Graduating from Greendale

Barring some sort of last minute change of heart by the heads at NBC, there will be no sixth season or movie for Community. There probably won’t even be a fifth one.

[This could very well change, of course – no one has come out and said the show is enDEAN, but for right now, I am going to assume that tonight’s episode is the last we’ll see out of the Greendale Seven – at least, until someone tells me otherwise.]

Of course, a cancellation would not be surprising at all. Community was already put in a difficult position to succeed this year, first being renewed for only 13 episodes, then being lined up for a Friday timeslot, then having its season pushed to Spring altogether. And to add to all this, the show wasn’t able to bring back creative mastermind Dan Harmon, either.

As season four went on, it became quite clear that Community in the post Harmon era was suffering – with only a reduced order of episodes, the time that was allotted for narrative was sharply restricted, and without Harmon, the show lacked some of the manic, out of the box magic that marked its highest moments. [Think of how many things set up this year that didn’t go anywhere – Abed’s girlfriend, the City College angle…hell, even Pierce in general, although I’ll admit that Chevy Chase had a lot to do with that.]

And as a result of all of the above, the show took a noticeable downturn. That is not to say that season 4 of Community suddenly dropped to the level of Whitney, or 2 Broke Girls – two comedies that are almost universally panned by critics. Rather, all that means is the show could not quite measure up to the higher standard that it once performed at.

Some of my friends think that the show got too far away from its college roots. Me? I think that the show was at its best when college became a springboard into crazier, tangentially related adventures, and that it no longer got to do that without Harmon. Nobody is right, or wrong in this particular case Рand nearly everybody can agree that the show was simply different, and not for the better.

Still, if this is it for Community, then tonight’s episode was a fine way to go out, as “Advanced Introduction to Finality” offered a 23 minute blend of the show’s highest moments, somehow mashing together paintball and alternate timelines into something quite poignant. is supposed to be like. [I swear I’m not just writing that because I’m about to have my own next week.]

Centered around Jeff’s graduation, the episode ended with the former lawyer fully realizing the growth that he has experienced at Greendale, even though he spent most of the few years actively resisting any. And, as we later see, AIF isn’t a moment of realized growth for Jeff alone – the same is shown, shared – mirrored – by Abed, too, who, in a nice little touch, ended up giving a speech of his own.

In a way, that feels like a perfect note to end on, simply because it so closely mirrors what college is supposed to do in the first place. Change you. Force you to grow in ways you didn’t realize. Bring you to places that you didn’t think you’d ever be. The moments between Jeff and Abed tonight managed to encapsulate that theme, even if the other members didn’t get to participate quite as fully. [Shout out to Annie, though.]

I will not try to argue that AIF was perfect. It felt rushed, a bit. [I would’ve liked a little more paintball. Maybe to have had it spread across an hour. Actually, definitely would’ve had it spread across an hour.] But I will argue that it was an end befitting a show about community college students – even though the show is about so much more than that, too.

I’d like to have a fifth season, but at this point, I’m not sure there should be one. The Community I loved the most – seasons 2 and 3 – will never return. Not without Harmon – and judging from the way relations between he and NBC ended, good luck there. And even if there is a fifth season, the dynamic of the show has been irrevocably altered, because the members of the study group won’t all be in close proximity anymore. Pierce, they can live without. But Jeff? Probably not. Hard to imagine that things holding together, if the writers have to juggle the narrative twist of him not being in college anymore.

But you know what? If this is the end, then that’s okay.

Everybody has to graduate someday – and assuming tonight was commencement for the Greendale Seven, then they’ll have had a ton of memories, friendships that last a lifetime, and an education that goes far beyond what they learned in the classroom. Like any college student should.

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