Quick Take: Community, "The First Chang Dynasty" & "Introduction to Finality"
"Your timeline just got 10% darker." - Evil Abed
Review: Community, "The First Chang Dynasty" & "Introduction to Finality"
(S0321-22) Being a Community fan can be emotionally tolling, to say the least. The two-part season finale is certain to go down as one of the most memorable in television history, for each and every reason that it should – except for being a true finale. Not only would the closing montage have functioned oh, so perfectly as the series' conclusion – complete with the show's thankful fan recognition with a #SixSeasonsAndAMovie nod – but there was just enough pay-off in all of the important places that there was bound to be controversy.
The most important relationship on Community has always been the one between the Greendale Seven – formerly and forevermore, the study group. In the grand scheme of things, none of the romances teased in the show are, well, things of grand schemes. The tension between Jeff and Annie is utterly lost in the mire of misdirecting developments; even Troy and Britta's festering love-bite is an afterthought amidst the retaking of Greendale. In fact, the only relationship truly impacted was the bromance between Troy and Abed.
The Greendale Seven's Ocean's Eleven-inspired heist in "The First Chang Dynasty" was directed by Broken Lizard's Jay Chanrasekhar (Super Troopers, Beerfest, et al.). Along with the heartbreaking buildup to Troy's sacrificing himself to the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, the episode does a wonderful job at redeeming Ken Jeong's Benjamin Franklin Chang as a force of contained chaos.
There are those who haven't been as endeared to Chang since losing his job as a Spanish teacher. His transition from professor to student left him a tragic, even sympathetic character, wanting nothing more than to be included on the other side of the study room's glass. But then he started living in the vents; he became a security guard, burned down the cafeteria, enlisted pre-teens for an army and gave them riot gear. Yet at the peak of his power, whatever darkness was blinding everyone else to his psychosis is finally lifted, sending him scurrying to the City College air ducts, though not without plenty of quotable craziness before his forced departure.
Troy's own parting of ways with the newly reinstated study group was a powerful moment for everyone – by accepting help from the repair school, he agreed to forswear his past allegiances at Greendale. After being teased with a "darkest timeline" prodded into reality by Troy's departure in "Remedial Chaos Theory," Abed further withdraws into his own reality, one where "Evil Abed" is determined to cut off Jeff's arm, and bring out Britta's black-haired, dinosaur-costumed past.
Aside from the surprise death-misdirection (long live Alex!) and Troy's surprise saviour-dom, the most stunning moment from "Introduction to Finality" was far and away Jeff's morality speech. For three seasons Jeff has been the study group's literal and ethical "gray shirt," making right or wrong his leashed female show-dog given the opportunity to talk long enough. But when he goes to bat for Shirley's Sandwiches in a Greendale court case against Pierce, Jeff's old law colleague, and the man responsible for his disbarment, Alan Connor (Rob Corddry) forces an apparently absolute change of colours.
Just as all the pieces appear to be in motion for Evil Abed to reign supreme, Jeff changes the course of events by embracing a set of moral values defined by how much he and his friends care for each other – about as much as the fans care about the show itself. Even if Troy wasn't the truest repair man and didn't end the barbaric cultist traditions of an air conditioning school, Jeff would have saved the study group from succumbing to Abed's evil, coping-mechanism personality.
Despite the sense of closure provided by the finale, there are plenty of teases for what could come next season.
• Dean Pelton has a new tattoo – odds seem to favour a Dalmatian, but the timing could also suggest some memorial of his daring rescuers. Or just Jeffrey.
• Speaking of: Jeff finally takes it upon himself to look up his dad – at least on the internet.
• Troy moves back in with Annie and Abed, though he, too, now has his own room.
• As mentioned above, Chang seems strategically placed to either exact his revenge, or perhaps truly redeem himself by revealing City College's plans to Dean Pelton.
• Apparently Leonard is roommates with "sexy dreadlocks guy" from Shirley's chicken-smuggling days in Season One. Just sayin'.
• Starburns is alive and blond.
• And whatever transpired in the therapy session between Britta and Evil Abed also remains to be explored. Britta stopped Dr Heidi before he could divulge the darkness that drove her to Greendale in "Curriculum Unavailable," but we know it involves a dinosaur costume, which adds a whole new layer to analyze pertaining to her choice of Halloween costume in Season Two's "Epidemiology," and the "stuff" that got Subway fired.
Check out Tara Bennett's interview with Community's own Gillian Jacobs and Jim Rash for their take on the show so far, and what they'd like to see next season.