The season did away with the show’s worst and least funny character, Pierce, in a fantastically funny way (death from sperm-related dehydration), and his death resulted in the brilliant “Cooperative Polygraphy,” an episode that reached highs I hadn’t seen since the second season. “Polygraphy” had Pierce still unraveling the gang from the grave, forcing them to play secrets and admit truths that were better left unsaid. But the point is, no matter what these friends do to each other — install GPS trackers in their bodies or just change Netflix ratings for The Grey — it’s never an insurmountable obstacle in their friendship.
That’s the key to all of the fifth season. We’ve seen our main characters argue and have sex, hate each other and love each other, and we know that it’s all going to be fine in the end, so this season mostly eschewed those plots and focused on having them go against bigger things. They, especially Abed, dealt with the departure of Troy (Donald Glover, who moved on to pursue other options). Troy’s absence meant the show had room to explore Abed’s other relationships, such as his new girlfriend Rachel (Brie Larson) and his old friend/roommate Annie. Annie and Abed’s friendship strengthens throughout the season as they struggle to get to know each other better while simultaneously dealing with the fact that the don’t have Troy to act as a buffer when things go sour.
Now that we know these characters, Community did a great deal of work exploring what’s already been established. With the exception of last week’s episode, when Jeff spontaneously proposes to Britta, there was little time devoted to Jeff’s love life in Season 5. Rather, his plots revolved around his teaching attempts, his new colleague Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks), and his insecurities about getting older. This season humanized Professor Duncan and took steps to turn him into a character with qualities that run deeper than just alcoholic professor. A revisitation of Dungeons and Dragons focused on Hickey, whose depths fit right in with the main group, and his complicated relationship with his son. Recurring favorites went from necessary props to well-developed characters. Even Chang was tolerable!
The Save Greendale Committee remains afloat throughout the season. In the premiere, they band together because of a lawsuit being filed against Greendale; the two-part finale focuses on the school being bought by Subway sandwich shop. When it comes to saving Greendale, there is no longer any hesitation. Greendale, as cheesy as this sounds, is as much as character on Community as Jeff or Annie. It’s the reason they are all together, even when they don’t want to be, and it’s the reason this show has become what it is. There’s a quick throwaway joke in last week’s cold open that speaks volumes: the Dean accidentally turns on the PA and has a conversation with the student body. “I love you guys,” he says over the loudspeaker. “We love you, too,” the students reply in unison. Community cares about all of its characters, Greendale included, and this season puts that care to good use, reinvigorating the series and resulting in episodes that I watch over and over. And yes, it’s still funny.
I tend to approach Community finales with mixed feelings: it’s good and I want it to continue; it’s good and I’m scared it won’t remain that way if it continues. This time, I’m just happy that it did have this last year to make up for that unfortunate gas leak. I fully believe that it will get at least another season — though I can do without the movie — and I’m sure I’ll love it just as much.