt with an issue we already knew the answer to. On the other hand, it was an arguably fun installment that provided us with the necessary resolution to Jeff’s central conflict as a character. In the end, “Advanced Introduction to Finality” accomplished what it needed to accomplish; it was certainly crazy, fairly humorous and slightly heartwarming. Whether or not it went beyond that probably depends on each viewer’s personal opinion of the darkest timeline.

Will Jeff ultimately be a good guy or a bad guy? This was the question posed from the very beginning of the show and (seeing as he started out as a bad guy, he’s a protagonist and Community is a sitcom) I think it’s always been pretty obvious that Jeff’s arc would end with him being good. So, while it was nice to see Jeff complete his arc, it wasn’t particularly compelling or engaging. Furthermore, simplifying things in terms of good and evil, as this episode did, makes things pretty one-dimensional (which is ironic given that this episode was about multiple dimensions). However, providing an answer to this central question was a necessary step for the show take and now was the time to do it.

The story began when Jeff was offered a job at the new firm of his old lawyer buddy, which posed the vague threat of moral corruption and not much else. Then, after getting cold feet about graduating, Jeff attempted to stir up trouble within the group so that they would need him and he could justify postponing his graduation. So he attempted to reintroduce the concept of multiple timelines into Abed’s head, which would assumedly cause all sorts of trouble. Although this plan seemingly failed at first, the darkest timeline managed to make its way into the normal (lightest?) timeline anyways.

I can completely understand the argument that the reintroduction of the darkest timeline was simply a cheap attempt to piggyback off the success of “Remedial Chaos Theory” and “Introduction to Finality”. However, I think it’s also entirely fair to say that this was exactly the kind of insane and wildly enjoyable high concept this finale needed. So, instead of looking at whether the reintroduction of the darkest timeline was a good idea on a solely creative level, I’d rather discuss whether or not its reintroduction was properly utilized.

As I understand it, this episode was about two things:
  •       Jeff had to realize that he wanted to be a good guy in life
  •      Jeff had to come to understand that he could both move on from Greendale and remain friends with the study group


Eventually, it was revealed that the bits of the episode involving the darkest timeline were all part of a dream sequence; right before Jeff threw the die in hopes of messing with Abed’s head, Jeff imagined the entire resulting scenario in his mind. It was basically his way of internally allowing the good and the evil within him to duke it out. The members of the darkest timeline attempted to turn Jeff evil by turning his friends against him. Normal Jeff, the one who would ultimately represented good, attempted to maintain his good relationships with the members of the study group. And just as normal Jeff and the members of the lightest timeline won out in Jeff’s mind, so did the ideology of being a good person.

The reintroduction of the darkest timeline also resulted in Jeff coming to a less one-dimensional realization about his future. He ultimately realized that trying to create trouble within the study group was regressive behavior; it allowed him to stay at Greendale for all the wrong reasons. He could pretend he was still that same jerk from season 1 who needed his friends to help him grow up, but that simply wasn’t true. Jeff is ultimately a nice(r) guy now. If he caused trouble in the group so that they would need him, he would only alienate his friends. If, however, he left the cohesiveness of the group intact, he would maintain his friendships and be able to successfully move on with his life in a mature fashion.

Had the reintroduction of the darkest timeline been real, this episode would have been very problematic. However, because the darkest timeline was all in Jeff’s head and ultimately reflected his inner struggles, I think it accomplished what it needed to accomplish. While I did find the concept hard to swallow at first, I do think it was ultimately enjoyable (especially “evil” Abed) and made easy to accept once we realized it wasn’t real. Aside from that, I think the episode provided the necessary conclusion to Jeff’s storyline, as well as a reasonable amount of humor and emotion. So, while “Advanced Introduction to Finality” never blew me away, it didn’t upset me either.

BUT what happened to the impending attack by City College? Why were we shown that Starburns is still alive if that fact never played into anything? Why was Chang’s plot for revenge teased almost all season long only for it to completely dissipate in the penultimate episode of the season? Why was a romantic interest for Abed introduced and then never shown again? Since “Advanced Introduction to Finality” serves AT LEAST as a finale to this season and these issues were not addressed, this episode has to lose some brownie points.

So, “Advanced Introduction to Finality” was what it was: an alright episode that worked in some regards and failed in others. If you hated the reintroduction of the darkest timeline, you probably also hated this episode as a whole. If you didn’t hate the reintroduction of the darkest timeline, you probably feel the same ambivalence towards this episode as I do. The only thing to do now is hope Community doesn’t get picked up for another season. Chant “six seasons and a movie” all you want, I like it when my shows end before they become disasters.

(If the absence of Pierce and reoccurring excuses for why Jeff would still visit Greendale doesn’t sound like the makings of a bad season, I don’t know what is)

Grade: C

Nico Danilovich is a television enthusiast and amateur filmmaker. His work can be seen at www.youtube.com/TheLazyNeighbors

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