Look, Community’s Golden Age may be over: seasons two and three of Community (season two in particular) are two of the best, ambitious wall-to-wall seasons of a network comedy in the last thirty years. Sure, the Greendale fans have hyped the show to death, even in it’s lesser, later years, the Harmon-less season four, and season five, which just ran out of gas three-quarters of the way through. For serious comedy fans, Community is our comfort television: a show where we know exactly what to expect from it, good and bad – and more importantly, it’s form remains inventive, always able to continually impress us with its abundant creativity in construction, if not always in execution or resolution. It’s the CBS show for the slightly pretentious television fan – and you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that.
It’s easy to search for meaning in a Community episode: given the show’s uber-meta construction, it invites critical dissemination of itself in a very unique way. This includes episodes like “Basic Sandwich”, a story so bare-bones and un-Community, it almost feels as if Dan Harmon and company are teasing us, presenting us what appears to be a lot of loud, anti-climatic nothing, then simply dropping the microphone and walking off-stage. Yes, “Basic Sandwich” technically completes the season’s journey of Saving Greendale – but as “Basic Story” went out of its way to point out, the Save Greendale Committee had already saved Greendale. We knew Greendale wouldn’t become Subwaydale – and having that knowledge from the beginning casts both parts of the finale in a very different light.
As one half of a season (series? say it ain’t so, NBC!) finale, it’s hard to judge “Basic Story” in a vacuum. Double that when it’s an episode where nothing actually happens – until everything is happening, and the fate of Greendale is in the balance, as is the sanity of every member of the Greendale 7 (except Shirley, I guess? She just kind of vanishes at some point). In those final moments, it does feel like Community is straining a bit to give its finale purpose, throwing in tease after tease (including one I’m really hoping is just a big, fat mislead for “Basic Sandwich” to demolish) – though again, the episode plays things so close to the chest it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on.