The running story arc in this season is the "Save Greendale" committee. The writers acknowledge that itís getting difficult to justify a group of students staying in community college for as long as the group in Community has, so a plot to get them all back together has to get set in motion. Jeff comes back thinking he can betray his past loyalties and help win a lawsuit against the school. He fights with the idea of loyalty to the school, and in the process ends up accidentally forming the "Save Greendale" committee with the old gang of Shirley, Britta, Annie, Abed, and Troy. In a brief summary of the truly important parts of this season, this DVD contains episodes about Dungeons & Dragons, G.I. Joe, Nicolas Cage, and a game of "The Floor is Hot Lava." I enjoyed pretty much every episode, but those are some pretty big standouts.
In the "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" episode, Professor Hickey (played by Jonathan Banks, also famous for playing Mike in Breaking Bad), finds himself in a contrived effort to reconnect with his estranged son through a game of D&D. This is not the first D&D episode, but it might be the best so far. Itís written in a way that you really donít know how the group is actually going to get Hickey and his son Hank to talk to each other, let alone play the game together. Hank, played by David Cross, sabotages the efforts by switching character sheets, defying the Game Masterís (Abed) attempts to get the characters together in the game. He then sets a condition that if he "beats" the game before his father, Hickey wonít be able to see his grandson at birthdays, Christmas, or Thanksgiving get-togethers. The stunned group feels terrible about starting the game, and it really does become an epic quest to reunite the two of them, with all the Community relationship fun and bonus geekery that should go along with it. These episodes really are the best because when Dan Harmon is on board, the writing seems to get so perfectly why geeks love and hate their hobbies, and just what makes them special as a group. The scene where Hickey uses the old good cop/bad cop routine against two goblins is indicative of the fun and brilliance thatís been brought back to this show.
In "Geothermal Escapism," Troy gets ready to leave on a trip around the world. Abed canít cope, and sets up a game that he know his best friend wonít be able to resist: "The Floor is Hot Lava." He sweetens the pot by offering a comic worth $50,000, and thus the entire school gets in on it. The game turns the school into an awesome post-apocalyptic world where the populace have learned to walk on lava with chairs. Every major character, and even some minor ones play a part in the drama. For example, Shirley ends up building a fort that serves as a shelter from the lava and becoming the angelic savior for fellow students, while Hickey becomes the villain by building a tank out of a school desk and pushing victims onto the lava (floor). The episode is great not just because of the way that everyone commits to the foolish game, but in the way it honors Troy and Abedís relationship. Thereís something only Troy could see in Abed, and the same goes the other way with Abed. In the end, they find the perfect way to send off Troy. A Levar Burton appearance is just icing on the cake at that point.
The special features are pretty entertaining. A good outtake reel is always amazing, and so is a great commentary track. This DVD has that and more. The "Re-Animating the '80s" feature is especially good. It follows the process used to create the "G.I. Jeff" episode. Some great things youíll learn from this episode is that they brought back an original G.I. Joe storyboard artist, Larry Houston, to help storyboard the show. They worked with talented artists like Julia Vickerman, who created amazing character designs for the episode, and Ryan Nagata, who built era-accurate toys. They even enlisted the help of someone who still had access to an old Scanimate machine. These were the pre-Tron era machines and software used to create CG in the '70s and '80s. Apparently thereís only 5 or so remaining machines in the world. If you donít know how amazing this is that they were able to do this for a tribute to an '80s cartoon, check out this video of samples from Scanimate back in the day. To anyone who grew up in the '80s, the look is immediately recognizable, bringing back memories of the soft glow of fuzzy CRT TVs and the feeling of an entire era of TV, movies and commercials. Other special features include more behind the scenes looks at the shooting and production of a Community episode. It really gives insight into the hectic pace and sometimes desperate efforts of the entire operation.
Community has been a rollercoaster since Dan Harmon left and returned, was cancelled and not cancelled. With a Sixth Season coming to the web on Yahoo! Screen, at least we know this is not the last of Community. For any fan of Community, this DVD is a no-brainer buy. Just get it and watch it.