A Look Back at Community: Season 3

This Thursday marks the return of one of my favorite shows on television: NBC’s Community. To celebrate the return of the show, I am taking a look back at each of the previous three seasons. Beware, there may be minor spoilers, but I will try not to reveal any major plot developments. Enjoy!

After a stellar second season of Community, I had high expectations for third season. Luckily, this season lived up to my expectations, often exceeding them. The amazing thing about Community is that creator Dan Harmon (who unfortunately will not return for season four) is constantly coming up with wacky ideas that no one would ever think of or expect. Season three is no exception to that rule, and for that reason Community continues to be my favorite show on television.

Perhaps the most intriguing new storyline of season three is the mystical cult of the air conditioning repair school and its leader, Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman). More of a religion than a school, the air conditioning repair school takes a particular interest in Troy starting in the first episode of the season, “Biology 101”.

With the exception of last season’s paintball finale, Community has never been great at starting and ending season, and this season is no different. “Biology 101” is a pretty run-of-the-mill episode, and the finale, “Introduction to Finality”, while being a solid episode, represents a hastily constructed end to the series in case the show was cancelled following this season.

Yet between these two mediocre episodes, the third season of Community shines. The interesting storyline of multiple timelines in this show, including a “dark timeline”, is introduced in the excellent episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” and expanded upon a bit in “Virtual Systems Analysis” This part of the storyline is one of the best parts of the finale.
This season really hits its stride by the halfway point, with one of my all-time favorite episodes in the series, the Glee parody “Regional Holiday Music”. This episode is Community’s first true musical episode, and the digs at Glee and surprisingly good music combine to make a special episode.

Only a few episodes later, Community as a show hits its high point with “Pillows and Blankets”. My favorite episode in the entire run of Community, “Pillows and Blankets” is a parody of the Ken Burns Civil War documentaries. I cannot think of another show that can pull off an episode that is almost entirely still images. In short, this episode is incredible.

The show continues to be excellent as the season continues, with the Law and Order parody “Basic Lupine Urology” and the oddly out-of-place, yet quite satisfying video game episode “Digital Estate Planning”.

The show ends on a melancholy note, with even the creators wondering if this season would be Community’s last, but thankfully the show was renewed for another season. Even without creator Dan Harmon, I am confident that the fourth season of Community, premiering tomorrow, will be the best season yet.

Essential episodes: “Remedial Chaos Theory”, “Regional Holiday Music”, “Pillows and Blankets”, “Basic Lupine Urology”, “Digital Estate Planning”