Brow Beat

Community Contemplates Its Demise Yet Again

As usual, everything hangs in the balance at Greendale.

Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC

Since Season 3, Community’s finales have functioned simultaneously as season and series finales—see “Introduction to Finality,” where Troy struggles with the thought of leaving Greendale for air conditioning school (among many other plot lines) and, from Season 4, “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” where Jeff prepares to graduate from Greendale. There’s a good reason for this, of course: The show has consistently been a low ratings draw and is always on the chopping block—the Season 4 renewal, for instance, wasn’t announced until a week before the last episode of Season 3 aired.

The seemingly miraculous Season 5 that saw once-ousted show runner Dan Harmon reinstated has been no different: Tonight was the finale, and we still don’t know whether we’ve seen the last of the Greendale crew or if we’re inching ever closer to “six seasons and a movie.” Dan Harmon seems to think there’s a good chance the study group will reconvene at least one last time, but wisely, he and credited writer Ryan Ridley don’t make any assumptions with “Basic Sandwich.” Jeff and the rest of the gang are as aware as they ever have been that their story hangs in the balance.

And the episode walks the fine line between temporary and utter finality ever so gracefully. Picking up where last week’s episode, “Basic Story,” left off, the remainder of the study group, along with the Dean, try to find a way to save Greendale from being sold to Subway. The supremely meta references to Community’s real-life production drama, which have been an integral part of the series’ humor, are right there on the surface: When Jeff and Britta announce to the group that they are getting married, the Dean quips in exasperation, “What do you think this is, a one-hour episode of The Office?”

And just a bit later, Abed and Annie speak transparently about the show’s troubles, with Annie citing Pierce’s death and Troy’s departure mid-way through the season as reasons to question their preservation efforts. “Even if we do save Greendale, which Greendale will we be saving?” she wonders.

It’s a question worth asking, especially following last week’s filler episode in which the premise was that there was no premise to speak of (at least until the final moments). It was a little too on-the-nose, even for Community. But this week’s episode, and most of the other ones from this season, suggest that the show still has life in it. (Abed’s Nicolas Cage rant and the Dean’s unhinged rap while dressed as a Pay Day bar are by themselves enough to warrant another season.) Though Shirley and Professor Hickey were woefully underused in tonight’s installment, Harmon and Ridley still found plenty of funny and lovely moments within a potential bookend to the series.

There’s a resiliency to this show that seems to keep it, and its fans, going. By the end of the episode, even after they are told that Greendale—temporarily saved from Subway domination by the mysterious founder of the school—is bankrupt and will fall some day soon, the Dean replies wholeheartedly, “Well around here, we call that Wednesday!”

Whether this was the end of the road or yet another fakeout, Community fans mostly seem satisfied that, at the very least, the show is ending—maybe—on a high note, with Harmon in tow. We’ve made it through five seasons, and like the study group, we’ll be all right no matter what happens from here on out. We’re used to contemplating the end.