“Ham, girl!” This week’s Community on Yahoo! Screen, “Intro to Recycled Cinema,” finds Chang (Ken Jeong) making a big name for himself in Hollywood after a memorable commercial. To capitalize on his success, the Save Greendale Committee decides to complete a film that Abed (Danny Pudi) started making starring Chang. Creative differences threaten to derail the project, but there are also deeper insecurities at work.
I admit, I did not see the twist coming in which Jeff (Joel McHale) admits to Abed that he fears being left behind by himself at Greendale as the others move on. This moment is great payoff for Jeff’s arc through the series, finally being comfortable enough to come to terms with his deepest emotions and share them with a trusted friend. This one scene explains pretty much everything you need to know about Jeff as a character, and makes up what I hope will be his arc into the end of the series.
Because of what Jeff says in “Intro to Recycled Cinema,” I’m kind of disappointed that Chang returns to the group at the end of the half hour. Jeff’s prediction that everyone is moving on could and probably should come true, though with Jeff included. Chang has his best chance to escape the community college this week and he blows it. This almost cheapens the dramatic parts of the episode.
On the other hand, Chang’s return could serve as reassurance that Jeff will not be left alone. While other members of the gang have gone away and not yet come back (though they have to for the ultimate conclusion), Chang’s absence is temporary, and the group numbers seven again at the end. Perhaps with all of the darkness present this season, this is a bit of comfort for Jeff and for the fans.
“Intro to Recycled Cinema” also highlights the growth of Abed as a character. At the start, it’s clear his vision will be steamrolled in favor of a quick release, which Maury (the Steve Guttenberg, Police Academy) promises will result in major money. Abed does resist some, his soul hurting, but Jeff helps Abed understand that one can let go and move on. The gym analogy is a little awkward, which works for “normal” Jeff trying to relate to the oddest co-star. Abed’s acceptance of it, though, shows that not only have his friends learned to understand him a bit, but that Abed is willing to expand his way of thinking as well.
Abed’s gradual grounding has led to much less weirdness on Community, which is often regrettable, but not in this case. “Intro to Recycled Cinema” is the most bizarre installment of the past season or two, our core group and several recurring players participating in a sci-fi film that is cheesy and hilarious, making good use of copious amounts of tin foil and Frisbees left over from the season premiere. The costumes and hastily constructed sets make this highly enjoyable.
The whole episode is great, to be honest. I’m not a big Star Wars fan, but I can appreciate the tributes stuck in here. Leonard (Richard Erdman) makes a great villain in the surprisingly moving climax. Elroy (Keith David) has some strong one-liners. Frankie (Paget Brewster) gets to show off her steel drum skills again, continuing a joke that deserves to have legs. And can we talk about how great it is that Annie (Alison Brie) can now toss “Pay your rent!” in Britta’s (Gillian Jacobs) face whenever Britta acts ridiculous? Genius!
Community has been my favorite sitcom for awhile primarily because of its originality and willingness to take chances. This episode kind of lacks both of those, with aping Star Wars and having Chang reset. Yet, in somewhat removing the elements I generally consider its best, the depth the characters have achieved is revealed and makes the show fantastic all over again for different reasons. I still think they should end after five more episodes and a film (unless Yahoo! orders what they could call a “second half” of season six), as the hashtag must be satisfied, but Community is on track for a fitting conclusion and a solid legacy.
Well, except for the year of the gas leak, but that’s perfectly acceptable because of the in-canon explanation.
Community drops new installments every Tuesday on Yahoo! Screen.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B002N5N5LG][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HT8517S]