With it’s recent re-addition to Netflix Canada, and the boredom of television audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Community (2009-2015) has been garnering newfound public attention.
Following the release of a table read of the season 5 episode “Cooperative Polygraphy”, the show seems to be gaining newfound relevance on social media, as people discuss their favourite episodes and moments from the shows run.
Even though the show was “cancelled” twice, went through directorial changes and struggled to compete against other NBC shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, the show gained a cult following, with its fans praising it’s bold storytelling and heartwarming themes.
With seasoned Community viewers and newcomers alike viewing the show, it’s a good time to look at 10 of the best Community episodes. Note: There will be spoilers ahead.
10. Contemporary American Poultry (Season 1, episode 21)
An homage to classic mob films such as Goodfellas, this episode is the first in what will become a series of tributes to film genres. Swap money laundering and drugs for chicken fingers and control of the study group, and you have a very Greendale Community College storyline.
9. Geothermal Escapism (Season 5, episode 5)
“Geothermal Escapism” marks Donald Glover’s departure as Troy Barnes after more than four seasons on the show. This episode focuses on Barnes and Abed Nadir saying “goodbye,” through a Mad Max-esque school game of floor-is-lava. Chair shuffling through hallways, criminology professor Buzz Hickey riding his quazi death machine (or floor cleaner, whichever you prefer to call it) through the schools hallways, contrasted with Britta Perry telling Nadir to face his real feelings about Barnes’ departure makes for a heartfelt and exhilarating episode.
8. Epidemiology (Season 2, episode 6)
Abed Nadir, Britta Perry(Gillian Jacobs,), Winger and Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) face a horde of zombies inside Greendale Community College. Photo courtesy of NBC/Netflix.
“Epidemiology” gives nods to zombie flicks like 28 Days Later, as hazardous “taco meat” leads to a zombie outbreak during Greendale’s Halloween party. Meanwhile, ABBA’s greatest hits play the entire time. It’s one of the wackier Community episodes, trading the down-to-earth nature of some of Season 1 for an unbelievably unique storyline, but it works well — and gives one of the better twist endings of the entire series.
7. Pillows and Blankets (Season 3, episode 14)
This nod to Ken Burn’s documentary style is absolutely perfect, including the use of Keith David as a narrator for the story, which gives it that extra flair as a mockumentary. The second part of a two-episode arc about Troy and Abed’s creation of a pillow fort — which splits after the two can’t resolve their differences over the materials used to build it — this episode has exactly what people came to Community to see: homages, characterization (such as Jeff Winger trying to prolong the conflict to get out of further schoolwork, or Pierce playing the villain with his “Pillow Man” character) and an ending that pulls on the heart strings.
6. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Season 2, episode 14)
This episode takes a unique twist on a game that usually only involves people sitting around a table, and turns it on its head. The group dives into a game of Dungeons and Dragons in the attempt to cheer up classmate “Fat Neil.” Pierce Hawthorn continues to develop into the villain of the group, as Hawthorne ostracizes the group for not including him in group events. The result is an amazing mix of character development, and a story that works better than you’d think for such a basic setting like the study room.
5. Digital Estate Planning (Season 3, episode 20)
What Community does well is abandoning any expectations of a typical sitcom. Set inside a 16-bit video game, the group tries to help Hawthorne gain his father’s inheritance, battling the deceased’s longtime assistant, Gilbert, expertly played by Giancarlo Espositio – who played ruthless drug kingpin Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. Add in the typical Community twists and this episode is a must for vintage video game gans and Community lovers alike. (Bonus: the game was made playable by fans of the show.
4. Cooperative Calligraphy (Season 2, episode 8)
Putting all of the characters in the study room following the loss of another of Annie Edison’s pens, this season 2 so-called bottle episode — a term for when the story’s main characters and plot take place in one single location — shows the group unraveling, going from perfectly normal to stripping out of their clothes entirely to try and find that pen. Callbacks to other episodes on our list, as well as a fascinating conclusion of where the pen went make this episode a must-watch.
3. Modern Warfare (Season 1, episode 23)
“Modern Warfare” took Community from a typical sitcom into the show we know now with outlandish theme episodes. What seems like a perfectly normal campus activity in a small game of “paintball assassins,” turns into an all-out campus war for the ultimate prize: priority registration. Thus ensues an alliance of the group against others like the chess club, glee club, and professor Ben Chang and his professional paintball equipment.
2. Remedial Chaos Theory (Season 3, episode 4)
This early season three episode is widely viewed as one of the best of the series – and it’s easy to see why. Split into seven different “timelines” – resulting from Winger rolling a die to see who goes to fetch the pizzas the group ordered – each more outlandish than the last, including “the darkest timeline,” which spawned the most iconic gif to come from the show. Not just entertaining, this episode stands as the precursor to the “evil study group” plot points in future seasons.
1. A Fistful of Paintballs (Season 2, episode 23)
Paintball returns to Greendale in the season 2 finale. Greendale and its students turn western, as packs break out to claim the mysterious $100,000 prize. The episode styles itself very closely to the work of Serio Leone and his Dollars trilogy, down to the episode’s title card, which follows the cartoon introduction that Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) had. Fast-paced scenes and western tropes such as a Mexican standoff and the lone cowboy, while interweaving the season 2 theme of Hawthorne as the villain of the group, lead to this unique episode standing out amongst the rest.