This post contains spoilers through the March 22 episode of Community.
I didn’t particularly like this episode of Community, which fell in love with a concept in favor of an idea. And I think I’m particularly frustrated with it because the idea was a good one: that one of the hardest parts of having adult friendships is figuring out the moments when you have to push a friend rather than simply enjoy or enable them, and that sometimes friendships that have served you well in the past don’t work any more.
The situation that raises that question, and the concept this episode fell in love with is pure Community, and pure Abed. The aspiring filmmaker’s discovered that he can hire celebrity impersonators to role-play through movies with him, and he’s $3,000 in hock to his dealer. When we met Abed three years ago, the core question for him was whether he’d be able to resist the influence of his embittered, falafel stand-owning father and pursue a career as a filmmaker. We embraced his decision to pursue his passion, and helping him make his movies (or ending up the subjects of them) has been one of the things that’s united the oft-fractious study group. But going down that path’s opened Abed up to repeated excess, whether he’s ending up with a messiah complex or invading his friends’ privacy to make a documentary. Abed’s father may have been right that he needed some sort of discipline or maturing influence, but freed from his ambitions, no one’s been particularly effective at giving it to him.
And the most interesting part of the evening was Troy realizing how important that check is. As befits a Dreamatorium partner, he started off the evening by defending Abed’s whims. “Abed is a magical elf-like man who makes all of us all more magical by being near us,” he insisted when Annie was tempted to break the spell and force Abed to face the consequences of his new addiction. But by the end of the night he recognized Abed’s recklessness for the self-centered junkie behavior it is. “We just spent our whole night paying off your debt and you’re blowing money on Patch Adams?” he asks, indignant. And he finally faced up to his fear of confronting Abed. “You don’t like people who tell you what to do and I don’t want to be one of those people,” Troy confessed. “You have to stop renting celebrity impersonators…Sometimes you’re going to have to trust that I know better than you.”
Abed said he would, but whether that’s actually the case, and whether their friendship can survive honesty when it involves something Abed doesn’t enjoy hearing are open questions. That revelation obviously hurt enough for the Abed from the darkest timeline to reappear, suggesting that sometimes, you’re better off traveling alone.
For me, the two arcs on Community that have consistently worked best have been Annie’s coming back to herself in the wake of her addiction, and Troy’s journey from being a fratty jerk to a nuanced human being. I wrote last week that Britta and Jeff actually make much more sense as a couple of Jeff and Annie do, no matter how often Annie may get entranced by the sight of Jeff’s abs. And I think Annie and Troy ultimately make sense together, if we’re going to go that route: they’re people growing into a truer understanding of each other and how the world works. People who don’t work together, as friends or as anything else, at one stage in their lives can become more alike. That’s a wonderful process, but it also means that you can grow apart.