Jan 23, 2014

Thom Bitches About Community: "Geothermal Escapism"

Left to right: Danny Pudi and Donald Glover
In the ashes of a failed column comes the reformed birth of Thom Bitches About Community: a weekly look at the beloved Dan Harmon sitcom that chooses to push boundaries and throw a meta cocktail into the face of every sitcom currently out there. With the return of the show's creator after a rocky, disastrous season four, we take a look at the show and try and capture what exactly makes the show worth checking out all these years later. Keep an eye out for it every Thursday night following the episode unless otherwise specified.
It is going to be strange to see the show move on from here. In fact, with the show now down both Pierce and Troy (Donald Glover) within a three episode range, it almost feels like this season is nothing but saying goodbye to the old, familiar Community and saying hello to a lot of changing dynamics. However, in terms of emotionally resonating content in order to say goodbye to one of the series' most beloved characters, it seemed right that the show decided to go out in an epic game of lava, as instated by Abed (Danny Pudi).
The episode as a whole is supposed to be a goodbye to Troy, who needs to sail around the world with Levar Burton  in a boat that is a play on his real life reason for leaving: Childish Gambino. While I will leave personal thoughts regarding this move to another time, it seems fitting that the show explicitly recognizes it while also giving us one last moment for Troy to do right by his hero. We even get some questions over the closing credits. We're not entirely sure if Troy is even ready for this departure, but it has to be done sometime. In fact, the episode even features a heartwarming finale set to a cover of Styx's "Come Sail Away" that lays thick the sentimentality.
The rest of the episode almost feels like a callback to the first two seasons, which ended in epic paintball episodes that had the school in chaos. The lava game almost feels like an extension of it all. Then again, it seems like something that Abed would do, given that he is having trouble figuring out how to say goodbye. The only way to do it is to compromise his exit by making the floor lava and thus it impossible to get out of a door easily.
Even if it focuses around the game for majority of the episode, it is quite a creative one. From the Island of Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) to small cameos by people such as Duncan (John Oliver), it manages to celebrate the variety of cast members who have been affected by Troy. Even the bulldozer-type machine that Hickey (Jonathan Banks) is driving at one point is quite hilarious. The results feel surreal and seem to distract from the main point, which is exactly how we'd expect Abed to do that.

Jonathan Banks
It all comes back to a statement made by Britta (Gillian Jacobs) in the opening scene. She believes that Abed is running from his emotions with the lava game. She feels that he needs to address them instead of finding ways to mess with Troy one last time. This keeps getting brought up at strange times and is the driving force behind why Britta is playing along. Much like Troy and Abed's brilliant chemistry throughout this episode, she feels like a voice of reason meant to instill some truths and give this episode an overall point.
That is what Community is great at: a point. In the metaphysical context in which this episode is structured, the lava game is a place for reality to eventually set in. Abed comes to terms with Troy's departure and sacrifices himself in a Lord of the Rings-style death where he falls into imaginary lava and dies. This is representative of "old Abed," or the one whom we knew for the past four seasons and the one who has made a habit of singing "Troy and Abed" among other words. They have felt like cult characters, and it is time to reboot him.
I am worried that this isn't going to work largely because Abed was atrociously written for in season four. While it is evident that Dan Harmon has some control over Abed, it doesn't make sense where he could possibly go. He feels like he would have to be compromised in order for there to be any long term standing with Troy out of the picture. Even if the ending suggests that mentally Abed is a new person and Troy has been reprogrammed as well, they are still apart and that may become problematic in time. Of course, Harmon has managed to handle change rather well, specifically in rebooting the show with season five as well as he has. 
In a sense, I will miss Troy, if just because of his impact on Community and that along with Abed, he was the backbone of the meta humor element and occasional dive into satire. Sure characters like Hickey are welcomed additions and with Jeff (Joel McHale) in a slightly altered position, this show is different in general, but the characters have felt consistent. The only question now is where do they go with it. Also, will Donald Glover return in a future season, or is Childish Gambino pretty much going to be his life now? It isn't entirely clear, but I will definitely miss him.
With that said, it is going to be interesting to see where Community goes next week. Maybe the shift won't be that jarring. Maybe we'll notice something different that is endearing about Abed. I worry for the worst, but the show has been quite successful in season five so far that I cannot see it dropping the ball. I will miss Troy, but this season has been pretty much about change. Sadly, as this episode displays, I'm not entirely sure how to see Abed as the lone nerd of the group from here on out. Sounds kind of depressing. 

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