Community: “Heroic Origins”

I came away from Community’s penultimate episode of season four, “Heroic Origins,” with mixed feelings once again. As has happened time and time again this season, “new” Community has left me with little else to do except shrug my shoulders, and say, “Okay, fine.” It’s a tough situation. Anyone who says this new season is terrible, unwatchable, or worthless is clearly overreacting. There’s still a lot to love in the absence of Dan Harmon and the slew of creative talent that left the show with him.

But it’s undeniable that the show is suffering. After tonight’s episode I went back and watched some clips of the first couple seasons just to make sure I wasn’t crazy or under some spell the many times I watched those first three seasons. I could tell the difference immediately. Within each of those two to three minute clips, there was more brilliant comedy and storytelling present than there was in entire episodes of the current season.

Heroic Origins - Photo Gallery - Community - NBC(2)Watching those clips made me realize that there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with the new season of Community. It’s about as funny as some of the other stuff on TV, there’s some great one-liners, interesting plot points with the characters, but what’s wrong with it is it’s not old Community.

The first three seasons were not only funny, they were complex. They were interesting, and the new season, by inevitable comparison, seems dumbed down, boring. Even now, thinking about reviewing last night’s episode, I’m having trouble thinking of things to say about it that I didn’t say about “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” or “Intro to Knots” or any other episode this season.

Getting into specifics, I liked the premise of tonight’s episode–examining the place each member of the study group was in just before coming to Greendale, revolving around an Unbreakable aesthetic, a Shyamalan-esque conspiracy of past human connections. Troy and Annie’s origin story in particular was exceptionally well done (the hilarity of Troy’s oddly ’07-’08 references to There Will Be Blood, Juno, Indiana Jones 4, and Michael Phelps  alone made up for all the missteps throughout the rest of the season), but the flashbacks of the other characters seemed rushed, disjointed, and unremarkable. And of course the absence of Chevy Chase was once again painfully obvious, but I’m reluctant to blame the writers for being handed that bad situation.

Heroic Origins - Photo Gallery - Community - NBCOddly enough, the side characters are once again the strongest aspects of the episode. I’ve said before that the Dean has been a consistent MVP this season, but this time Ken Jeong’s redemption of Chang took the spotlight. I was glad the writing team didn’t rely too much on Chang’s completely uninteresting plotting with City College, and it was touching to see him finally accepted by the group. It was also great seeing his cameo as the disgruntled Senor Chang version of himself (pre-psychotic dictator), and it was a great touch making him the reason each member of the study group heard about Greendale in the first place.

In fact, I loved the whole scene revolving around the yogurt store. It was a great way of portraying how the members of the group went from being lonely, narcissistic individuals to forming an unbreakable ring of friendship, even reaching out to bring in other lonely, neurotics–like Chang. On that level, the story of the episode works. I just wish it had been executed better leading up to it. But that’s this season in a nutshell. Half-realized. Always on the edge of greatness. Next week is the end of the season and possibly the show, and that at least, I’m sure, will give us something to talk about.

Additional Notes:

  • Despite the ratings being worse than ever, Season 5 is looking more and more like a possibility due to NBC’s lackluster schedule. Good thing?
  • The origin behind Magnitude’s catchphrase “Pop! Pop!” was adorable.
  • The body double standing in for Pierce with his face hidden behind the counter made me feel uncomfortable. Anyone else?
  • The transformation of college Annie to high school Annie was mind blowing. I loved her line about being the Jewish leader of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Daniel Dye

Daniel Dye

Daniel Dye

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