We can all say it: season four of Community was pretty…not good. True, it brought us the study group as puppets, but colorful felt doesn’t heal everything. What did repair the broken show was bringing Dan Harmon back to fix its mistakes, revitalizing it from fan fiction into the show we used to (and now again!) love. Here’s how Harmon did it.
1. Jeff stops being a jerk
We are introduced to Jeff as a selfish man who has trouble connecting with anyone because of his daddy issues, but that doesn’t excuse why he was so mean in season four. His jerk-ness was even manifested through Evil Jeff. In the new season, he becomes slightly more mature and faces his issues, like growing older, while also dealing with his post-graduation-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life woes the way everyone else does: with a drop, not a bucketful, of sarcasm.
2. Annie grows up
Instead of acting like a high school student with a major crush on her older English teacher, Annie grows up. Sure, she still has feelings for Jeff, as seen in the finale, but she didn’t act out like a super jealous person. She even works well with him when they’re solving cases, like the Ass Crack Bandit. That being said, TEAM JITTA/BREFF.
3. Troy finds inspiration
Troy and Britta never made sense as a couple, and the show seemed to recognize this, forgetting about them for long stretches of time. Though their breakup happened in season four, Harmon was wise to not pick it up again. We all knew Troy was leaving the show, but we didn’t know how. By forcing Troy to sail around the world in order to inherit Pierce’s fortune, he finds a new direction in life: exploring the world with LeVar Burton, his one true love.
4. Toning down Britta
Britta, true to her anarchist roots, wasn’t as all up in arms as she was in the previous season, which was brought to the foreground in season five when she runs into her former friends at a benefit. When Britta did have a cause to fight for, like overthrowing the Fives in the MeowMeowBeenz era, it was perfection.
5. Abed stays meta, but with a purpose
Abed is our narrative device, the person who’s conscious of the fact that he’s on a television show, but it became too much of an over-exaggerated wink to the audience in season four. He even admits as much at one point, saying, “I remember when the show was about community college,” which pretty much summed up that season. He tried too hard to fill in sitcom tropes, like his two-dates-at-the-same-time ploy, and it felt forced.
6. A less-dressed up Dean
Don’t get me wrong: I love a dressed-up Dean, even a Dean as Effie, but enough was enough. Having the Dean only occasionally put on his finest sparkly dress brings more power to his nonsensical outfits, especially when he DRESSES UP as a peanut and raps.
8. Brie Larson!
Dan Harmon wisely picked up Abed’s dropped romantic storyline with Rachel the coat check girl, which brought back the amazing Brie Larson. Remember how I said TEAM JITTA/BREFF earlier? Well, TEAM BRIE LARSON.
9. No more Inspector Spacetime
To a Doctor Who fan like myself, Inspector Spacetime was excellent. At first. It was quickly beaten into the ground, and every reference became tiresome. Thank you, Community, for not bringing this British show back.
10. The group’s consistent throughline
I was worried, coming into the fifth season, that Jeff would be the weird guy hanging out at Greendale for a brand new reason every episode. But Harmon knew better. He gave the study group a united purpose for staying at Greendale: Jeff becomes a law professor, and the gang forms the Save Greendale committee, which refocused the storyline on the school. He saved Greendale.
Nadia Chaudhury demands more Brie Larson and shirtless Jeff Winger for next season.