By now, at the end of Season 6, Community has perfected the art of creating a finale that does double duty, working both as a season and a possible series finale. This is a necessary skill, because despite remaining optimistic, Community never knows what the future will bring. After Dan Harmon returned to bring the show back to form in Season 5, I was pretty much convinced that this was the one year it’d be a shoo-in for renewal — so, of course, it was canceled. And then it was picked up by Yahoo for a great sixth season (one that was even better than some of the NBC seasons!), which ended today, with no word on whether or not it will return. But, in accordance with Community‘s history, the finale was brilliant, layered, and emotional.
A large portion of this season could be seen as Community trying to justify its continued existence — not just within the show itself (it has kept all of these characters in a community college for six years and counting, after all), but as a series on television/Yahoo (especially after the departure of major many characters). Throughout the season, Community certainly made the case that it can still be hilarious, affecting, and creative; Season 6 featured another paintball-centric episode as well as another documentary take, yet managed to make both feel as clever and innovative as the original versions (particularly the former, which spun a new angle while nodding to the redundancy and possible staleness of these paintball episodes). The season finale, however, acknowledged that while Community is still going very strong, it doesn’t necessarily need to continue.
Of course, this description applies to plenty of other Community season finales, but this one especially felt like a set ending (at least to Community‘s existence as a TV series; the episode, unsurprisingly, ended with the hashtag “#andamovie”). In “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” — spoilers ahead, obviously — the gang once again find themselves at a crossroads of sorts, torn between leaving Greendale and wanting to stay. Elroy gets a job at LinkedIn and quickly departs early in the half-hour. Then Annie secures an internship at the FBI (I’m glad they never strayed from her interest in criminal justice). Even Abed, the cast’s moral center and the heart of the series, surprisingly reveals that he’s moving to Los Angeles to work for television.
Woven throughout “Emotional Consequences” (which was co-written by Harmon and Chris McKenna) is a running gag in which the friends each envision their idea of Season 7 (that is, their seventh year at Greendale), complete with opening credits (Britta’s, of course, are dark and twisty). It’s reminiscent of one of the series’ absolute best episodes and the one I revisit most frequently, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which explores alternate realities. The difference is, that episode was notable for showing the role that each person played in the group (Troy’s part was maybe a little too accurate, considering how the show faltered a bit while trying to hold itself together after Donald Glover’s absence), while this one shows what each character wants for their future and the overall future of the group. (Bonus: Shirley’s back in some of them!)
The most telling scenario comes from Jeff, who envisions a world where everyone is at Greendale forever as teachers — and he is the new Dean — effectively putting all the characters on the same level, rather than keeping him as the older authority figure while Abed, Annie, and Britta are still students. In this season more than others, Jeff has been grappling with aging, and “Emotional Consequences” found a lovely way to have him and Annie talk it through — and to deal with their never-ending sexual tension — highlighting how each envies the other’s position in life. And then Jeff envisions another future in which he’s surrounded by hot, nerdy girls (who are mostly redheads).
“Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (the most apt title of the entire series, considering I teared up more than once during it) becomes more sentimental and poignant as it goes on, making it one of Community‘s best episodes, and an appropriate end to one of the show’s best seasons. (Yahoo may be a terrible site to navigate, but trust me, watching the entire season is worth it). More than anything, the finale simultaneously illustrates why Community has been one of the greatest sitcoms on television and also proves that it’s OK if it has to end: the characters have to move on at some point. Even if they’re just moving on to an inevitable movie.