Community hasn’t had the easiest year, and its fans have been put through the ringer – hiatuses, shake-ups with show-runners and writers and cast members, etc. – and any other fandom might have crumbled. I am proud to belong to a fandom where opposition only makes voices stronger, and where “quit” is nothing but a foreign word. “Advanced Introduction to Finality” aired this week and it provided closure to both fans and characters alike, should the series end. But thankfully for the fans, news broke as I was typing this review and this goodbye isn’t forever after all – our favorite Greendale characters will return for a fifth season in the fall!
In the episode, however, Jeff Winger struggled to come to terms with his impending graduation, and found himself getting cold feet. What followed was an absurd, wacky, and wonderful insight into the mind of our main character that ended in the most touching way possible.
When the episode opens, Jeff is discussing a potential job opportunity with his old partner, Mark. When Mark offers Jeff a shot at his old life again – the money, the secretaries, the corner office – Jeff does something that is quite unexpected: he hesitates. As we learn throughout the rest of the episode, Jeff is actually scared of graduating because he’s terrified that he’s grown into a better person at Greendale and doesn’t know how to reconcile that version of himself with the person he used to be. Because the truth is that Mark doesn’t want to hire a new, improved version of Jeff. He wants to hire the sleazy, slick lawyer that he once knew. And Jeff knows that he can never return to that way of life – not now that he’s been changed by the study group.
Back in the study room, the group prepares to celebrate Jeff’s graduation. When they ask what day he’s actually graduating, the man tells them that since Greendale is a community college, all he really has to do is mail in paperwork and he’s done. It’s that easy - and Jeff is putting the paperwork off. The group insists on accompanying him to the Dean’s office so that they can watch him turn in the documents and celebrate his accomplishments. Dean Pelton signs Jeff’s diploma and the whole affair is so understated that it boggles Jeff’s mind. It scares him, to be honest, that there is no fanfare. Because the fact of the matter is this: if Jeff graduates without any hijinks or shenanigans, it means that it is REAL. And it means that he has to actually come to terms with saying goodbye. Britta pinpoints this later, as they have a conversation over drinks, and Jeff makes excuses as to why he CANNOT leave. The group needs him too much, he reasons. Britta assures him that they’ll be fine. And then Jeff narrows his focus further: ABED needs him, right? Abed has always teetered on the brink of psychological meltdown. Surely he needs Jeff to help him. But Britta, again, assures him that they are fine – Abed, she explains, has been doing much better psychologically.
That’s when Jeff concocts an idea. And so, as the group sits around the table later (all discussing what class they’ll take the following semester), Jeff waltzes in with a die very similar to the one that Abed tossed in “Remedial Chaos Theory,” where he claimed that there were different – and some evil – timelines, and suggests that they all toss it to see who will bring the soda to the party. He is intent, of course, on proving that Abed is still unstable and therefore NEEDS Jeff. Abed visibly panics at this, but doesn’t react as strongly as Jeff hopes.
What follows is an insane, weird, and intricate look into Jeff’s mind where he battles against himself and the evil study group, as well as his own inner demons in order to come to this realization: he’s been constructing everything within his mind because he’s so fearful of not knowing who he will become once he graduates and leaves the group. But Abed – acting as his conscience – informs him that it doesn’t matter who he has been: he’s not that guy anymore. And the study group? They’re not just his friends, they’re his FAMILY. They’ll always love him, no matter where he goes.
Good!Jeff destroys evil!Jeff and the scene fades back to the study room, where Jeff is studying a die he has not actually cast. Much like “Remedial Chaos Theory,” in which Abed catches the die before chaos occurs, Jeff stops himself from rolling it because he realizes something – he’s not afraid anymore. He’s been changed. And though he doesn’t know quite what that means, he’s better for it.
At the graduation ceremony, Jeff struggles to deliver a speech without getting too emotional, but ends up with these words:
“Three and a half years ago, when I came to Greendale, I met six very important people. … Sorry, seven. And meeting these people changed my life. Yeah. I’m sorry. I – I don’t know what to say. [study group laughs and objects] I’m so used to being the guy who can talk his way out of anything, but… what do you say when you don’t want a way out? What you all have done for me is indescribable. It’s unbelievable. And my love for you is immeasurable, even when you split it seven ways.”
In the end, Jeff realizes the same thing that we do as he sits around the study room table and discusses his future – moving on and growing up and saying goodbye? It’s scary. We want to run from it and avoid it as much as possible. But saying goodbye isn’t all that difficult when you know, like Jeff does, that he has an amazing support system to fall back on – a group of people who will always love and care about him.
And that? Well, that means he’ll never truly have to say goodbye at all.