The crazy quilt of destiny
I enjoyed the origin story and seeing more flesh on the characters’ pasts than we’ve seen before, like what Annie’s pill addiction looked like. Some viewers might object to this sort of uncovering of the group’s history, but I thought it was fun to watch even if not especially funny.
To my surprise, Pearce’s absence didn’t bother me. He’s never been my favorite character, but I tend to like Chevy Chase, so I (thought I) was sorry to see him leave the show. Seeing him tacked on to the origin story seemed okay though, and the episode worked well enough without him.
I liked the brief exploration of Abed as the supervillain responsible for the group’s creation, but I didn’t love the notion that some characters might be responsible for past harms in one another’s lives. The idea that Jeff could be to blame for Andre cheating on Shirley felt ridiculous, even if his defense of the stripper was unsavory. This subplot felt like a strange effort to let Andre off the hook, especially combined with the stripper pointing the finger at Shirley for having left Andre on their anniversary (and why wouldn’t he go with her to pick up their kids?). So the episode basically suggests that Andre is some kind of victim and the stripper is reluctant to get involved with a married man, while Jeff and Shirley created the conditions for the affair. What? Surely there were other ways to unite Jeff and Shirley’s histories.
Finally, I didn’t love the resolution being that Chang brought them all together. I would rather have seen the credit go to the dean, since he’s been a key player in the group’s well-being throughout. But crediting Chang for drawing them to Greendale and Abed’s advice to him about reinventing himself may successfully get the show off the hook of Chang engaging in even more villainous pursuits than last season. As I’ve already complained, what would that even look like? How much worse can he get? It’s actually more interesting to me to see Chang change and feel like he, too, has a place in the community. I can tolerate seeing City College’s dean be the villain, because his past attempts at harming Greendale have been less violent than Chang’s and have generated funnier events, like school-wide paintball and rocket science. If his next attempt to undermine Greendale generates something as fun to watch as A Fistful of Paintballs, sign me up.
I don’t have much to add here…this felt like another episode that offered a great idea, but which was executed with half the polish and pizazz of the former show. Given the prominent role Lost has played throughout Community’s seasons, I was a little surprised that they went with the supervillain/hero narrative rather than linking it explicitly to the Lost-style timelines they explored, exposed and mocked so mercilessly – and brilliantly – in previous seasons. I guess the payoff was the mild redemption story with Chang, but that hardly seemed worth it. Given the character of our crew, a background story that explains how they all got stranded together makes more sense than a background story for how they became a superhero team.
And once again, nothing new was revealed about the characters – like you point out, the storylines are fairly contrived. Andre is taken off the hook by weird plot twists, and the import of Jeff and Shirley’s prior connection lacks the psychological heft of the pinball episode. We don’t have a foundational narrative for how someone became who they fundamentally are – we have a brief narrative explaining (in a weird, facile way) an event in someone’s life. The difference is slight, but it matters.
I did like the use of the Breakfast Club motifs at the end, though – I’m just a sucker for an 80’s movie I guess. That our characters didn’t map perfectly on to those ones also felt right – even though they haven’t grown or developed all that much this season, we were reminded of the ‘types’ each began as – the jock, the freak, the type-A nerd, and then a few that just don’t fit…
It just bums me out a little that the only things I really enjoy this season are the moments when it lets me get nostalgic for previous seasons. I had hoped for a little more.
Oh well, only a couple more to go –