I thought something was really off and wrong with the first 30 seconds or so until I clicked with what they were doing. From then on I sat watching the episode with the same glee as Abed did in real time.
Fears about Harmon-less Community are more or less allayed entirely at this point in the new season; I still think this is the best currently airing TV show (Perhaps tied with Parks & Rec, which is still doing great).
It's weird how out of order this episode must've been produced. No Pierce, he's long gone by now. Jeff's apartment as the only set (and mostly just the one room), so they were out of money. Only one non-regular, so Shirley can't even bring her kids to the Christmas party. And yet it's Christmas and they still have 3 more episodes to go.
This felt like a good counterpoint to the referenced Pen episode; they're all at the point where they're more interesting in forgiving each other for whatever they've done than trying to figure out who's to blame. Still, the episode doesn't work at all without Professor Cornwallis' performance and Jeff's speech seemed so much like a parody of his speeches that I was waiting for a curveball that never came.
I really have no interest in Chang's plan or whoever he's working with. If they blew it off in the first minute of the finale, that'd be great.
I can't watch any of these Community semi-gimmicky episodes without feeling a) they feel obligated to continue the gimmick episodes since they're part of the show's history and b) they could inevitably be more inspired if Harmon was writing them.
"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." --- Bart Giamatti, on baseball
The show does suffer a bit from the lack of a steady hand at the rudder, but overall I'm happy enough with this season. All I really wanted was a fourth season to get these characters to graduation, and we're getting that. I agree that they should have let Chang's story end last season, and just left him out for this one.
And if the study group were better at history, they could have pointed out that the Romans eventually defeated Hannibal, remaining a secure empire for like another thousand years.
This was my least favorite episode of the season. There have been some good moments here and there, but I wish now I just stopped watching at the end of last season. I've just been really bored with most of these episodes.