‘Community’ Review: “Repilot; Introduction to Teaching”
The time has come! Creator Dan Harmon has returned to his rightful place as showrunner on 'Community,' and tonight we rejoice! Season 5 of 'Community' begins with two all-new episodes, and we cannot be more excited -- in "Repilot," Jeff comes back to Greendale to assist in a lawsuit, while the Dean, mistaking his return for good news, reassembles the study group. And in "Introduction to Teaching," Jeff tries to adjust to his new position at Greendale with the help of guest star Jonathan Banks of 'Breaking Bad.' Meanwhile, Abed attempts to convince the study group to take a course focusing on Nicolas Cage. Read on for our review of the premiere episodes of 'Community' season 5!
"Repilot" is definitely the return to form we've been hoping form: metatextual humor, Troy and Abed goofiness, and no more generic sitcom nonsense. 'Community' is back. Dan Harmon is back. And we can all laugh again. It takes a few minutes for the episode to get rolling, as Jeff has been stuck in a strip mall law office that's gone bankrupt. But then his old lawyer buddy (guest star Rob Corddry) pops in with an offer to assist on a case that sends him straight back to Greendale to sue the school for under-educating a former student -- and when that case doesn't seem to be working out, the Dean reassembles the study group for a "Save Greendale" committee, and Jeff goes back to his old jerky self to convince his friends to turn on the school that brought them together in the first place.
There's so much great stuff in this first episode: the way it's shot dimly, evoking the cheaper feel of a pilot episode, and the many meta-nods to re-piloting the show, like making Jeff an a--hole again and having the group re-enroll at Greendale to further their education. Even Chang dropped his amnesia and went back to being just plain terrible, and that's a blessing for sure because that amnesia plot became the stuff of nightmares in season 4. When Abed talks about Zach Braff ditching 'Scrubs' during its reset in season 9, I loved Troy's meta reference to Donald Glover's own exit this season and the way he's been criticized as being ungrateful to the show.
What's strange is that I didn't even notice Pierce was gone until Troy made a joke about it, subbing in Magnitude's name when he clearly meant to point out Pierce's absence -- and that's the thing, Chevy Chase's presence isn't really noticed or missed. Even still, his send-off later in the episode is fittingly inappropriate and sweet, and the 'Scrubs' voiceover ending is a real kicker.
"Introduction to Teaching," feels like more of an introductory episode to the season than the premiere episode, strangely enough, as we see everyone adjusting to their new places at Greendale. Jeff takes a job teaching Fundamentals of Law, and struggles to reconcile his friendships with his new position -- especially his close bond with Annie, who disapproves of his lax teaching methods, obviously. And then there's the bad influence in the form of Buzz Hickey, the grumbling, jaded, and bullying criminology professor played by Jonathan Banks, who will be something of a series regular, presumably filling the hole left by Chevy Chase, and it's some pretty great casting.
We see Jeff influenced by the wild and crazy antics of the jaded teachers who loathe their students and love to get drunk and dismiss their responsibilities, and it's a real test for him. Will he easily revert back to his jerky ways, or will he still be the good-hearted Jeff of season 3? Last season we watched as Jeff had to learn a lesson seemingly every week, and pretty much refused to do so -- it was clumsy writing as the interim showrunners failed to continue the progress Jeff had made, basically resetting him back to season 1, but Harmon has firmly placed him back where he belongs. No longer are the cast members one-dimensional caricatures, and Jeff finds his place as a teacher soon enough. He even likes it.
We also get a return guest spot from Kevin Corrigan as Professor Sean Garrity, teaching the course Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad? It might be one of my favorite gags on the show to date, with Abed convincing the group to take the class along with him (sans Annie, of course). Britta gets a little too smarty pants, and Shirley proves that she actually watches more movies than Abed thought, but the best part is watching Abed slowly lose his mind and actually become Nicolas Cage in his quest to find out if Cage is any good. I hope we see more of Garrity this season and more of these wacky courses.
These premiere episodes aren't nearly on season 2 or 3 level, but they're definitely a vast improvement over the lackluster and clumsily misguided offerings of last season. It's wonderful to have Dan Harmon back, and we're only two episodes in, so you know it can only get better and wackier and more delightful from here on out as the show continues to settle back into its natural groove.