While the loss of Chevy Chase this season was unfortunate, his character on Community was always being pushed into the background or kept on the sidelines of most stories (certainly from season 3 onwards), so his loss this year hasn't been felt too badly. But losing Donald Glover will be a much bigger challenge for the writers; as Troy was not only a prominent part of the study group, but one half of a hilarious double-act with Abed (Danny Pudi). The writers may only have to wrestle with his absence for seven more episodes before NBC are expected to pull the plug on Community forever, but if it gets another reprieve I'm glad the door has been kept open for Troy to return.
The way Troy's exit was handled marked another highlight of a season that's becoming full of them, focusing on another of Community's wonderful half-hours of imagination. The show has already given us campus-wide paintball fights and hallways filled with blanket forts, but now it was time for "The Floor Is Lava" (a game Abed devised as one final moment of joy for them to engage with, pulling everyone else into it because the prize was a comic valued at $50,000). The rules were simple: the floor of Greendale became imaginary lava, and the last person managing to avoid falling into it becomes the winner.
Cue a fun episode that created an impressive "alternate world", where students would walk around with their feet taped to chairs ('chair-walkers'), or pass each other chairs to move around as team-working centipedes. One of the joys of this episode was just sitting back and watching this whole culture come to life—with Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) having assembled a mobile desk powered by fire extinguishers, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) presiding over Shirley Island (a fortification that contained a zorb), or Chang (Ken Jeong) as leader of the howling "Locker Boys".
But away from the sheer imaginative weirdness of this hour, it worked as a fitting farewell for Troy. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) turned to the dark side out of frustration the Lava game was preventing the study group showing their true feelings about Troy's departure, and eventually it became clear that Abed had devised the game so it would never end and his best-friend would never be able to leave. The final scene was particularly great, as Abed only really managed to handle Troy leaving by convincing himself they're both clones created from their lava-melted bodies (in a clear nod to how Alien Resurrection brought back Ripley after Alien3.)
Overall, while it was perhaps a strange decision to have Troy's swansong be a crazy episode about pretend molten lava, it just about came together in the end to make enough loose sense. Plus it's just a relief Troy could very easily come back at some point, if Glover's desire to concentrate on his music career wanes for any reason. I just hope the remainder of season 5 won't feel like it has a very obvious hole, as Troy was one of the few outright hilarious characters the writers would throw one-liners every few minutes. Who will fill that role now? Are we going to get another character who's a loose replacement, as Hickey is for Pierce? Will Abed work without his best buddy around? Can fans deal with a Community without any "Troy & Abed In The Morning" tags during the credits?