Community, Season 4
Community’s redemption song.
Photo by Michael Desmond/NBC
It was hard not to side with Jeff as he embarked on his unsuccessful crusade to uncover Chang as a fraud on last week’s Community. As Jeff tried to remind everyone several times, Chang did try to kill them when he took over Greendale. And yet all anyone could talk about was “second chances.” “We’re all broken people,” Shirley pointed out to Jeff. “And you used to be a sleazy lawyer. What if Greendale never gave you a second chance?”
In many ways, Chang has been given the most chances of all the characters over the course of the show’s run; just listen to the dean describe to Abed, the documentary director, Chang’s evolution as a character: “disgraced student, psychopathic music major, homeless vent dweller,* security guard, keytarist,** power-hungry warlord, and now, Kevin.” He’s always been the most bizarre and eccentric character in a show full of bizarre and eccentric characters, a frequently psychotic outlier whose sole purpose is to occasionally reinforce the notion that while the study group is full of neurotic weirdos, they’re still not crazy. Chang is crazy. Each time he’s changed occupations and motives, he’s grown increasingly more threatening to the balance of the show—to the point that when Chang reached his apex and could no longer be contained, the result was a pretty funny storyline in which he took over the school. And tried to have them all killed.
It now seems that the writers may give Chang one more second chance to take over the show. It’s unclear whether he deserves it. If Season 4 decides to take up Chang as a full-time foil again, it will most likely feel like a lesser copy of the end of Season 3.
The theme of redemption has been appearing more frequently in the last few episodes of this season. In “Alternative History of the German Invasion,” the group apologized to their angry peers for hogging the study room by renovating a new space. In the Thanksgiving episode, Jeff tried to give his estranged father a second chance to come back into his life only to learn that his absence was probably for the better all along. And now we have Chang, reborn as “Kevin,” receiving the benefit of the doubt because of Changnesia. With each new episode, it feels like we’re also searching for redemption for the show itself—hoping that the next episode will improve on the last or at least not regress to the drabness of the earlier part of Season 4. As with Chang, a satisfying resolution on that front just may not be realistic.
*Correction, March 18, 2013: This article originally misquoted the Dean as saying that Chang was once a "homeless bench dweller."
**Correction, March 19, 2013: This article originally misquoted the Dean as saying that Chang was a "guitarist."
Aisha Harris is a Brow Beat assistant at Slate. You can follow her on Twitter.