Hello, Communies! I've got four of these to cobble together today, so let's skip the chit-chat and get down to it. This roundup covers those reviews that cover all three episodes (or more than one, at any rate) in one article. Reviews covering individual episodes will be rounded up into posts specifically dedicate to those episodes. For aesthetic reasons, I'm going to abbreviate the episode titles—DEP for "Digital Estate Planning," TFCD for "The First Chang Dynasty," and ITF for "Introduction to Finality"—and forgo the use of quotation marks around the abbreviated titles.
- Ethan Alter of Television Without Pity loved "DEP," placing it in his "canon of the best Community half-hours of all time." Not only did it appeal to him as someone who grew up playing 8-bit NES games, it also made him like Pierce again, which he calls an "significant achievement." He thought TFCD was a bit of a letdown in comparison, but said, "on its own terms, it was a solid episode, nicely sending up Ocean's Eleven-style heist movies while giving Donald Glover some meaty character stuff to play." As for "ITF," he thought "it truly was a happy ending all around … Honestly, if that had been our farewell to the study group, we would have been okay with it." He concludes with a look back at season three, naming the best and worst episodes and the best finale moment for each character.
- Alan Sepinwall of HitFix didn't think DEP and TFCD were the best examples of their type, "though each had their charms." He didn't think the video game episode was all that laugh-out-loud funny, but he thought it was clever and was smart to turn to more emotional territory as the episode progressed—a turn that benefited from having "a great actor like Giancarlo Esposito playing the role of Pierce's secret half-brother Gilbert … and also that it mostly took Pierce seriously." He thought TFCD was the "night's most successful outing in terms of pure humor value," and that it replicated the look and feel of heist films well, but that it suffered by being "part of the larger framework of Chang's rise to the dictatorship of Greendale, which isn't a story arc — or an iteration of Chang as a character — that's been terribly successful." With regard to "ITF," he observed that it "seems like it was constructed as a just-in-case series-ender, from the title to the emotional place it leaves several of the characters, but especially Jeff Winger.… if [it] had wound up as the last episode the show ever did, it wouldn't have been 'Community'" going out on its funniest note, but one that serviced as many of its large cast of characters as it could."
- Jill Mader of Couchtime With Jill held a finale viewing party with her friends, one of whom brought chicken fingers to snack on. <homer>Mmm, thematically appropriate snacks.</homer> She thought DEP might have been her favorite episode of the night, despite not being much of a gamer. "This felt like a classic, memorable Community episode and I loved that one of the three episodes just focused on the study group, and not the Greendale/Chang storyline." She thought TFCD "did a really good job [playing] around with classic heist film tropes," but thought the resolution of the Chang storyline required too much suspension of belief, especially since the following episode made such a big deal about Troy insisting that Vice Dean Laybourne's killer be taken to the police. In ITF, she thought Troy's storyline was "completely wacky and ridiculous without ever losing me," but worried that the Evil Abed storyline might have been impenetrable for people who hadn't seen "Remedial Chaos Theory."
- Andrea Speed of cxPulp opens on a down note, suggesting that with Whitney as a lead-in next season, Community is a "dead show walking." But things pick up from there. She liked DEP, but she said it was "more cute than funny," and she felt it "kind of wasted Gus Fring’s [sic] guest appearance." She thought TFCD was "kind of a trifle too," but also that it was goofy fun and that Jeff had a "surprising torso (now I see what the Dean sees in Jeff)." (Did she not see "Contemporary Impressionists"?) Finally, she called ITF "a good wrap up for the season, and would have been a great wrap up for the series as well." She thought Jeff's speech was a little sappy, but she liked how well it "showed how much he’s grown since he started attending Greendale." Overall, she gave the evening 4.5 three-exclamation-points-in-a-circles out of five.
- Brent Koepp of Dan Harmon Sucks says, "All three episodes were fantastic." He's a big gamer, and thought DEP was "one of the best video game homages I’ve seen on television," and he appreciated that the video game tropes were used to serve an interesting story. But he thought it a little odd to have it air right before two very highly serialized episodes. He talks about TFCD mostly in terms of what it says about the group and its relationship to Greendale and the Dean. "When Jeff puts his hand on the Dean, it was the show coming full circle. It was a funny scene to be certain, but the moment was also endearing, and was again a strong moment for the series. That Jeff would care so much for the Dean that he would do this shows how far these group of characters have really come." About ITF, he says it "takes the formula that the show has centered on for a while, and turns it on its head." I'm having trouble summarizing what he means by that, so just go read it. He gave both DEP and ITF an A-plus, and TFCD an A-minus.
- Ron Martin styles his post at 411mania.com as a "Community MEGA Review," which styling I've borrowed for this review roundup. Early on, he states that yesterday was "the last night Dan Harmon will be the showrunner," which may be true by the time you read this (ETA: it was!) but wasn't at the time he posted it, so that was kind of strange. Also strange: his belief that TFCD should have aired before and after DEP. Switching DEP and TFCD makes sense in the abstract—he's right that it was odd to see the group sitting around playing video games when they were so gung ho about rescuing the Dean at the end "Curriculum Unavailable"—but is kind of nonsensical in the concrete, since TFCD ends will Troy being forbidden to spend any time with the group, and presumably that would include time spent playing video games, even for probate purposes. But he goes on to say that since there was no real "end of the year feeling" to ITF, and because there was no paintball episode this year, TFCD should have been the season finale. Weird. Anyway, his final score for the night was 8.0, a score "based on an average of the three ratings for the individual episodes" (8.5 for DEP, 9.0 for TFCD, and 7.0 for ITF. Which actually averages out to 8.17, but that's probably why he said his score was "based on" the average.)
- Randy Dankievitch of Processed Media, heretofore known as R. Dank, observes that it is altogether fitting for "the most versatile comedy around" to end its season with three "wildly different episodes." Taken together, he thought they all felt "slightly off-kilter," which he attributes to the first episode being a high-concept story unrelated for the larger ongoing season arcs, leaving too much to be squeezed into the final two. And he felt TFCD and ITF were further hampered by a weak ending to Chang's arc, which in his opinion never worked very well outside of "Competitive Ecology," and a mock court case that he didn't care about. Nevertheless, "it was always funny, and most of the emotional moments hit the right beats at the end." He gave both DEP and TFCD a letter grade of B-plus, and ITF a B. Looking back at the season as a whole, he thought it did a very good job of demonstrating "that these people really need each other to grow, and both their friendship and Greendale is making them better people." But he was disappointed that Annie had no real character arc this season.
- The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerrf's first thought at the end of ITF was, "'Man, that would have been a satisfying series finale.'" He thought a few things didn't work all that well, and that Jeff's speech was a little gooey at first, but by the end of the montage, he was "genuinely touched by the journey the show had gone on.… It was sentimental without being overly so, and it felt like the perfect close for the show, like everything had come full circle, and we were being left with a world of possibility." He was not as fond of DEP, which, despite being "clever in places" and having a "charming animation style," he "never fully connected with" and interrupted the flow set up in the last few episodes. He thought TFCD was "much, much better," calling it "one of those Community episodes that leaves you with a grin on your face throughout, simply because the whole thing is so much fun." He still doesn't think the Chang Rises arc was as successful as many of the other serialized stories this season, largely because he never felt the army of children worked as a credible threat, and he feels they glossed over the real-world repercussions of such a story, what with the Dean bouncing back so quickly and Chang just being able to run away. "But that’s no matter because everything else worked so very, very well." Getting back to ITF, he makes an interesting and (thus far) unique observation about the phrase Jeff keeps repeating, "cellular mitosis," which he suggests is an idea that is "crucial to understanding the whole season—and maybe the whole series so far." Again, too complex to effective summarize, go read. His final grades: DEP, B; TFCD, A-minus; ITF, A; season three as a whole, A-minus.
- Jerome Wetzel of the TV King—or is that his title?—thought DEP was "awesome because much of it is done in 8-bit animation, with the characters becoming part of the game." He also observes, contra several others, that it was pretty well connected to the other two episodes that aired last night, on a thematic level at least: "People are stronger together than apart." He thought TFCD was "a wonderful episode because, underneath the goofiness, the bond between these students and their dean is felt." He thought Britta's goth girl costume was particularly memorable. Moving on to the third episode of the night, he make an interesting observation regarding Abed, pointing out that it took an act of martyrdom on Jeff's part to undo the damage caused by Troy's act of martyrdom in the previous episode. He thought the montage was "a heart-warming, touching sequence" that served as "the perfect ending to an awesome season."
- Kelley Locke handed over the reins of Character Grades to BJ Kraska this week, and he (see Annie's grade for rationale for assuming he's male—went all out, assigning grades to all the regular and even one of the guest stars. In a moment, the results of that grading. Gilbert earned an A-minus; Jeff, a B; Pierce, a B-minus; Shirley, a B-plus; Annie, an A+++++++++++++++++++++++++, graded solely on "her slow-motion sprint down the hallway from last year’s paintball episode;" Troy, an A; Britta, an A-minus; Abed, an A-minus, or a C-plus if you stop to think about how creepy it is that he has a mini-Dreamatorium in his room and a computerize wife stored on a flash drive; Dean Pelton, an A-plus; and Chang, a C. If you normally skip the Character Grades review, and I think some of you do, you should check out this one, because this BJ Kraska fella is a funny guy.
- Bill Wyman of Slate treats TFCD and ITF as one two-part finale. He points out that the conflict between Abed and Evil Abed is paralleled by the courtroom battle between Jeff and Alan, who is essentially Evil Jeff. He also spends quite a bit of time discussing Dan Harmon's worldview. "There’s always been a sentimental undertone to Community. It’s one of those works whose surface depravity hides a sunnier view. I’m not always comfortable with this." But he admits in the comments that he's "beginning to respect it."
- Brian Collins of Badass Digest also reviews last night's second and third episodes in a single article. He wasn't particularly fond of DEP, but he really liked TFCD and ITF and "laughed his ass off throughout." He admits that the former is "very ridiculous," thanks to it having Chang at its center, and that it's arguably the most unrealistic subplot ever seen on the show, but he's willing to go along with it, because in the former case he thinks Chang is best when he's at his craziest, and in the latter it was all offscreen. His only complaints about ITF were that John Goodman's exit was too abrupt and that Annie spent the episode on the sidelines, the latter point being particular egregious considering that the episode "was most likely written with the assumption of its being the SERIES finale." Those issues aside, he said the episode contained "some of the biggest laughs of the season … and just enough weirdness to offset the sincere emotional points at the end."
- Ryan Schwartz observes that one fairly major difference between seasons two and three is that this season's conceptual episodes were very tightly tied to the season arc in a way that wasn't necessarily true of season two. "You couldn't have gotten to 'Introduction to Finality' without 'Remedial Chaos Theory' or 'Virtual Systems Analysis.' You couldn't have gotten to 'The First Chang Dynasty' without 'Basic Lupine Urology.' And you certainly couldn't have gotten to 'Digital Estate Planning' without 'Advanced Gay.'" Good point, though I don't think I agree that "Advanced Gay" was a conceptual episode, even a relatively normal one. But the point stands, only in reverse, because the arc started there ended with a concept episode. Moving on, like others he noticed that Annie didn't really get a chance to "embark down new roads" in any of these episodes, though he points out that she did possibly get a moment like that a few episodes back in "Virtual Systems Analysis" when she realized that "her feelings for Jeff were unhealthy." Speaking of which, he now admits to being a total Troy/Britta shipper. Looking back on the season as a whole, he says, "each episode of Community this season has been wonderful, even the select few that weren't worthy of an A+ grade."
- Xander Markham thought DEP was fun but the weakest of the night's three episodes. Not only did it feel out of place, airing as it did in the middle of the Chang Rises arc, he felt Giancarlo Esposito was wasted: "he made the most of his limited material … but the role never felt in any way written for him." He liked TFCS more, but didn't feel it had "a lot to offer in terms of big laughs." He had some quibbles with the lack of internal logic, pointing specifically to the board's willingness to back Chang despite the declining enrollment, but otherwise he found it "entertaining enough," and he thought the cliffhanger was effective, albeit short-lived. As for the finale, he said it was not only the strongest of the night's three episodes but also the best finale the series has produced, "if you exclude the first half of last year's two parter." He seemed particularly impressed that it managed the "neat trick" of showing Troy moving away from his friendship with Abed as a good thing, and thought it a "lovely twist" that Vice Dean Laybourne's evil machinations resulted in a positive step forward for Troy. Looking back on the season as a whole, he says, "Community's third season for the most part stood up admirably against its spectacular second, despite never quite achieving the consistency to surpass it." He named "Remedial Chaos Theory" and "Documentary Filmmaking Redux" as "all-time greats," with "Regional Holiday Music" running close behind.
- Mysteriously, Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave lumped DEP and TFCD into one review. She said the former was "a magnificent episode, bursting with creativity." She specified Annie and Shirley's murderous antics, Abed's army of "cool cool cool"-chanting babies, and Jeff's inspiring speech as highlights, though like several other reviewers she thought it felt out of place, in that "it completely ignored everything that’s been going on in Community lately," especially they way the tag showed Troy and Abed back at Greendale while still expelled." She didn't have anything bad to say about TFCD, not, for that matter, much to say about it at all other than that it was "exciting and funny throughout," and that she was thrilled to see the Dean return to the show. She gave the two episodes together a 9.5 out of 10.
- Matthew Guerruckey of Drunk Monkeys offers a unique interpretation of DEP: "This one’s a concept wrapped in a concept. 'Digital Estate Planning' will go down in history as Community's 'video game episode', but it also explores the horror movie trope of staying the night in an abandoned house to inherit a fortune." Not a reading I took away from it, but I can see where he's coming from. Also unique, as far as I saw: his belief that being disconnected from the various ongoing storylines worked to its benefit. Well, technically he said the other two suffered as a result of being so tightly tied to the season's various arcs, but you know, reciprocity. His favorite part of TFCD was Goth Britta, which he says made it difficult to remember anything else that happened in the episode. He suggests that Greendale surviving "because of the alcoholic incompetence of its overseers" is a powerful metaphor for Community's treatment at the hands of NBC, which I can't really argue with. In ITF, he thought the Evil Abed material worked best, and while he thought the trial and Jeff's accompanying moral dilemma were slight and lacked tension, but ultimately decided that didn't matter too much because the jokes mostly worked and the tone of the episode was light enough to match the slightness of the trial storyline. He ended up giving DEP an A-minus, and gave B-pluses to the other two. Looking back, he writes, "the show’s big experiment with a season-long arc was a mixed bag. I was ready to proclaim it a failure until I took a look back at the episode list, and realized what a truly solid season it was. But that said, the episodes that really stand out … tended, as in the first two seasons, to be episodes that could stand on their own, divorced from the overall plot." The season as a whole earned an A-minus.
- And it's 20 minutes 'til midnight and I want to get this up while it's still Friday in my time zone, so we'll wrap up with Chris Monigle of TV With The Foot, who labeled as a review of ITF, but touches on the others and it's as much a look back at the season as a whole as a review, so I decided to put it over here. He thought "the three episodes represented the show extraordinarily well." He called DEP "one of the best half-hours of TV I've ever seen;" said ITF was "a half-hour full of heart, good laughs, and a fitting conclusion to the season;" and… well, he didn't really have anything to say about TFCD other than that it aired. Moving on to his look back at the third season, he thinks it had its ups and downs, mentioning "Remedial Chaos Theory," "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," "Regional Holiday Music," "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts," and "Virtual Systems Analysis" as the standout episodes. He noticed that the writers "focused on the group dynamic more than individual arcs or small relationships," but also that they tended to explore Jeff's character through the character rather than through other characters. He thought Jeff's speech in the courtroom was not just his best speech but his "his stand-out moment of the series," one that will allow him to move on in his journey toward carving out "a new life fueled by being a good person." He also notes that the speech and the transformation in Jeff's character that it signified "erases the darkest timeline," which is not only true but also, I would add, a triumph of subtle circular storytelling, in that Jeff's transformation into a person who recognizes the value of selflessness is directly responsible for solving a problem that was directly caused by Jeff's selfishness earlier in the season.
Before we get to the specifics about last night's ratings, let me quote what Brian Collins had to say about it: "I don't know if a single other show on the air is as screwed over by the outdated Nielsen system as this one, because I think any show that can trend worldwide AS IT AIRS clearly doesn't have to depend solely on DVR and online viewing to justify its continued existence - people ARE watching this show, regardless of what Nielsen says." By which he means Community pulled record-low ratings last night. All three episodes got a 1.3 in the key demos. Bummer! Well below the legal limit for a ratings donut, so I had a "now I'm depressed, I need a donut" donut instead. And hey, it's not all bad; for one thing, we're already renewed, and as Ryan Schwartz points out, a 1.3 rating would be cherished on Fridays.
Over on the Twitter, #sixseasonsandamovie trended worldwide within moments of it appearing on the screen during the east coast airing, and remained there for "a good 10 - 15 minutes." "Evil Abed" also trended during ITF, and "Troy and Abed" trended during DEP and remained there for at least 15 minutes. I'm also told that GetGlue users trended @nbcstore at number 4 on GetGlue. Not sure what that means, but yay for trending!
Don't forget to check out the three other review roundups, and thanks for reading!
- Current Music:Earth Wind and Fire - Shinning Star