Community Season Premiere Review: “History 101” (Season 4, Episode 1)

It’s been a long time coming, but October 19th is finally here! “History 101”, the season 4 premiere of Community, marks the first episode of the show without creator Dan Harmon. And thankfully, much of the trademark zippy dialogue and offbeat humor is still there.

“History 101” opens with a sitcom parody – complete with laugh track and applause – which is soon revealed to be the story of the Greendale Seven as re-imagined by Abed, who has been struggling with the fact that the study group is starting their last year of college. Britta attempts to “therapize” him by inviting him to go to his happy place whenever he’s stressed. Naturally, Abed (in a That’s So Raven-esque eyeball-flashing moment) uses this opportunity to escape into the Greendale TV show he’s constructed for himself and, as the opening credits for would-be-sitcom Abed’s Happy Community College Show roll, we are introduced to what is perhaps the central framing device for this episode: senioritis.

Senioritis is clearly on Annie’s mind, too, as she declares that she would be skipping classes and pulling pranks to commemorate her senior year. At first glance, this may seem very uncharacteristic of her. But, in one of this episode’s most emotionally resonant moments, Annie reveals to Shirley that she, like Abed, is actually really anxious about graduation. While the two ladies fill Dean Pelton’s car with popcorn, Annie laments about her potentially mundane future in hospital administration (“Woo-hoo! Sad slow march towards death begins!”). You know, I was worried about this sub-plot when they introduced it, but in retrospect, it makes so much sense to me that the one character who is the most driven and certain about her future would start to radically question herself as said future draws nearer. And that’s always been one of the things I’ve loved about Community – consistency and continuity.

Speaking of continuity, Britta and Troy are apparently (gasp) dating now! And holding hands! And doing couple-y things, like throwing wishes in the school fountain without Abed! Well, that was a bit unexpected; I mean, I expected there to be more Britta/Troy in season 4, yes, but I didn’t expect them to happen this soon. The hand-holding was definitely cute, though, especially in consideration of the fact that this relationship is probably an entirely new dynamic for formerly-bad-boy-loving Britta.

But right away, we’re introduced to some tension between Troy’s childish antics and Britta’s defiant, anarchist, rage-against-the-machine-ist roots: Troy fusses over Britta breaking him and Abed’s fountain-wishing rules (it’s been a yearly first-day-of-school tradition for the besties), and fusses even more when she hops into the fountain to toss out a penny and un-wish her wish. In the hilariously awkward scene that follows, the two end up wrestling each other over the edge of the fountain. Hmm…verdict’s still out on this particular storyline. I found the fountain scene to be rather oddly edited, and while I do like the idea of Troy and Britta as a couple, I really don’t know how this first minor conflict bodes for the development of the relationship over the course of the season.

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