So this is what happens when the school truly falls apart in a brief moment of fury. This isn’t the first time the school has broken out into mayhem. But it was certainly the first time they felt utterly betrayed and angry at Greendale*. Turning their own disappointment and depression and blaming it on the school, the group unintentionally starts a riot (Edison out!). Of course it wouldn’t be Community if the reason for this wasn’t a good one. Starburns death? Nope. The group having to take summer school, because their class no longer counts after Professor Kane quit in lieu of Starburns death.
*Okay, it wasn’t the first time they’ve felt angry towards Greendale either. But it was the most aggressive and angry the school has felt in pinning their problems as being the direct fault of the school. Even to the point of breaking windows and looting.
The dynamic between Greendale and the group has always been important. As Jeff has stated in the past, Greendale is the only place that is willing to accept people for who they are. It might be a shitty school, but it’s their shitty school. The confliction here is that Jeff wants to get out of there as soon as possible. Makes sense, who wants to stay in Community college longer then they have to? But this perfectly sums up the weird dynamic the students have with Greendale. In a way, it acts as a safe haven, and is almost therapeutic to these characters in providing them with a place to be who they are. But their end goal is also to leave right? This is always the conflict with wanting to progress and move on. The sadness you will feel when you leave people and places behind, but the ultimate need to move on to other things.
In last week’s review I talked about an issue Community sometimes has from a plot perspective. In short, I said that it often will follow a multi-plot structure in the episode, and sometimes one of those plot branches are not as good as the other ones. If I had to criticize anything in tonight’s episode, it would be Chang’s army. It’s not that I didn’t like the plot, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the group’s grieving and expulsion process. But I admit apart of my issue with Chang’s plot is well, Chang. In Season One he was fantastic as their teacher. But when they removed him from that role, the writers have been trying to find a way to effectively use him. On paper, Chang as a security guard should work. He’s being put back into a place of power (like when he was a professor). And yet, he still feels forced to me in how they use him in the story at times. I hate saying this because I absolutely love Ken Jeong as an actor. Hell, I love Chang as a character. But I actually think his character would have been better served being left as Senor Chang, and just being pushed back as guest spot like Professor Duncan. Or just being a part of the faculty that we see around school. I understand the complications of this; they wanted to keep Jeong on as a regular. And the group couldn’t stay in Spanish the entire time they were there. But more often than not I feel his character’s stories are throw away anyways, and often feel like filler. Interestingly, this has also got me wondering why we never see teacher’s anymore on campus in general. What happened to Professor Slater, or Professor Whitman? Again, I understand the complications. These are actors that are not regulars, and they are off doing their own projects. But I guess this just brings up another problem I find with the show, in that there seems to be a disconnect from it feeling like a real school at times.
And while I did not think Professor Kane was effectively used throughout the season, he was perfectly utilized in “Basic Lupine Urology”. So I was a bit disappointed that the great Michael K. Williams abruptly took his bow out in tonight’s episode with the Dean explaining that Kane quit after Starburns death. Although I did find his exit to be hilarious. I just wish they would have done more with him. This criticism is conflicting of course. On the one hand I’ve never had an issue with the show focusing on the characters, even if it meant that aspects of the school were being ignored. I mean season two is proof that the show could be about the group doing whatever, as long as it was the group that we were spending our time with. But at the same time, Greendale and the world of Community has been built up over three seasons. So it’s hard not to feel a bit empty when certain aspects of the show seem to be uneven with the other. Because season three has tried to stay more grounded (and we’ve seen this with more school centered plots and serialized arcs) – these aspects of the school that are missing feel more evident.
From a comedic point of view, “Course Listing Unavailable” was very funny. Starburns memorial being hijacked by the groups discontent was great. Watching it build up and then quickly snowball out of control was one of the best scenes of season three. Here we had Annie laying down some truth, Troy and Abed leading the entire school into a chant of “Greendale Sucks”. Pierce was on his game tonight (Chevy, what are you complaining about, your lines are hilarious). From the “Why is it always about the holocaust with you people” line, to him leading the school into the riot was all fantastic. Even the god fearing Shirley threw her jabs into the school when she thought about how they sold her dreams out to Subway. But my favorite line of the entire episode was when Britta was trying to give the group therapy by wearing glued on Starburns and Jeff says “I remember you being a lot smarter than me when I first met you”. This was obviously a meta joke refrence to the change in Britta’s character from Season 1 to now. It’s probably the most obvious character change in the series (for the better). I also particularly loved how the episode came back full circle to “Remedial Chaos Theory”. Abed bringing up the fact that maybe this wasn’t the best time line after all only to have Shirley say no one knows what he’s talking about but it feels bad was great.
I never want to think about Community “ending”. As a fan I want six seasons and a movie. But the ending to “Course Listing Unavailable” actually felt like it could have been an ending to the show. After all their time together, the group knows that their home is really with each other. Even with Greendale being taken out of the equation, what makes them truly happy is their relationships. This isn’t an entirely new revelation. It’s one that has been touched on many times before. But this was probably the most direct the show has been about the fact that Greendale is not a crutch to their friendship. The group being expelled from the school was in line with Seinfeld in its narcissism. And I suppose that is what really hit me about tonight’s episode. It had a real sense of finality to it. The group was finally having to face the consequences for living in their own bubble, and the effect they have on the school. In part that is due to the show being more serialized in the latter half of this season. But I also wonder if this tone is also a reflection of the writers. The future of the show is uncertain. They constantly have to go up against a failed system that continues to push back without ever giving them a fair chance in the fight. And so from a tone point of view, it feels like the show is building towards the final stage of the show (whether that be a final 4th season, or the ending to this season’s darker arc).
Of course I also admit I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, and as a fan and writer, I’m more than likely just projecting my own feelings into how I interpret the show. But regardless the message that the group will always have each other regardless of school was a great message to leave us with. It’s a message I expect the show will ultimately end with.