Community: Season 1, Episode 24
English as a Second Language
We've finally arrived at the finale of the first season of Community. And what a ride we've been on over the past 24 episodes, as the show figured out what it was about, how the dynamics between the characters worked, what journey each of them is on, and what a wonderfully weird place Greendale Community College is. Over its first season, the show has learned how to tell tightly planned, brilliantly executed stories that range from heartfelt to just plain weird, from glaringly original to nearly exact parodies. It has learned how to tell pretty much any story it wants to and make it not only hilarious, but also consistent with its characters and meaningful to its themes. In short, Community has achieved a lot in its first season, and if it continues on the path its been on for the past year, its only going to get better from here.

Tonight we watched the group go through finals, and while that story could easily have sustained the finale (and, barring a Good Will Hunting parody that was very funny but just a little forced) the show also gave us some excellent character moments for everyone. Really though, this one was Annie's show, as she struggled with her anxieties about losing the group and resorted to getting Senor Chang fired so the gang would all have to repeat Spanish next year (worry not Ken Jeong fans, the show has already explained that he will return as a student next year, with his keytar in tow). While Annie's feelings almost destroyed the group, Pierce's dysfunctions saved them when he seduced the new Spanish teacher and made sure the final would be easy enough to pass. Its indicative of how much this show has grown that this reveal, and the major joke for Chevy Chase, the actor with easily the most marketable name going into this show, was saved until the blip at the end of the episode.

Jeff's story, as it has been so often this year, was a journey from self-centered detachment to a selfless act of friendship as he moved throughout the episode from being entirely willing to sacrifice the group to graduate in four years to being entirely willing to take on extra classes to keep the gang together. Shirley and Britta remained a bit to nice for their own good, and Troy and Abed remained an excellent dynamic duo. Basically, "English as a Second Language" was just your average episode of Community, and in being that, was indicative of just how great this show has become.

If there is anything really negative I can say about this episode, its that the Good Will Hunting parody didn't really work as organically as the show's best referential plotlines do, and actually felt a little forced. That doesn't mean I didn't find it very funny, especially in the extended homage at the episode's beginning in which the two students were confused by the math problem, then Troy arrived, picked up the chalk, immediately just pocketed it and went over to fix the water fountain. Flipping the premise of the film so that the janitors (or plumbers, I guess) were trying to recruit a student who was reluctant to meet his destiny because he wanted to learn things and get a job doing nothing was clever, but it didn't connect for me on a character level and ultimately, it didn't go anywhere except to have Abed quote the movie and Troy be mad at him over it for like 30 seconds. At its best, Community's parodies connect with the actual story and deepen our understandings of these characters; this one just felt a little too surface-y, as if the writers decided it would be funny to flip Good Will Hunting on its ear and didn't have anything better for Danny Glover to be doing.

That's really nitpicking though, because the parody worked well enough to keep me laughing throughout it, and the episode brought some serious laughs elsewhere as well. We got brief turns by the Dean and Star Burns (sadly no Leonard this week) as well as an affirmation that this is a group who will stick together until the end. "English as a Second Language" wasn't Community's finest hour, but that's just because the show is quickly becoming the best comedy on television. And when you're that good, even your standard episodes are imminently watchable, excellently plotted, and very, very funny.

Grade: A-


"Monday-Friday, 6:00 AM." "And now, crickets!"

-"Of course you think that, Britta. Its obvious from your name your parents smoked pot."

-"If anyone asks, I sent you to learn things."

-"One question: Where did you learn to count questions?"

-"In High School, I was in a band. We could have been huge, but the world wasn't ready for an asian man on keytar."

-"So I did what anyone would do. Faked my way into a job as a Spanish teacher at a community college relying on phrases learned from Sesame Street."

-"Why is she teaching Spanish if she's a doctor? Go cure something!"

-"I don't mean to sound like a defeatist, but we're defeated."

-"I can't wake up Pierce. Is this going to take an unexpected turn?"

-"Troy, do you know what the best part of my day is? The ten seconds between when I walk into Spanish and when you get there. Because I look at your desk and think maybe you won't be there." "He said the best part of his day is when he thinks I won't be there!" I may have found this one extra hilarious because that's one of my favorite parts of Good Will Hunting.

-"We love Hannah! We love Hannah!"

-And, to end the season on, Annie dressed like a professor and caused tension with Jeff! Annie and Jeff forever!
Tags: Community
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