Community: “Geothermal Escapism” Season 5 Episode 5 Review

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We’ll miss you, Troy Barnes!

Character sendoffs can often be emotional affairs, and, in the sitcom world, they normally translate into clip shows. But this is Community we’re talking about. Do you honestly think they’d do anything normal? In typically atypical fashion, the show bids farewell to Troy Barnes with one of their signature genre episodes.

Admittedly, the news that Donald Glover would be leaving the show midseason gave me mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m a huge Childish Gambino fan. If his departure means the multifaceted entertainer will be putting more time into his music, then I’m all for it. On the other, Troy has always been something of an enigma to me. Sure, he’s constantly given the show’s best throwaway lines and he’s one half of the great Troy-Abed duo, but who is he really? His only distinguishing feature is a childlike sense of naiveté that allows for a wide array of humor.

Perhaps the one episode that truly showcases Troy’s character is season 2’s “Mixology Certification,” where the Greendale Seven takes him out to a bar for his 21st birthday. In a brilliantly simple way, Troy is forced to become the adult of the group after seeing everyone else become childlike from one too many drinks–a supposed adult activity. Here we saw a growing sense of maturity that really made his character stand out.

In this week’s episode, Troy is forced to mature once again. By deciding to sail around the world on Pierce’s boat, he is embarking on a journey of self-discovery and independence. Everyone in the study group will miss him dearly, but of course they’re proud to see him off. Everyone, that is, except for Abed. It’s no surprise that it’s hard for him to process the emotions of his best friend leaving, so he resorts to using his imagination as a distraction.

The result is an epic fantasy quest in “Lava World.” Basically, it’s a more high-stakes version of the children’s game Hot Lava. The rules, as the Dean so aptly states, are that “if you touch the floor…you die.  I think it’s cute.” Abed even adds in an incentive of giving his prized comic book–worth $15,000–to the last person standing.

This being Greendale, a school on 911’s blocked caller list, everyone gets way too into it. Much like with the classic paintball episodes, the school is completely taken over by the game. I love how quickly things transformed into a magical realm similar to something you would see in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. For mythical creatures, we got “Locker Boys,” and “Chair Walkers.” Shirley builds her own fort that’s powered by a magical orb. Professor Hickey rides around on a makeshift motor cart. The concept felt like classic Community, but with a very refreshing twist.

Along with the fun sendup, the humor in this week’s episode was very on point. Chang’s line about everyone having a same-sex celebrity crush had me in stitches, and Britta and Jeff’s toilet plunger sword fight was great bit of comic genius. Additionally, Jonathan Banks has done an excellent job of blending into the already unique cast, making professor Hickey feel right at home in Greendale.

Of course, there’s more to this concept than just a fantasy homage. As the students struggle to stay on high ground, Britta desperately tries to get Abed to give his friend an earnest goodbye. Unlike other genre episodes of the show, this one used its concept as a metaphor of sorts. It turns out that the lava was very real to Abed, and as long as Troy and him keep playing then Troy will never leave.

I was wondering how the show was going to handle the breakup of this truly intense friendship, and I think they did it perfectly. There’s a moment where Troy and Abed are trapped in the basement and Abed explains the predicament. Troy basically responds that Abed is keeping him from being his own person. I found this very interesting, because the two have been happily paired together for so long. I’m curious to see how the show handles them separately.

Eventually, Abed sacrifices himself, realizing he needs to “let go.” Using their own imaginations, Troy and Britta are able to bring him back by cloning him. Cloning ends up being the thing that allows Abed to make peace with Troy’s departure. It’s his way of saying that Troy will always be with him, even when he’s not. It’s the sort of quirky pathos that only a show like Community can pull off.

The ending scene was very bittersweet, as Troy gives his fellow study group members some heartfelt goodbyes. In a way, it almost seemed like the actors were saying goodbye to Donald Glover as well. In an effort not to be too much of a downer, the scene also has some excellent humor, such as Pierce’s boat being named Childish Tycoon and Reading Rainbow‘s LeVar Burton showing up once again. The quick credits sequence at the end is also not to be missed. Seriously, why do they call the show Star Trek if they never go to any stars?

So, we now have several Troy-less episodes of Community awaiting us in the coming weeks. I have no doubt that the actor will come back for a guest spot if the show lives on to see another season. I also have no doubt that, if the show keeps this consistency going, that things will be just fine with out him. Farewell, Troy Barnes. You will not soon be forgotten. Grade: A

 

PS, “Troy and Abed in a buuuubble!”

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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