The Telefile
<i>Community</i>: It’s Time For Saying Goodbye

In the immortal words of T.S. Eliot, "Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over." Or maybe, "This is the way the world Community ends: Not with a bang but a whimper" would be more apropos. Whichever Eliot line you chose to go with, Community's fourth season (and, potentially, series) finale "Advanced Introduction to Finality" was a definite off-note on which to end a season that was already often out of tune.

In general, this Dan Harmon-less fourth season has suffered the most whenever the series has tried to reference and recall specific storylines and gags from his three-year reign. And indeed, that was the main problem with "Finality," which new showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio handed off to longtime staff writer Megan Ganz with the assumption that she'd be better suited than either of them to recreating those past glories. (This episode marked Ganz's own Greendale swan song, by the way; if the show does indeed get picked up for a fifth year, she'll no longer be in the writers' room having moved on to Modern Family.) It was the right call to make and, to her credit, Ganz does her best to try and make the finale's most substantial callbacks -- the darkest timeline and paintball -- feel like organic parts of the episode rather than bald-faced attempts at fan service. But seeing those jokes trotted out again only served to highlight how removed this season has become from previous years. Pardon the awkward phrasing, but new Community never felt less like Community than when it tried to be old Community.

On the other hand, I do give Ganz credit for choosing to (potentially) end the show where it began -- with Jeff Winger. Although Joel McHale has always been the de facto lead, for the bulk of its run Community has been an ensemble show and it would have been easy to pack the finale with endpoints and/or new beginnings for every core cast member. But Ganz correctly chooses to zero in on Jeff, bringing an end to his specific journey from caustic outsider to guy who cares. (Kudos to McHale for selling that final speech; as written, it's a little too flowery and sickly sweet for Jeff, but the actor makes you believe that Winger means every word.) That said, I do wish that the show had offered Winger another route to reach self-actualization than by appropriating one of Abed's signature fantasies. The Good Jeff/Evil Jeff face-off was ultimately a too-easy out, as ill-considered a duel as the Good Superman/Bad Superman junkyard brawl from Superman III that Evil Abed referenced. In fact, the whole paintball finale was a botch, lacking any of the stylish wit that distinguished the previous two paintball episodes.

The post-paintball final scene was stronger, indicating that life for the group would go on whether or not the show comes back. Jeff's heading back to the law profession (for a smaller firm this time) and plans to keep stopping by Greendale; Pierce is graduating and will never be seen again; and the other five will keep working towards their own degrees and futures. It's an ellipses rather than a period full-stop and that feels like the right way to cap off a series that already arrived at its natural endpoint in the Season 3 finale. Here's our picks for each character's best and worst episodes from Season 4 as well as their overall grade (which, I should point out, reflects largely on the material they were given -- all of the actors, minus Chevy Chase, did the best they could under what must have been difficult circumstances) and funniest lines from the finale.

Best Season 4 Episode: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "History 101"
Overall Season Grade: B+. Jeff worked through a lot of stuff this year and emerged a better man for it. Not necessarily a funnier man, mind you, but a better man.
Funniest Finale Line: "I've spent almost four years here growing and changing and making dioramas. I'm not that guy anymore!"

Best Season 4 Episode: "Herstory of Dance"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Conventions of Space and Time"
Overall Season Grade: B. Being saddled with one of the season's most disappointing storylines (Britta/Troy) brought her grade down, but a showcase like "Herstory of Dance" reminded us what a skilled comic actress Gillian Jacobs is and what a multi-faceted character Britta can be.
Funniest Finale Line: "Hey! Don't talk to her like that."

Best Season 4 Episode: "Basic Human Anatomy"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Alternative History of the German Invasion"
Overall Season Grade: C+. In hindsight, I wish that Donald Glover had hung around Girls instead of heading back to Community. His black Republican boyfriend character on that show was a lot more interesting (and funnier) than Troy was for most of this season.
Funniest Finale Line: "Speaking of great idea-having, hear me out. It's called the 'Troy-jan Horse.' It goes bread, lettuce, ham, ham, bacon, chocolate..."

Best Season 4 Episode: "Conventions of Space and Time"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Intro to Knots"
Overall Season Grade: C. I miss the more confident Annie who emerged from the Dreamatorium in Season 3's "Virtual Systems Analysis." After teasing us with a storyline about her potentially pursuing a new career path (forensics), the writers allowed her to vanish into the background, allowing the character to become solely defined by her crush on Jeff. Alison Brie and Joel McHale do have terrific chemistry no doubt, but c'mon -- there's much more to Annie (and Alison) than that.
Funniest Finale Line: "Nobody sleeps with Jeff! Not even me."

Best Season 4 Episode: "Herstory of Dance"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking"
Overall Season Grade: B+. Season 4 lacked a big breakthrough episode for Abed like the Claymation Christmas special or the My Dinner with Andre homage. But his humor remained mostly intact and his brief hook-up with Brie Larson in "Herstory of Dance" was really sweet and funny. Shame we didn't get to see more of her.
Funniest Finale Line: "I may not be good with facial expressions, but I know an evil doppelgänger when I see one. Plus, your arm makes a noise every time you move it."

Best Season 4 Episode: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Intro to Felt Surrogacy"
Overall Season Grade: C-. The writers have always had trouble penning good material for Shirley, never more so than this season. Yvette Nicole Brown, you deserve to graduate to a more essential role on this or any other show.
Funniest Finale Line: "Get help."

Best Season 4 Episode: N/A
Worst Season 4 Episode: "Paranormal Parentage"
Overall Season Grade: D. He wanted out and now he's out. Enjoy retirement, Chevy.
Funniest Finale Line: (As Evil Pierce) "Winner!"

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