It's unbelievable how a show that was constantly on the bubble, lived on after a cancelation and went through a lot of turmoil behind the scenes– losing three core characters, and even the creator Dan Harmon for a year– managed to produce such a high number of truly incredible episodes of television. Sure, Community had its bad days and it even phoned in some days, but that's ok too.
This is a show that's given us so much in just six seasons– a little more than a hundred episodes. From the quirky genre episodes, the hilarious running gags, interesting and diverse characters and big emotional moments to all the meta-humor you could ever want, and then some. One of the things we love about Community is that it was never afraid to get all mushy. So, here are its top ten emotional moments.
Season four, or gas leak year if you will, is without question Community’s weakest link. After the departure of the show’s creator, Dan Harmon, it was clear that NBC was struggling to produce episodes that were on the same level as the first three seasons. The writers and directors did their best and all the episodes had that Community feel to them, but the clear lack of Harmon’s vision meant that most season four episodes felt kind of empty, disconnected, and oftentimes repetitive. However, “Herstory of Dance” is one of the few good things to come out of season four.
To protest the Dean’s sexist dance, resident activist Britta decides to throw a protest dance honoring Sophie B. Hawkins (though she may have meant to say, Susan B. Anthony). Nevertheless, she persisted, and Pierce, of all people, admired her for it. He actually managed to get Sophie B. Hawkins to play at Greendale.
The emotional moment comes towards the end of the episode when he admits this to Jeff and tells him to lay off Britta for a change and let her be happy. Jeff then sends Britta a message congratulating her on an awesome dance and re-claiming the term Britta-ed.
In season five, Community got back Dan Harmon, but it lost two cast members – Chevy Chase and Donald Glover. While Pierce (portrayed by Chase) wasn’t a fan-favorite by any stretch of the imagination, the episode “Cooperative Polygraphy” made us see that there was good in him, and that, in his own weird way, he did care about his friends.
In the final line of questioning, Pierce speaks from the heart to his friends and leaves them something to remember him by. To Britta, he says that her passion inspires him. Annie learns she’s always been his favorite. And Troy… Troy, with the heart of a hero, gets the offer to take Pierce’s boat on an around the world trip to inherit Pierce’s shares in Hawthorn Wipes. Troy agrees to go, leaving the rest of the group, especially Abed, in a state of shock.
In “Mixology Certification”, Troy finds out that his mother has been lying to him his entire life and that no one is ten for two years, meaning he just turned twenty-one, not twenty. Jeff, of course, sees this as an opportunity to take Troy out to a bar so that he can order his first legal drink.
However, the night doesn’t turn out to be very festive. Everyone kind of wanders off on their own, and they all – except for Troy – get a bit drunk. Troy, the designated driver, gathers his friends and drives everyone home in Jeff’s car. Seeing Troy act all responsible, adult, and caring is just very sweet and hits us right in the feels. He’s such a sweetheart when he tells Annie exactly how amazing she is and makes her feel better about herself. They grow up so fast.
“Virtual System Analysis” is an odd episode, even for a show like Community. Most of the episode takes place inside Abed’s mind, or rather the world he created in the Dreamatorium. The focus of the episode is the bond between Abed and Annie, which proves to be stronger than we thought. While showing Annie the Dreamatorium Abed goes from “cute weird” to “scary weird” when the prospect of change in the group’s dynamics becomes too much to bear. Annie kind of breaks him, so he creates a Hospital School and portrays other members of the study group in order to distract Annie so she gives up looking for him.
But, Annie is having none of it and eventually, she finds the real Abed. Their conversation in the metaphorical locker resonates because it’s easy to relate to Abed’s fears of being alone. After all, these are anxieties we all have. Fortunately, Annie makes Abed see that the scenarios he makes in the Dreamatorioum are pure fiction and the fear or loneliness he has, well everyone has it.
We can all agree that Pierce’s religion isn’t like everyone else’s because, among other crazy things, his has lasers and people being vaporized and stored in Energon pods. That being said, if that’s what Pierce needs to cope with the death of his mother, then we really have no right to judge. It’s the lesson Jeff learns and we learn with him.
“The Psychology of Letting Go” deals heavily with themes like the meaning of life, death, and mortality. Jeff’s realization that death is inevitable, despite his efforts to stay healthy and Pierce’s reaction to his mother’s death, serves to teach us to appreciate life. In the words of Pierce’s mother, “Life is only worth a damn because it's short. It's designed to be used, consumed, spent, lived, felt. We're supposed to fill it with every mistake and miracle we can manage. And then, we're supposed to let go.”
Britta was often the butt of the joke, which is why it’s doubly important to give her credit where credit is due. Ever since Britta chose psychology as her major, the study group, and especially Jeff, constantly made fun of her. Interestingly enough, Britta was the one who helped Jeff resolve his daddy issues.
In the season four episode “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations”, Britta convinces Jeff to spend Thanksgiving with his father, which he reluctantly agrees to. At first, the two bond over their many similarities, but all it takes is one inappropriate comment from William Sr. to drive a wedge between father and son.
When William suggests that leaving Jeff and his mother was good for Jeff in the long run, Jeff tells his dad to go to hell and gives an emotional speech about what growing up without a father really felt like. It’s a powerful and heartrending moment that features some of Joel McHale’s best acting.
In this very special Christmas episode, Abed believes that this Christmas is the most important Christmas ever because everyone is stop-motion-animated. Eventually, others join Abed in his world to help him search for the meaning of Christmas and the source of his delusion.
In the end, with a little help from his friends, Abed does find the meaning of Christmas: a DVD set of the first season of Lost, which he says symbolizes lack of payoff. We then find out that the reason Abed lost touch with reality is that his mother, with whom he always spent Christmas, sent him a letter saying she won’t be coming this year because she was spending the holidays with her new family. Finally, he concludes that “The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want.” It's one of Community's oddest and most emotional episodes.
After accepting Pierce’s offer to take his boat and a trip around the world, Troy must say goodbye to Greendale and his friends before he leaves on his big journey. The season five episode “Geothermal Escapism” is all about saying goodbye, embracing change, and moving on. Of course, Abed is the one most affected by Troy’s departure. In order to cope with what is essentially the loss of his best friend, Abed throws Troy a special going-away party in the form of a school-wide game of hot lava.
Britta’s psychology knowledge, as thin as it is, proves beneficial once again as through sheer stubbornness she manages to get Abed and Troy to deal with their feelings and fears. The fact that the two have fully committed to “the floor is lava” gimmick and have invented a whole narrative doesn’t take away from their emotional heart to heart. The feels keep coming as later on Troy says goodbye to everyone, bringing tears to our eyes.
In the early season one episode “Introduction to Film”, the study group learns that Abed’s father won’t pay for film classes that he wants to take because they will not help him manage the family falafel business. Britta then decides to pay for the class out of her own pocket, which puts her in direct conflict with Abed’s dad.
Meanwhile, Abed goes around campus shooting his film, which he calls “Six Candles”. Chronicling Abed’s family life with Jeff and Britta standing in for his parents, the film shows the downfall of Abed’s parents’ marriage, the effect it had on him and his relationship with his father, as well as his struggles to be understood. The movie brings Abed’s dad to tears (as well as some of us) and he agrees to pay for film classes.
Community’s sixth season was somewhat of a mixed bag, but when it came to the finale, the show stuck the landing. Going meta for one last time (or maybe not, #sixseasonsandamovie), “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” has everyone pitching their idea for a hypothetical seventh season.
In one perfect monologue, Abed defines TV and we are immediately reminded why we love Community so much, why we stuck with it through the gas leak year, cast members leaving, and the cancellation. And we have to face the fact that this thing that brought us comfort every week has probably, maybe come to an end.
Community’s finale is one of its best episodes, and when Community is at its best it’s as good as TV can get. It’s joyful, effortless, and fun. It reflects on the importance of the time we spent with these characters and gives them a proper sendoff, providing closure and leaving the door open for a possible movie all at the same time. From Jeff and Annie's little talk and kiss, the group hug in the Study Room F to the silent goodbye at the airport, and that final toast at the bar, we felt the emotional consequences of broadcast television.