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Community: Basic Sandwich Review
Basic Sandwich wraps up Community’s fifth season in the most Harmon-esque way possible. This isn’t a perfect way of handling things, but it doesn’t need to be. The episode strikes a great balance of paying when it comes to giving audiences the pay-off for last week’s episode (and this season in general) whilst also leaving the series in a good place whether a sixth season gets greenlit or not.
Following up on the events of last week’s episode (where, long story short, Subway moved in to buy the Greendale campus and the gang discovered that a treasure map that could help them save the school), Basic Sandwich follows the study group as they travel underneath Greendale in search of a long-lost treasure hidden by Greendale’s first Dean (“He was rich, having invented the nine-inch cassette WHICH the eight-inch industry paid to keep quiet”). It’s a fairly simple affair when all’s said and done, but there’s plenty of fun to be had here and considering they spent the whole of last week laying narrative groundwork for the episode, it didn’t need to be that complex of an episode.
Unlike other the show’s other finales, which have told a multi-episode story through distinctly different styles of storytelling, Basic Sandwich was very much the second half of an hour long affair. That said, this longer form narrative arc isn’t necessarily a bad thing here, it gives the story room to breathe and everyone on the cast gets their fun bit – from Duncan getting electrocuted to Chang replacing his teeth with diamonds. I felt like everything from Abed’s proclamation of “Leave no 70s reference unturned” onward worked really well and the background gag where the Dean nearly choked to death on a rocket was also pretty hilarious.
While they did a reasonable job as bureaucratic antagonists last episode, Carl and Ritchie do a solid job of transitioning to villains here – with Chang along for the villainous ride because that’s just how he rolls (“there’s a lot more to it than that, Britta!”) In fact, I think Ritchie came out of nowhere to become one of the series most wacky, thought-stealing villains and his post-credits gag has to be one of the best this season. The episode also featured Chris Elliott as Greendale’s first Dean and while I am admit I am a sucker for culture-shock humor, I thought they did a great job of handling his character in this episode.
That said, Annie and Abed really run the show here. Abed is at his most meta and Annie at her most empowered. The platonic chemistry (“You were about to start a kiss-lean”) between the pair really is marvelous to behold and throughout Basic Sandwich I found them bringing out the best in the episode. That said, Annie clearly had the edge, with her Winger speech scene proving to be one of the highlights of the episode for me.
Given the series history of multiple near-cancellations, it made sense for this finale to be as much about giving the characters a reason to fight for Greendale as it was about Community justifying its own reasons for continuing to exist (“Even if we do save Greendale, which Greendale will we be saving?”) Sure, Jeff rebooting the robot with the power of friendship was a little bit corny but then again, it felt just silly enough to work and it lined up nicely with the metatextual edge that both this and last week’s episodes have touched on. This could be the last time we get to see these characters and it was great to see them come together for one more hurrah, even if they acknowledge that this could very well be their last one.
Although Basic Sandwich isn’t necessarily my favorite episode this season, it did a great job of giving Community the send-off it deserves. At this point, whether Community is going to return to fulfill its long uttered prophecy of “Six Seasons and a Movie” is anyone guess but even if things don’t work out that way, I’m glad we got the chance to see one of the most inventive sitcoms in years redeem itself.