[I wrote this post before watching tonight’s episode, so the Greendale Seven’s expulsion from Greendale kinda puts a crimp in this post. So, please just go with it and take it for the humour it’s intended as.]
It’s possible Community may meet its demise at the end of this, its third, season. Over on the Page of Reviews, Adam Shaftoe writes up some predictions on what might happen with the rest of Season 3 and into Season 4.
For me, I think this is it. While horrible, fans of the show can take solace in knowing it never jumped the shark, staying true to its premise of providing humour both intelligent and guffaw-worthy. In a review of The Cabin in the Woods, I compared the movie to Community in that they both “examine the form while obeying the form.”
So if Community was going out, what could it do to go out on a level not seen before? How about evoke some old TV tropes—break the fourth wall or “it was all a dream.” (Granted, the third season has wrapped and the show’s fate is still in limbo, so all of this is hypothetical.) The question is: Who will prove to be the main character who speaks to the audience or is the dreamer responsible for Greendale?
Below are seven scenarios for our seven main characters.
When Jeff’s former boss Ted (guest star Drew Carey) asks for Jeff’s input on a case Jeff had worked on, Ted is so impressed he offers to let Jeff come back to work. While he has not completed his studies, Ted indicates he can make arrangements and Jeff has “pretended” long enough to have learned his lesson.
Jeff is elated at the possibility of regaining his former life. Returning to Greendale, he sits down with the study group. But immediately we sense the dynamics are different—it’s just a study group. The (mis)adventures of the last three years have all been imaginings by Jeff to compensate for what he had lost.
He says good-bye to them individually and we learn their true realities. He’d hooked up with Britta a few times, but in reality she is not his exact foil, merely a disinterested and lost young woman. Troy is a resentful jock. Annie still pursues Troy but has not conquered her addiction. Shirley is a single mom who uses religion to make excuses rather than a source of strength. Pierce, though, is exactly the same as in Jeff’s imagination. This leaves Abed, who is a cool but hyper-intelligent genius attending Greendale rather than Yale so he can care for his sick mother. With his pick of women, Abed is a source of envy for Jeff.
In parting, Abed asks Jeff if he had a lot of friends in his life as a lawyer. Jeff is forced to admit that he didn’t, which troubles Jeff. Abed observes that Jeff has always seemed the most outcast person at Greendale; someone who doesn’t fit in anywhere and without the study group, Jeff would have been completely alone. As Abed walks away, Jeff pursues him, asking if Abed likes “Inspector Spacetime,” which Abed does.
Over the credits, the study group is outside a paintball range, suiting up. Pierce opines it’s stupid, but Jeff asks the group to trust him. It’s this, he says, or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The proprietor (guest star Josh Holloway) asks if the group is ready.
We open on Jeff’s cell phone ringing late at night. It’s Shirley and she has been arrested for DWI. Arriving at the police station, the group works together to help Shirley. Jeff acts as her attorney, Pierce offers bail money, Troy has heard other black students have been harassed by the arresting officer and will get names, Annie counsels her about addiction and Britta will drive her home. Abed opines that this all seems like a very special episode of some sitcom.
We learn Shirley has had a fight with Andre and turned to alcohol. While everyone is there for Shirley, Abed can’t stop comparing the situation to a sitcom involving substance abuse—the series finale of M*A*S*H, Tom Hank’s role on Family Ties. Shirley finally sits down with Abed and tells him this is not some TV show but real life. With that, Shirley realizes she has used Greendale as an excuse to not deal with the problems in her life. She walks away and we cut to her walking into AA where she admits she’s an alcoholic and has been drinking the last three years and is unsure what is real and what has been a drunken fantasy.
Over the credits, Andre and Shirley sit at a picnic table on Greendale campus. Members of the study group wander past, not recognizing Shirley even though she smiles when she seems them. Andre asks if she’s ready to give Community College a try. She is, Shirley tells him. It’s time.
Abed enters the study room and immediately turns to face the camera like he can see it. While the study group talks about plans for the summer vacation, Abed opines about tricks that televisions shows use in the final episode of the series, including characters breaking the fourth wall. Abed, though refuses to look at the camera since to do so would mean this is indeed the last episode. While the other character pretend to speak to the camera—not quite looking directly into it, much to Abed’s consternation—Abed wonders what happens to a television show’s characters when the show is canceled. Do they die? Forced to repeat their actions endlessly?
No one in the study group is interested. Instead, they begin discussing longer-term plans: Jeff and Annie pursue a relationship; Shirley is going to finally start her own business and won’t be back next semester; Britta is moving to the West Coast to join the Peace Corp again; Pierce is offered a position with a competitor of Hawthorne Industries; Troy is offered a football scholarship at City College. Abed sees this for what it is—permanent closure for the characters. Abed refuses to think beyond ten minutes from when he is—and that would be with ten minutes left in the show.
As the plot winds down, Abed knows Act Three is ending. Realizing he has no future, he runs into the Dreamatorium and we fade to black.
The end credits are Abed in the Dreamatorium re-enacting his first scene from the first episode when he meets Jeff. As the credits come to the very end, he finally address the the camera, desperate, saying “No, please, Dan, don’t leave me in limbo. Don’t—!”
We begin with Annie announcing she is transferring to Yale at the beginning of next semester. The study group is excited for Annie, who tells them it is time she grew up and took control of her life. Everyone says something nice, but they all talk over Britta as if she isn’t there. But Annie gives Britta a pleasant, understanding smile and Britta takes that to mean everything is OK.
Pulling an all-nighter to prepare for the biology final, rather than study the group shares their favourite Annie memories. The trouble is, in these memories either Britta is absent or Annie fills the role of Britta. Britta tries to point this out, but no one is listening. Finally, Britta excuses herself to go the the washroom and Annie follows.
Finding Britta about to light a joint, Annie tells Britta that Britta has been the idealized projection of Annie that Annie has used to built confidence. In a Fight Club like montage, Britta sees scenes from past episodes, but with Annie. Britta resists this revelation and turns the table on Annie, pointing out scenes were it would be impossible for them to be the same person. What’s more, it’s more likely that Annie is Britta’s projection of a younger, less-jaded self. And, she adds that Abed would call this some kind of forced, jumping-the-shark series finale gimmick.
Annie smiles warmly, turns and leaves an empty washroom, heads down the hall and then as Britta turns into the study room. Abed says he’ll have to come visit Britta at Yale to see the places where they filmed scenes from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
In the closing credits, Troy and Abed help Britta move out of the apartment. Britta says she’ll always treasure the time she played Inspector Spacetime in the Dreamatorium with Abed.
After falsely accusing the study group of cheating in order to try to curry favor with Professor Kane, Pierce is threatened with expulsion from Greendale. Knowing he has crossed a line, Pierce begs forgiveness, confessing he is still addicted to the pain pills and has been for some time. Abed makes Chevy Chase references that Pierce objects to, but he flubs his line and says it again. No one notices.
Wanting the group to like him, Pierce invites them to a country club he belongs to. The Caddy Shack references are impossible for Abed to resist. As the study group decides whether or not they will accept Pierce back into the group, we see production mistakes like a boom mike in the frame or continuity errors. Abed comments on these and Pierce says “What do you expect?”
On the golf course, Abed continues to make Chevy Chase references, making Pierce flustered, unsure of what to say. He finally says “Cut! Why can’t you just stick to the script, Danny?” Danny Pudi remains in-character, but we hear a voice off camera yell “Cut!” and we snap back to the scene where Abed delivers a less funny, but obviously scripted line, that Pierce can reply to.
Impersonating Rodney Dangerfield, Abed wants Pierce to play out a scene. Pierce breaks character, becoming Chevy Chase and begins ranting about why no one can stick to the script. He storms off the set, leaving the rest of the cast in awkward confusion with the camera crew clearly visible. Fade to black.
There is no skit over the credits.
Freaking out about her biology final, Annie reaches into her bag and removes a small vial of pills. Before she can pop one in her mouth, Professor Kane stops her, wanting to know just what the hell she is doing. We cut to Annie and Kane in an institution and realize Annie is still addicted to pills and never went to Greendale.
Facing her addiction, we come across the people in the facility she has idealized as Greendale students. Jeff is her lawyer and her only hope of getting out of rehab with a clean criminal record. Britta is a bored case worker who alternates between liking Annie and having no interest in her. Shirley is an older patient hoping her faith can pull her through. Abed is a young, eccentric doctor who might be able to find the motivation Annie needs to get clean. Pierce is her harsh, distant father who wants her to get clean to avoid a scandal. Chang is a security guard smuggling pills into Annie. We finally meet Troy, who is the Troy from the show—positive, smiling and optimistic. He tells Annie about the great group of friends he has made at Greendale and that she needs to get clean so she can join him at community college. In this reality, Troy pursued Annie rather than Annie pursuing him. Annie nods and returns to Dr. Kane, who is the last of several administrators to come and go. She admits to flights of fancy, but has reached a point where it it time to get clean.
Over the credits, Annie is at Greendale with Troy with all the other characters, bickering over the menu at the cafeteria. We pull back to the building, the campus, the town, the world and finally to a snow globe that Annie, her eyes glazed over from the pills, is staring at.
Begin looking up at the sky. Bright, blue, free of clouds. We hear voices, like a large crowd.
We jump to Troy in the study room, day dreaming. Abed wonders where he’s gone and Troy says nowhere. They return to studying Spanish and we realize we are back in Season One.
After the opening sequence, we’re back looking at the sky, faces crowded around. Cut to Troy going into anthology class with guest star Betty White. Abed grows concerned, but Troy says it’s nothing. We continue to jump between various scenes—the ceiling of an ambulance, being wheeled down a hallway staring at the ceiling, the ceiling of an operating room—and famous moments from season two and three of Community. We begin to realize Troy has had a horrible injury while playing football and his years at Greendale have been dreams. In the last scene, the doctors tell Troy he’s been in a coma for three years, but there is a risky procedure that could bring him out of it. Troy says no thanks, he’d prefer to stay in the coma.
Over the credits, Abed asks Troy if he could, would he stay at Greendale forever. “Definitely,” Troy replies. “All that’s out there is the real world.”