“Community,” which has spent its six seasons on the brink of cancellation, has had the same conundrum with every season closer: making both a season finale that leaves room for more story, while at the same time making a series finale that ties up loose ends in case it truly is the end.
The season six finale was no different — except for the fact that the episode had a heightened sense of finality, moreso than other season closers. While Yahoo Screen and Sony Television have yet to make any official announcements regarding the fate of the show, the last episode of season six, aptly titled “The Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” seemed to be Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna’s way of telling fans that, should it be actually the end, it’s all okay.
And, should this be the end, it’s a satisfying and touching one — and also an extremely meta and self-referential one, even for “Community.”
The episode finds the study group at the end of a sixth(!) school year at Greendale. In possibly the show’s most meta subplot yet, the group tries to figure out what a season seven might look like. Everyone except for Elroy, that is. Elroy announces that he got a job across the country with LinkedIn (The job? Trying to figure out why people don’t use LinkedIn). When asked if he’ll return, he gives the extremely open-to-interpretation response of, “I think so. Probably. Maybe.”
It’s one of many references to “Community’s” never solid fate — will it come back for more? Probably? Maybe?
In the next scene, Abed lays it out in a much more straightforward way. When Frankie asks Abed what season seven will be like, he replies that he doesn’t know how likely season seven is. Still, that won’t stop them from speculating.
Over the course of the episode, each member of the of the study group lays out pitches for season seven, cutting to what that might look like. Enter a welcome guest starring role from Shirley, with Yvette Nicole Brown dropping in to help visualize the pitches. While many were hoping for an appearance from previously “hemorrhaged” cast members Donald Glover and Chevy Chase, that didn’t happen, but Shirley’s appearance should at least be enough to make most fans say, “That’s nice.”
As the group continues to pitch, Annie, who has been absent from their bar scene, enters from an interview, breaking the news that she’s gotten an internship with the FBI. Annie working with the FBI makes a lot more sense than her staying at community college for a seventh year — which she addresses in a later pitch.
“Being with you guys is great, but why is this a good choice for me?” she asks in one of Jeff’s pitches. “Why doesn’t the audience feel sorry for me?”
And Annie’s extremely right — why would someone as smart, organized and driven as Annie still be at community college? She’s always had big dreams, and been savvy enough to know how to achieve them, and it’s nice to see the show finally address that contradiction.
It’s also Abed’s turn to move on, announcing that he’s gotten a job in Los Angeles. Will he come back? Probably, maybe — the same situation as all the other’s. But before the announcement, as they’re all reflecting on their pitches, the writers seem to use Abed to speak directly to the fans, part reassuring them and part explaining themselves to them.
“[TV] has to be joyful, effortless, fun,” he says. “TV defeats its own purpose when it has its own agenda or is trying to defeat other TV or being proud of ashamed of itself for existing. It’s TV. It’s comfort. It’s a friend you’ve known so well, and for so long, you just let it be with you. And it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day, or phone in a day. And it needs to be okay to get on a boat with LeVar Burton and never come back, because eventually, it all will.”
After the pitches, there’s a bittersweet scene between Annie and Jeff, in which he admits that he lost her. They lament their respective ages — Jeff wants his opinion on the “flavorless” Marvel movies to matter, and her opinions on the movies come with too much pressure — and share a kiss before the rest of the study group comes in, saying goodbyes that feel more final than usual.
All in all, the episode was “Community” at its most “Community.” What fans love (and what turns so many potential viewers off) is the onslaught of pop culture references and in-jokes that make the show unique. The finale was unapologetically meta and inside baseball — one (possibly last?) self-referential gift for the fans.
Could there be a seventh season? Maybe. But, and as ironic as it seems after an episode dedicated to imagining what season 7 might be, it’s hard to picture it where they left off after this season finale. It wouldn’t be “Community,” however, without dropping the little nugget of hope. Just before the end credits scene, a “#andamovie” appears on the screen, in what feels like a giant wink to the audience.
So who knows? Maybe #CommunityLivesOn. But if it is the end, it’s one that make sense, and one that hit the right emotional notes — in a way that only Greendale human beings can understand.
Some additional observations
- Apparently, Annie was an Ass-Crack Bandit, or at least has something to do with the Ass-Crack Bandit. Who would’ve known?
- We finally get an f-bomb! Two of them, actually. Though “Community” could have taken advantage of the lack of censors that they previously had on broadcast television, the show never really did, other than a well timed middle finger from Leonard. However, in two of the biggest “Wait, what?” moments of the episode, the Dean told Abed that the shape of his brain was a little “f–ked up,” and then Britta dropped an f-bomb during her own pitch.
- Toilet humor is used to great capacity with Chang’s ongoing fart jokes — especially the one final slam at season 4. In fact, it was a subtly great Chang episode in general.
- There’s a great shoutout to Paget Brewster, when Frankie calls herself a total outsider who came in and “nailed it,” which is exactly what both Brewster and Keith David did. The two meshed so well with the rest of the cast, it wasn’t hard to forget that we were just introduced to them.