Community is for me one of the best shows of the new Tens. With its razor-sharp writing steeped in pop culture and geeky references and its keen insight into people, Community was a truly special show. So which episodes would I choose if I had to do a top 5 episodes list? Let’s find out:
1. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
Something of a bottle episode, this one featured the study group befriending a bullied loner and inviting him to play Dungeons and Dragons with them. I love this episode because it’s just human interaction all the way through. I love how the group tries to help Neil overcome his depression and Chevy Chase plays a fantastic villain. Points to the writers also for not just going “LOL D&D IS FOR NERDS” and for making the “nerd” in question a fully realized character that the audience can root for. Also, the whole process of the study group playing the game is absolutely hilarious.
2. Remedial Chaos Theory
The “timelines” episode. This serves as more of a character study than anything else as the characters’ relationships with each other change in each timeline depending on who goes for the pizza. This is one of the cleverest episodes of Community that is built on such a simple idea; whoever’s number comes up must get the pizza. TVTropes has claimed that each “timeline” is a look at what would happen to the group if that timeline’s pizza getter left the group, or was the leader. Whichever way you slice it (no pun intended) this is a creative and brilliant episode with a surprisingly affecting ending. Bonus points for the end credits scene with the Darkest Timeline’s study group.
3. Debate 109
This episode is important to Community as a whole because it launches the Jeff/Annie ship and is arguably the true beginning of Jeff’s journey from self-interested slimeball to caring and decent guy. In this episode, Jeff discovers early on that he cannot simply charm his way through the debate, he must study and prepare and learn to rely on someone else, in this case, Annie. I love the scene in the library where Annie takes her hair down and Jeff is left speechless by how she looks because up to that point his character had acted like he was above everything and everyone else and this was the moment I feel when Jeff Winger starts to look beyond himself and starts to care about those around him.
4. Virtual Systems Analysis
This one is one of my personal favorites because of the scene between Abed and Annie at the end. Abed, having retreated into a fantasy world based on Inspector Spacetime (an affectionate parody of Doctor Who) tells Annie that he will never get married, he will never invent anything worthwhile and that the mental space he is in is a metaphor for where people like him get put when everyone is finally fed up with them. Annie responds by saying that Abed cannot control every little aspect of life and that he shares his fear of being alone with everyone. I found this utterly touching. One of the best things about Community is that it doesn’t just humiliate its characters for the sake of a cheap laugh but goes deeper into who they are as people and delivers fantastic episodes like this.
5. Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television
The final episode of the show’s entire run. I can’t watch this without feeling emotionally violated by the end, which shows how good it is. This episode is about Jeff and the others making peace with their time as a study group coming to an end. In true Community style, we get a number of “What if” versions of what the characters’ lives would look like if they stayed together but by the end, they are ready to say goodbye to each other and to Greendale. Here also we see Jeff at the end of his character arc had become the good and decent man he could always have been, staying on as a teacher at Greendale.
Do you agree with this list? What are your favorite episodes of Community? Leave a comment below and remember, the question is not WHERE we are, but WHEN?