Last week, Community fans were forced to confront the loss of one of their own, when it was revealed at the last minute that Pierce Hawthorne had died. This week, we were dealt another blow, as “Cooperative Polygraphy” laid the groundwork for the departure of another beloved character, Troy Barnes. After forcing all of the group’s secrets and lies out into the open during his bequeathing ceremony, Pierce left Troy the biggest gift: all of his shares in the Hawthorne Wipes empire, worth over $14 million dollars. Of course, because he’s Pierce and can’t make anything easy, in order to gain access to the money, Troy has to first sail around the world on Pierce’s boat, the Childish Tycoon — which is both a reference to Donald Glover‘s music career and the perfect way to describe Pierce — and learn to be his own man.
It is, admittedly, a rather obvious way to deal with the absence of Glover, who will make his fifth and final appearance of this season in next week’s episode, “Geothermal Escapism.” But despite the flimsiness of the set up, having Troy leave to discover who he is on his own is a surprisingly fitting way to write off his character. Most of his storylines over the course of the show’s run have dealt with the issue of his identity, from his attempts to continue being the “golden boy” after arriving in Greendale, reveling in his weirder tendencies as a result of his friendship with Abed, and his natural gift for air conditioning repair, despite it being the last path he wanted his life to take. Once he became friends with Abed, he lost a piece of himself, and has dealt with the fact that his identity has become completely dependent on that friendship.
Yet, Troy and Abed have always had some fundamental differences, which the writers brought to the forefront in season three and parts of season four. Abed knows who he is, has accepted that, and is up-front about the crutches he relies on in order to deal with the world, whereas Troy feels that eventually, he will have to grow up and leave behind all of his childish tendencies and behaviors. Take for example, his conflict with Abed over the dreamatorium; for Abed, it was a vital part of who he is as a person, and something that he relied on to keep himself sane. For Troy, though, it was a fun way to goof off with his best friend, and something that he would eventually need to move on from when it was time to be an adult. The conflict, then, comes not only from the rift in their friendship, but also from Troy not knowing who he is outside of “Troy and Abed.”
Although his relationship with Jeff got the most attention during his time on Community, Pierce was extremely close to Troy, especially after they spent a year living together. Therefore, it makes sense that it would be Pierce who sets Troy up for the next chapter in his life, because he knows Troy well enough to understand that eventually, he will need to figure out who he is, away from Greendale and away from Abed. He also knows that it’s not something he will do without being pushed, as even after they left Greendale, Troy still relied entirely on his best friend. While everyone else in the study group had hobbies and jobs they had moved on to, Troy was simply waiting for Abed to invent something, so that he could benefit through proximity. He needs the incentive of millions of dollars in order to finally step out of his comfort zone and be the person he wants to be, rather than the person everyone else expects him to be, or the character he and Abed have decided to play this week.
Pierce’s bequeathal makes for a more fitting catalyst for Troy’s departure than, say, reviving the air conditioning repair school plot, which could have easily been the direction the writers chose to go down. After all, Troy is their Messiah, the most gifted air conditioner repair man they had ever seen, and he alone was able to bring them back down to reality and integrate them back into Greendale. However, after that plot was resolved in season three, it was never mentioned again, and the issue of Troy being able to choose what he wants to do with his life rather than just following his “destiny” was never referenced. Yet, watching him deal with that struggle for years gives Pierce’s insane request some context and helps ground it in reality.
We can only hope that Glover will make a return to the show eventually, so that the audience and the study group can find out what kind of person Troy is on his own. It’s only fair, since we’ll be able to watch Abed deal with being without his other half over the course of the rest of the season, but his journey of self-discovery carries less weight than Troy’s. We know, whatever happens, that Abed will be okay without Troy, and he will continue to be a whole person in his own right. No matter how many breakdowns he has, how many people he offends, or how many of his schemes veer wildly out of control, Abed will still be Abed, no matter who is by his side. With Troy, we’re not so sure. And that adds another layer of sadness to his imminent departure, as we will never get to see if he can be his own person when he’s alone.
It’s always hard for a show to deal with the loss of a main character, especially one who is as well-loved as Troy. Community is faced with losing two in rapid succession, and after next week, the dynamic of the show is going to change dramatically. But the writers have certainly risen to the challenge, and after seeing the way they’ve decided to set up his departure, we’re sure that Troy, like Pierce, will get the send-off that he deserves. Until then, we, like Troy and Abed, are in mourning.