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Last week, when I was recapping “Basic Story,” I mentioned that the episode might appear in a better light following this week’s finale. And, it truly does, as it now serves as the first act for what may very well be the series finale of Community.
This has been an up and down season. Compared to season four, this year’s 13 episodes are practically Shakespeare, but it was not an even season all around. This isn’t even the best season finale Community has offered up in its five season run. But “Basic Sandwich” would serve as a fitting end to the series- should that dire event come to pass (I honestly don’t think Sony- who owns the series- or NBC will allow that to happen, considering how close the show is to its mythical #sixseasonsandamovie).
Within the span of the half hour, we have Abed musing on the role of series finales within a show (and speculating on the chance of a Jeff/Britta marriage spin-off, declaring it DOA), the gang saving Greendale one more time, and Jeff thinking lovely thoughts about his friends- and in doing so, finally admitting that he cares about these people, if only to himself. It’s a lot to pack into a single episode, but the show pulls it off with aplomb.
Compared to its first half (“Basic Story”), “Basic Sandwhich” is much more plot heavy, with constant story movement. There is incredibly little down time within the episode, and the pacing and dialogue flows at a quick clip. I also believe “Basic Sandwich” is one of the funnier outings for Community, at least in the back half of the season. The front several episodes contained a strong balance of plot and humor, while I found the majority of the back half to be more concerned with high concept plots and less with bringing the funny. “Sandwich” walks the delicate line between too meta (I rather enjoyed Abed’s running television commentary) and classic Community humor. The jokes come quick- often faster than I could write my favorites down- and the character beats resonate.
As was so often the case this season, there isn’t enough Shirley within the episode, but her scenes alongside Buzz are incredibly enjoyable. If Jonathan Banks is at all able to return next season (and due to his commitments to Better Call Saul that’s a big if), I hope we see more Shirley and Buzz interactions. Likewise for Annie and Abed, who play extremely well off each other. Too often Annie is paired with Jeff, but I find her scenes with Abed more enjoyable. I guess there’s something about Annie’s neurosis and Abed’s own idiosyncrasies that works well on screen. I am also thrilled that Harmon backed off the Jeff and Britta pairing. I find that comedies (more so than dramas) are far more interesting when characters aren’t paired off, as once that happens it’s only a matter of time before they break-up. A show like Community really isn’t set-up to maintain a romantic subplot.
Should this turn out to be Community‘s swan song, it is an admirable way to end things, with the gang victorious and Starburns’ precious “Ants Marching” playing in the background. But if this is merely the end of the fifth season, there is still some life left in the show. While I’m not sure where this places the current students in terms of their matriculation at Greendale, I’m definitely willing to suspend disbelief for another season and journey with this group one more time.
— The music is truly spot-on this week. From “Ant Marching” to the excellent songs from the jukebox, great musical work all around.
— I found the opening sequence to be the strongest portion of the episode as a whole. The jokes were flying fast and furious and the pacing was spot-on.
— Absolutely loved the episode tag. Plenty of ideas for NBC to pick-up should they opt to say no to Community. The sad thing is, if they thought those shows would bring in viewers, I’m sure they’d drop Community in a New York minute.
— Finally, should the show not return, we can now rest easy that its cancellation was due to an asteroid destroying the Earth. After all, according to Abed it’s canon now.