‘Community’ Review: “Heroic Origins”
Previously on 'Lost'... Oh, wait, this isn't an episode of 'Lost' -- it's a new episode of 'Community' in which Abed explores how the Greendale gang were all destined to form the study group. And it's kind of a snooze.
I had such high hopes for this week's episode after last week's touching installment in which Troy used Abed to help him break up with Britta. It wasn't a hilarious episode, and didn't have the laughs of something like "Herstory of Dance" (which remains my favorite episode of the season), but that episode had the emotional resonance that "Heroic Origins" is so desperately attempting.
Abed discovers a series of clues that lead him to believe that he and his friends have been involved in each other's lives in meaningful ways long before they met at Greendale -- but not that long. About a year before they met, they were all interacting in small and seemingly meaningless ways, but these small events led to huge life changes, like Annie losing her mind, Abed going to therapy, Troy ditching his football scholarship opportunities, Jeff losing his lawyer career, and Shirley's husband cheating on her and their marriage falling apart. Nothing really happens to Britta -- she was just as misguided then as she is now, though with different hair and a nose piercing.
"Heroic Origins" seeks to emulate something like 'Unbreakable' or 'Heroes' in the way it places its characters in coincidental situations prior to knowing each other, and while that should seem interesting, it's just not. It's a bit of a slog of a half hour that feels forced in its attempt at sincerity. One of the only strengths the latest season has with its new head writers is that they've been pretty solid at finding the heart of these people and creating wonderful moments between them that allow us to forgive the fact that they're not making us laugh as often. But "Heroic Origins" rings so false with its interconnected plot gimmick, and although Abed is a pop culture geek and this plot seems like something he'd cook up, the whole episode is telegraphed like a generic sitcom -- the exact kind of thing 'Community' used to be so good at avoiding, often reinventing tired tropes in hilarious and thoughtful ways. Instead, this episode is straight-up mimicking that style with no sense of irony whatsoever.
That said, I did laugh a couple of times -- the origin of Magnitude's "pop pop" catchphrase was a great sight gag, and Troy's line to Abed of "You were out there somewhere and you weren't looking for me?" were especially great, the latter mostly due to Donald Glover's always on-point line delivery.
Absent this week was Chevy Chase, who will make a brief appearance in the finale, but presumably is not returning for the fifth season (if they do get one, and from what I understand, it's more likely than you think). I don't think the addition of Pierce would have helped anything, but it's definitely noticeable.
"Heroic Origins" also gives us more on the Chang/Kevin plot, as we learn that his master plan has something to do with turning the school into a casino, like he's some 'Scooby-Doo' villain. In the last scene, it's hinted that Abed possibly knows that Chang has been Chang this entire time, but they get a nice exchange about how integral Chang was to the group deciding to attend Greendale, and how everyone deserves a chance to reinvent themselves -- it's a nice sentiment, but one that feels lifted straight from ABC's old TGIF sitcom block. Look, that final moment is definitely better than most of the episode that came before it, but it doesn't redeem the sad, sappy exploration of how these people possibly changed each other's lives without even knowing it.
Next week brings the season finale, and in a season of ups and downs, here's hoping they go out on a high note.