Putting its meta-textual sense of humor to the side, the biggest thing that stuck with me after Community’s season six finale was how far the cast has come. That episode, “Emotional Consequences of Network Television”, ends with much of the show’s cast growing up emotionally.
Although it might seem like an odd comparison to make, Community‘s finale actually reminded me a lot of Lost’s final episode. Though different, both shows chose not to focus on where the stories of their characters end, but rather what they mean to the audience. Sure, Community has been teasing a final showdown between Greendale and City College (and their giant robot spider) for a number of seasons now, but when the time came, the writers understood that there was far more value in providing catharsis to the audience’s relationship to the show rather than its central dilemmas.
Though “Emotional Consequences of Network Television” often reflects on the dramatic developments that each of the characters have undergone as a result of their time in the study group, an argument could be made that Annie Edison’s (Alison Brie) development is the most important of them all. Jeff Winger’s (leading man Joel McHale) experiences at Greendale may have made him a better person, but the woman that Annie has grown to become is almost unrecognizable when compared to the young woman introduced in the series pilot. Her character arc has taken her from being a kid to being an adult, and a lot of the most resonant moments in the finale belong as much to her as they do the rest of the cast.
The Annie of the show’s first season is a babbling high-school go-getter recovering from an Adderall addiction and consumed by her infatuation with Troy Barnes (Donald Glover, lead on the show on seasons one through five). Later semesters saw her evolve and develop into a more confident independent character, something often subtly reflected through the show’s costuming. By Season five’s finale, she matures a great deal; she becomes such an assertive presence that she delivers the “Winger Speech” that saves the day.
Though romantic entanglements have played their part, Community has never been a show all that invested in “will-they-won’t-they” subplots. However, the resolution of the romantic tension between Annie and Jeff actually proves to be one of the finale’s most emotionally-charged moments. This scene doubles not only as a resolution of Jeff’s own inner turmoils, but also as a demonstration of how far Annie has come. Where the kiss is something that Jeff may regret for the rest of his life, it’s something she says might regret for a week. Her time with the study group has helped her grow up and become “equipped to deal with that” just as much as Jeff.
Earlier in the episode, Abed (Danny Pudi) notes, “TV’s rules aren’t based on common sense; they’re based on studios desire to milk their properties dry”. This truth, however, doesn’t drain our attachment to show; rather, it enriches it. The Annie who hops on a plane at the series end might return for another season or movie. She might not. There’s a sadness to this open-ended approach, but it’s very much in line with the sitcom’s “meta” methodology. Where other sitcoms might reach for a final resolution or shift to the status quo, Community settles for the scary-but-honest possibilities of the future.