Question: What does a show do when it can't decide how to move forward? Answer: It looks to the past. That explains Community's penultimate Season 4 episode, "Heroic Origins," in which Abed pieces together the group's shared pre-Greendale history on a flowchart he labels the
Loom of Fate Crazy Quilt of Destiny. On the one hand, this gimmick allowed the cast to have some fun playing earlier incarnations of their characters, from Alison Brie's brace-faced Annie to Abed's Phantom Menace-trolling scarer of small children. At the same time, though, the whole thing felt kind of... well, pointless, since this trip to the past wound up shedding very minimal light on who these characters are now and what the future -- which may or may not last beyond next week's finale -- might have in store.
Don't get me wrong, as wheel-spinning episodes go, "Heroic Origins" is a pleasant enough sit. I enjoyed many of the callbacks that were embedded throughout the half-hour (my favorite moment was witnessing the origin of Magnitude's signature "Pop, pop" catchphrase) and, again, the actors were clearly having a blast. Perhaps the absence of resident curmudgeon Chevy Chase helped; he had officially parted ways with the series at this point and his onscreen counterpart is offscreen as well, donating a kidney in the present day and glimpsed only from the back in flashback. But just compare it to this week's similarly-themed New Girl, which also flashed back to its characters' respective pasts (specifically the loss of their respective virginities), but managed to do so in a way that informed and influenced their presents, specifically in relation to Jess and Nick.
There's no such forward momentum in "Origins" (unless you count the Chang-as-saboteur subplot, which I don't because it's been an obnoxious intrusion all season long) as the one potentially interesting conflict that the writers pose -- having Abed realize that he's the Mr. Glass to the study group's collective David Dunn -- is too-quickly undone just in time for the group reconciliation in the overly sentimental final act. Honestly, I'd much prefer this "Evil" Abed to serve as the troublemaker we'll see in the finale as opposed to the darkest timeline version whom the teasers suggest will be appearing next week, along with the rest of the group's dark doppelgängers. That, at least, would be tip-toeing into semi-new territory instead of raiding the show's past for inspiration. Here are each character's most heroic moment and funniest line from "Heroic Origins."
Most Heroic Moment: Convincing a judge that a "Back in Black" scored humping of the American flag counts as not-for-profit performance art, saving his stripper client from having to pay five years' worth of back taxes. Okay, that may not sound "heroic" in the typical definition of the word, but that's the kind of creative lawyering from which courtroom superheroes are born.
Funniest Line: "Nobody bite! We agreed no biting."
Most Heroic Moment: Breaking the monkey who will be Annie's Boobs (I'll leave the continuity questions this inspires up to y'all) out of an animal research facility.
Funniest Line: "I couldn't handle the monkey so I traded it in for a glaucoma brownie, even though I knew if it bit somebody, it would make them a tiny bit psychotic."
Most Heroic Moment: Recognizing the smallness of his sports-centric world and aspiring to do better things with his life. Although attending Greendale does stretch the definition of "better."
Funniest Line: "Crystal Skull was aliens, so it's a pretty great film."
Most Heroic Moment: Courageously (some might say selfishly) confronting Troy in front of her senior class, protesting the way she's been overlooked for Senior Superlative recognition despite her academic accomplishments. Way to stick up for yourself, Annie. Too bad you went and ruined it by doing something psycho like running through a glass door.
Funniest Line: "How do I balance straight-A's, extracurriculars and Israeli folk dancing every Friday night?"
Most Heroic Moment: Bravely keeping a generation of kids from having to sit through The Phantom Menace... even though he does it in the least diplomatic way possible. (Also, why is Episode 1 randomly back in theaters in 2008? The 3D re-release wasn't until 2012. Maybe it was a one-time only screening connected to the release of a prequel trilogy DVD box set in November of that year.)
Funniest Line: "We're really filling in some plot holes here."
Most Heroic Moment: Putting the head of her husband's mistress through a jukebox. That's a move The Punisher would admire.
Funniest Line: "You went in my bedroom for some comic book thing?"
Most Heroic Moment: Electing to donate his kidney to Gilbert, even though it didn't involve "sleeping with a Russian woman and waking up in a bathtub full of ice."
Funniest Line: "Yargh, argh, groan."
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