Community S4E12 – Heroic Origins

In “Heroic Origins”, Abed tries toCommunity Crazy Quilt of Origins map the study group’s “origins” in an effort to prove that they were always destined to meet each other. Despite Jeff’s initial skepticism, as the group talks they find Abed’s theory increasingly valid, uncovering all sorts of coincidental meetings in their past. The more they talk, the more they realize their connections run even deeper than Abed realized: Jeff won a case for the stripper that Shirley’s husband had an affair with, Britta was at the courthouse to congratulate him defending women’s rights, a conversation with Annie caused Troy to fake the injury that took him out of football and brought him to Greendale. The bad things they’ve done to each other by coincidence are so numerous, in fact, that Abed begins to worry his origin story is more supervillain than superhero.

“Heroic Origins” is the first episode in weeks that has felt purely enjoyable to me, and uniquely Community. There’s something fun about the idea of characters bumping into each other in the past, before they meet properly, and with “Heroic Origins” Community embraces the trope while also offering a glimpse into the characters’ lives pre-Greendale. It’s strange to see these characters in a pre-season 1 stage, as they seem both familiar and strangely alien. Perhaps it requires some suspension of disbelief to accept that purple-haired anarchist Britta of “Heroic Origins” tamed into the far more muted Britta of the pilot, but it’s hardly the biggest leap the show has ever asked its audience to make.
Community Britta and Annie
The episode’s true success though comes from its surprising amount of heart. “Heroic Origins” embraces the concept of redefining oneself, and an individual’s capacity for change. In almost all of their meetings pre-Greendale, the study group adversely affected each other’s lives, but they are able to forgive each other in the present because they understand that they are not those people anymore. They have all grown and changed, in large part because they met, and the positive things they have added to each other’s lives outweigh the negative impacts they once had. Whether it’s the result of destiny or mere coincidence, the study group have been thrown together and are better off because of it.

The button on the theme of personal change is the story’s use of Chang. We learn early on in the episode that the mysterious associate he’s been phoning is the dean of City College, hell-bent on revenge just as Chang is. But when Abed realizes it is in fact Chang who got everyone enrolled at Greendale and brought them all together, he invites Chang to get frozen yogurt with them, and Chang finds himself wanting to take this second chance for real. It’s been difficult for me as a viewer to buy into Chang’s redemption arc — it is ludicrous, even for Community, to believe that anyone would forgive him for imprisonment and attempted murder.  But of all the episodes that have offered reasons Chang deserves to be redeemed, this is the only one that has had any measure of success. Abed’s line, “only you know who you are,” strikes a particularly deep chord.
Community group
Lastly, it’s worth noting that this is the second episode with a conspicuously absent Pierce. Given Chase’s departure from the show before the fourth season wrapped shooting, this is understandable, even if the double they bring in to play Pierce in one shot is utterly unconvincing. It would be nice to say that Pierce’s absence is heavily felt and all the messages of group unity feel hollow without him, but that’s simply not true. Should by some miracle NBC decide to renew Community for a fifth season, I can easily imagine the Greendale Seven becoming the Greendale Six. I doubt most would even notice Pierce was gone.

With only one episode left in its fourth season and NBC announcing its fall renewals on Monday, it will be interesting to see how Community wraps up.


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