Community, “Intro to Recycled Cinema” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in April 2015.

Greendale is starting to feel a bit like purgatory. It is not impossible to escape from (Troy is sailing around the world, Shirley moved on to assist a butcher, even Pierce got to die), but the remaining members of the Greendale 7 are here longer than they originally meant to be. And most of them do not appear visibly conflicted over their lack of definitive academic endpoints. Greendale was never going to give Abed the artistic freedom he desired in the move to capitalize on Chang’s newfound fame, and it was unreasonable for him to expect it to. But it is a comfortable place, and it may be time for Abed to find a way out and not be so comfortable anymore.

Obviously Abed has high standards with his filmmaking, and unsurprisingly he did not lower them when practicality demanded that he should have. But Jeff surmised that maybe this was not just perfectionism for perfectionism’s sake. Or maybe he pinpointed the fear that is inherent in perfectionism. Abed has made plenty of films while at Greendale, and plenty of people have watched them, so the idea that he was scared to present himself to the world as an actual filmmaker sounded a little crazy. But he has never screened anything outside of Greendale. He rarely betrays his emotions, but that evidence was fairly damning in revealing his insecurity.

While Jeff was mostly correct in his read on Abed, there was also some projection of his own mental state. Because for him, Greendale is purgatory more than it is for anyone else. Abed, Annie, and Britta may be staying there longer than expected, but they do have a way out. But Jeff is watching everyone leave him while he is in a position that is good enough to last a lifetime longer than he meant for it to. Right now, he just wants to spend time on capers with his friends while he still can.

Jeff furiously commandeering the editing to avoid cutting his death scene was not about vanity. That may have factored into it, but it was a front to disguise how much he desperately cared. If his most significant moment were to be dropped, it would be like the time spent with his friends did not mean anything. Luckily Abed was there to drop his wisdom bombs. These two both fear change to their very core, but Abed has learned that it can be survived. He has realized that forcibly controlling the narrative is counterproductive and, furthermore, unnecessary. Because if you have good friends, which they do, and if you pay attention, the universe will give you unplanned moments like Annie pulling a laser bomb out of her shirt.

The thing is, though, Annie’s secret weapon was planned, not by the director, of course, but by Annie herself. She may not have had that exact maneuver in mind, but she was keyed in enough on what Abed wanted to get them out of a jam. Their friendship is such that she is now on his wavelength enough to give him what he wants without him even realizing he wants it. (The fact that she can also give Jeff what he wants without him realizing it – via showing off her gams, reaching in her cleavage, and improvising an “I love you” – goes without saying at this point.) It only seems like a miracle when your friends know better than you do how to bail you out. But maybe that is the miracle. By that metric, it certainly felt miraculous that Jeff realized that the perfect solution to replace his death scene was a reunion in Hell of Chief Starr, the Mayor of Space, and Glip-Glop.

It was certainly understandable why Jeff was so invested in this caper. It was just as fun as any paintball or pillow and blanket fight, but more artistically accomplished and less destructive. Abed may have wanted more, but everyone else could see that he accomplished plenty considering the budget and time restrictions.  He did not want “Chief Starr and the Raiders of the Galaxy” to be so-bad-it’s-good, because doing that on purpose never works. What he ended up with was unwieldy, but more strange than awkward. The footage of Chang was incorporated in a bizarre manner, but in a way that actually made sense in context, both because Chang is inherently bizarre and because space movies should have out-of-this-world logic, and it is effective as long as there is commitment.  The digs on sci-fi tropes could have been overly cheeky (nobody at the bar bats an eye over the gunfight because they are so inured to violence), but it was actually effective world-building.

Chang returning to Greendale with his tail between his legs to restore the status quo could have been a cop-out, but it was straining credulity in the first place that his career was having such a meteoric rise, so this more or less split the difference. Plus, it allowed for Randall Park (as himself) to replace him in the Spielberg movie, which worked less as a commentary on the latest successful Asian comic actor stepping into Ken Jeong’s territory and more as just an opportunity to see the always delightful Park in action. Chang and Jeff’s stasis right now are playing out as engaging tragedy. This path could continue, or they could turn things around and discover new personal triumphs. Either way, this is material that “Community” should continue to explore.

Notes & Quotes:
-There was a bit of a runner in which Britta objected to Annie’s acting choices out of knee-jerk defiant feminism. Annie could have responded that gender equality should allow her to make her own choices, but it was much funnier and more character-appropriate for her to make the self-confident and utilitarian declaration that Britta needs to either start paying rent or shut up.
-Everyone, especially Jeff, was obsessed with how funnyman Chris Pratt has bulked up, understandably so.
-Britta interpreting Abed saying “clear my hard drive” to mean “use the restroom” was one of the strangest moments ever for both Abed and “Community” viewers, but it fit weirdly beautifully within Britta’s unusual grasp of figurative language.
-Abed yelling the notorious “Big Bang Theory” catchphrase “Bazinga!” made essentially no sense in context, but that was why it was as hilarious as it was. It has always been a meaningless interjection and works best when that is inherently acknowledged.
-Kyle Biederman’s Editing Tutorial may have been frustrating to Jeff in its thoroughness, but it was filled with plenty of essential material.
-“By whom, “Glip-Glop?”
-“It sounds weird when you use good grammar.”
-“Get it to eight-one. That means ‘eighty-one.’”
-“What’s Chapter 11? What’s YouTube? What’s broadband? What’s digital?”