Community Season 6, Episode 1
Posted by Kim
“Welcome back to Greendale!”
I’m not going to lie, I teared up when that was the first sentence of Community‘s season six premiere. Against ALL odds, Community has made it to its destined sixth season. The Human Beings lived perpetually on the bubble at NBC. We lost our showrunner and then we got him back…only to lose Chevy Chase and Donald Glover. We were ACTUALLY canceled and then Yahoo swept in and saved the show at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute. We lost Yvette Nicole Brown in the interim. At what point does Community no longer resemble the show we all fell in love with and fought SO HARD for all these years? Dan Harmon and company address this question full on in “Ladders”.
Much like the pilot, “Ladders” opens with the Dean thanking the “Save Greendale” committee over the PA while we check in with the 4 remaining members of the Study Group. HELLO EXTERIOR SHOTS. We haven’t seen those in forever…thanks for that money, Yahoo. However, like Garrett, Greendale can never TRULY be saved, right? When Dean Pelton says they saved the school from 534 critical emergencies, Annie pauses. She runs to their board in the study room and finds a star that had fallen behind the cabinets: “Frisbees on roof”. Outside (OUTSIDE!! Not over it) an errant frisbee lands on the roof joining a massive pile of them. It’s the straw that breaks the camels back. The roof in the cafeteria collapses under the weight of the frisbees, nearly killing Fat Neil…erm…Garrett. Welcome back to Greendale indeed. It’s still a toilet, but it’s OUR toilet.
Meanwhile, Jeff, Annie, and Britta have teamed up to form their own super secret committee dedicated to preserving their way of life at Greendale. Personally, I don’t deal well with change, so I completely understand how Jeff and the ladies feel about the threat to their routine and position at Greendale. I often go into change kicking and screaming, which is EXACTLY what they are doing. When you are being forced out of your comfort zone, most people WOULD respond to that by holding on to it tightly. Their routine is safe. It’s “normal”. It doesn’t force them to grow as individuals. It’s holding them back to a degree, they just aren’t capable of seeing that while they are in the midst of it. The fact that Abed appears to accept Frankie makes them cling to their old ways even harder. So naturally, even though it would destroy Shirley’s soul, they set up a speakeasy in the backroom of the sandwich shop. Here they can fall into the roles they want to play (Jeff being the mob boss in a FYNE pinstripe suit and fedora, Annie as the cute flapper girl, Britta as the sassy but inept bartender) instead of facing reality. It’s so much easier play acting than facing who you REALLY are and choosing to change, isn’t it? Plus, a speakeasy is AWESOME.
The next day when Abed shows up to work hungover and sending incoherent emails to Diane, Frankie raids the speakeasy. It turns out she knew about the speakeasy the whole time, she was just letting Jeff and company have it “because it kept you contained and satisfied, because you are all compulsively defiant”. By dragging Abed back into their deluded reality, they’ve gone too far…because Abed deserves better than this. When Abed says this is what he prefers, this is where Frankie shows her true colors. “I know you THINK that Abed but you don’t know any better.” Everybody, including Frankie, recoils when she says that. (I like to imagine Frankie desperately trying to pull those word bubbles back into her mouth.) She then goes on to have a complete meltdown because she has lost total control of the situation. “I’m just trying to, I’m trying to, and everybody here is a, is a fart a livid fart from the butt of a lesser god. I’m, I’m better than this!”
I think this moment is the crux of the episode and the very crux of Frankie’s character. She’s just as insane as the rest of them…she’s just got a tighter grip on her crazy. This makes her more dangerous when she DOES lose control. I liken her to Carolyn Burnham from American Beauty. Instead of chanting “I will sell this house today!” over and over at home, she probably just chants “I will save this school today!” and when she doesn’t succeed, she melts down. It’s incredibly painful that this meltdown is directed at Abed, who genuinely tried to accept her. It’s hard knowing that she was really seeking him out because she thought he was an easy target. And THAT’S why the rest of the study group always treats him with kid gloves. Not because they think Abed is incapable of change but because they want to protect him from people like Frankie and Mr. Rad who take advantage of him.
Naturally, Frankie quits and the school reverts to total anarchy, just like Jeff wanted it to. The booze is free-flowing and “Ladders” class comes back triumphantly. Frankie’s salary is allocated to the budget for school dances. All is as it should be…until it’s not. Be careful what you wish for, they say. Annie is hurt after the Ladders professor drunkenly topples over onto the students (and naturally Jeff comes a-running because I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP). Jeff realizes that maybe he DOES need someone to keep them in check. Along with Abed, Jeff tracks Frankie down interviewing for another job. She’s giving the exact same speech that she gave the study group at the top of the episode (“In terms of hierarchy, I’m a big believer in it.”) which just proves to me that she DOES practice this speech at home. Jeff says that there is no way Greendale can match what anyone else would offer her. They can only offer an apology. This is where Frankie shows that SHE is capable of bending too…because she asks for a montage of apologies. It’s an important moment for her because she realizes that she has to be as willing to change as the rest of the study group is. It’s about being willing to find your place in a new environment and being able to adjust without fully giving up everything that makes you unique. It’s about creating a new reality that accepts both life perspectives. Sure, there will be conflict. That’s a given. But everyone has to be willing to work together and accept each other’s belief system. Isn’t that what the essence of Community (the idea AND the show) is?
The next day, Frankie takes her seat in the study room. She pulls out her plain black binder…except now she’s added a little flair to it. She’s going to fit in just fine.
– Are Leonard and Garrett plotting to take down the Study Group? For YEARS I’ve been wanting the alt-Study Group of those two, Vicki, Todd, Neil, Annie Kim, and Rich (WHERE ARE YOU RICH?) to do this. I hope that wasn’t just a throwaway.
– Speaking of Leonard, I loved the flashback to Young Leonard attending Greendale Computery College.
– Can we stop catty moments like this between Annie and Britta PLEASE? I am beyond tired of these two INCREDIBLE women being at odds.
– I’m sorry, I just have to mention Joel’s pinstripe suit again.
How did you feel about the return to Greendale, human beings? Let us know in the comments.