Season finale review: 'Community' - 'Advanced Introduction to Finality': The folly of evil

Jeff prepares to graduate, and visitors from the Darkest Timeline try to stop him

<p>Joel McHale and Alison Brie in the &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;season finale.</p>

Joel McHale and Alison Brie in the "Community" season finale.

Credit: NBC

A review of tonight's "Community" season finale coming up just as soon as I give you proof of inseam...

When Moses Port and David Guarascio made their first public appearance as "Community" showrunners at Comic-Con, you could tell they had a gameplan for appeasing fans worried about Dan Harmon's absence: give the fans red meat, and a lot of it. They asked the crowd if they liked "Inspector Spacetime," and the crowd roared. Then they asked how they would feel about an episode set at an "Inspector Spacetime" convention, and the crowd roared much, much louder.

You can't blame Port and Guarascio for deciding that the safest credo they could live by is Give The People What They Want. But that approach led to very mixed results. The body swapping and puppet episodes were two of my favorites this season, but the convention episode and documentary sequel were two of the weakest.

Still, you could for the most part understand the philosophy behind each episode, even though a lot of stuff didn't work, and even though the show was much less laugh-out-loud funny than it used to be.

"Advanced Introduction to Finality," though, was a case of Give The People What They Want run horribly amok. It took two different gimmicks that are both among the most beloved of the series — and that also had outlived their usefulness by the end of last season, which the show openly acknowledged through Abed — and combined them in a way that sucked away whatever fun was remaining in each one, while simultaneously undercutting what should have been one of the biggest emotional points of the entire series.

The return of the Darkest Timeline characters not only felt like a case of the show trying way, way too hard to recapture former glory — and a glory that had already hit the point of diminishing returns as Evil Abed kept returning — but once the whole thing was revealed as a dream sequence (sigh), it made no sense, character-wise. Why in the world is Jeff Winger having an Abed Nadir nightmare? And why does Abed have an entire subplot in that nightmare that takes place separately from Jeff's point of view and depends on information that only the real Abed would know from his travels/fantasies of last season?

And when Abed insisted that they had finally found a way to make paintball cool again, it only underscored how not cool the cafeteria shootout was. What made the first couple of paintball episodes fun wasn't spiffy looking guns and special effects, but how much care and time was devoted to recreating the look, feel and dramatic style of the various action movies they were parodying. Most of the showdowns were uninspired, and tossing in a "Matrix" effect at the end without any proper build-up was just lazy.

The actual non-dream graduation ceremony was sweet, but nearly everything leading up to it was a mess.

Though NBC canceled a bunch of shows today, and renewed "Parks and Recreation,"  "Community" is one of several shows that remain in limbo for at least another day. So this could be the series finale, or it could just be another season finale. If we hadn't already gotten the original "Introduction to Finality" — which, in hindsight, Harmon very clearly wrote as the end of the series, as far as he was concerned — I'd be more irked at the idea that the show might end this way. As it is, it's the culmination of a season that tried really hard, occasionally hit the mark, was often on the outer edges of the target and here wound up eight zip codes away from the bullseye.

Though honestly, if I had to put money on it, I'd bet on one more season. And when you consider where NBC was at the start of this season — when they were desperate to get rid of niche-y shows like "Parks" and "Community" in favor of series like "Go On" and "New Normal" that they insisted would appeal to a broader audience — and then realize there's a chance that the two old shows might return and the two new ones might not, it's pretty hilarious. Regardless of my feelings about this season — which I genuinely did like at times — I'd almost root for renewal just for that.

And if it does come back, I'd hope that Port and Guarascio (or whoever's running it if they decide to be one-and-done) try to just do their own thing with these characters. Because I don't think I'd have the heart to watch a lot more of what we got tonight.

What did everybody else think, about both the finale and this fourth season?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

Alan-sepinwall-sm
Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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