It’s been more than seven months since we last got to see a new episode of Community, but that all ends tonight in a fairly big way. With Dan Harmon once again taking the helm after being announced as the returning showrunner this past summer, the NBC comedy will be kicking off its fifth season with an episode titled “Re-Pilot” that changes just about everything we know about Jeff Winger, Britta Perry, Abed Nadir, Troy Barnes, Annie Edison, and Shirley Bennett. Some big changes are underway at Greendale, but it all suggests some new and exciting things coming in the future of the series.

Having had the chance to watch the first three episodes of the new season, I’ve become fascinated and excited by the new direction of the show, which has more than a few things working in its favor. What exactly are those precious things? Read on to find out?

Community Season 5
Pierce Hawthorne: Gone, But Not Forgotten
After disputes between Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase became way too public back in 2012 it became very clear that the actor and the folks behind Community were not getting along too well, so it was no surprise when it was announced that Chase would be leaving the series after the end of the fourth season. This has led to a good deal of speculation regarding how the show would handle the Pierce’s absence going forward. The great news is that the show appears to be handling it perfectly.

There’s an inside joke early in the season premiere that suggest the writers would just be ignoring the elephant in the room that is Pierce Hawthorne’s absenteeism, but by the end of the third episode the moist towelette heir is not only repeatedly mentioned, but also shown to still have a significant presence in the minds and thoughts of the study group. It’s hard to say how important he will be – if at all – as Season 5 continues, but it’s clearly not something that the show is conveniently sweeping under the rug.

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