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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Community triple dose ends season

NBC's Community had the rare opportunity last night to air not one, not two, but three episodes! Of course, not knowing this far ahead of time, each of the final three are stand alone stories, while still contributing to the larger whole. Also, not knowing if the series would be renewed or not, the final episode gives enough closure that it could serve as a series finale, with just a few seconds of content cut out. Thank goodness, this is not the case, and Community will return next year mid-season. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie

In the first half hour, "Digital Estate Planning," the gang, still expelled from Greendale, goes with Pierce (Chevy Chase) to his deceased father's company to learn how he will get the estate. Upon arrival, they learn that Pierce's father, Cornelius (Larry Cedar, Deadwood), has left them a video game in which to compete for his inheritance. Not only that, but the man explaining this to them, Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad, Once Upon a Time), is actually Pierce's half brother, and he wants the money!

"Digital Estate Planning" is awesome because much of it is done in 8-bit animation, with the characters becoming part of the game. It contains a number of great jokes and references, such as Britta (Gillian Jacobs) "screwing up drinking" and Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) singing a new version of their talk show theme song! It is also awesome because it forces Pierce to look at himself and who he is, as well as face the fact that he has a sibling. There is some serious soul searching, once Pierce eventually figures out how to stop running his character into walls. And the finale of this episode hints at a major plot point at the end of the season, which is also an overall theme in Community: People are stronger together than apart.

Plus, Abed finds love with an 8-bit girl whose family is slaughtered by Annie (Alison Brie) and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), and they have hundreds of children!

Episode two, "The First Chang Dynasty," is the long-awaited show down between the study group and Chang (Ken Jeong). They plan an elaborate, Ocean 11 style, heist to rescue the Dean (Jim Rash) from Chang's evil clutches. This is also a great excuse to dress in costume, and Britta's goth gal getup is extremely memorable.

Unfortunately, "The First Chang Dynasty" is one case in which the group's ineptitude does not pay off. Chang may be evil and like using his own name incessantly, but he's also smart. He thwarts their attempts to fool him, and is only stopped because members of the school board happen to walk in on the entire thing. Thus, Greendale returns to normal. Or as normal as Greendale gets.

"The First Change Dynasty" is a wonderful episode because, underneath the goofiness, the bond between these students and their dean is felt. This is again echoing the same theme as "Digital Estate Planning," really setting up how the season will end. The characters get into trouble, and it takes a noble sacrifice by Troy to save them. This reaffirms just how far they would go for each other. And it's great that Jeff (Joel McHale) rewards the Dean with a kind touch that sends him collapsing to the floor in ecstasy.

It's a little disappointing that the Dean doesn't give the group credit for the Biology class after the events of "The First Chang Dynasty," as that class is what leads to the Chang mess in the first place. But at least he revokes their expulsion. "Introduction to Finality" picks up months later, as Jeff tries to study for the summer Biology final, which the other members of the study group seem utterly unconcerned about.

How odd that in "Introduction to Finality," Jeff is the only one that cares about school! Once upon a time, he was the least interested in the curriculum, anxious just to graduate and get back to his life! But in this episode, Jeff really commits to Greendale one hundred percent. Not only does he keep trying to study, in spite of the insanity going on around him, he also sacrifices any chance to return to his career in a trial in which he defends Shirley against Pierce, who is represented by Jeff's former colleague, Alan (Rob Corddry). It really brings things full circle, and demonstrates the kind of man Jeff has become!

It's a good thing that Jeff picks this moment to stand up for his friends and choose happiness because an Evil Abed is afoot in "Introduction to Finality." Depressed over losing Troy, who we'll get to in a minute, Abed becomes Evil Abed, intent on bringing darkness into this timeline. He easily takes out Britta, sending her into a spiral of self doubt. But when he tries to go after Jeff with a bone saw, which is hilariously delayed because he needs an extension cord, he is instead surprised to be confronted with total goodness. Troy isn't the only one who cares about his friends in the group, and seeing this affirmed by Jeff's actions cures Abed of his own depression.

It's odd that it takes an act of martyrdom to cure Abed, considering another action of the same is what drives him there in the first place. Troy sacrifices his happiness and freedom to keep the group out of trouble, agreeing to enroll in the Air Conditioning Annex. But, it turns out, Troy gets there at the opportune time, as Murray (Dan Bakkedahl) kills Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman) in order to assume the position, and Troy, as the chosen one, is the only one who can stop Murray from getting away with it.

What results from this crime is that Troy must engage Murray in a battle to the death in air conditioning repair. Yes, it's silly, but it's still a great, inspiring sequence! Especially when Troy spares his foe, rather than letting Murray die. Community has a tendency to go a bit over the top, which is part of its charm. But when Troy defeats Murray, the others want to lock the killer in some bizarre chamber, and it takes Troy to bring a dose of reality to the situation, instructing the others to hand Murray over to the cops to be tried for murder. One may not think a bit of realism can be funny, but this one truly is!

Then, with balance restored to the Community universe, "Introduction to Finality" plays a version of the show's theme song, with images of each of the characters finding a good ending flashing over it. It's a heart-warming, touching sequence, and one of the best in the show's run. What's more, on top of the expected endings, a couple of dangling threads are tossed in, since the series is, indeed, returning. Chang's next mission? Take over a rival school, surely to do battle against Greendale. And, it turns out, Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos) faked his death! It's the perfect ending to an awesome season!

Community will return to NBC next year, likely in January. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! To buy Community DVDs or catch up with streaming episodes, please click here. Article originally published as Community triple dose ends season on

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