Does last night's episode of "Community" speak to the state of the show in general?
Inaccessibility. Every indie band has been accused of it at some point. I've mentioned before that most good art challenges you a bit upon first viewing and you can often feel repelled for a while, until exposure inoculates you to the repulsion you feel and, eventually, you come to an understanding of the thing.
Anyway, more to the point: is Community trying for inaccessibility? Yes! And also no.
Dan Harmon specifically explained the current state of affairs as well as the future of the show right before the third season began. The network wanted him to calm it down a bit, water it down, to make it more accessible; but instead, he went the other way. He thought making it crazier, pushing the envelope, would eventually endear it to more people and finally lead to higher ratings. When did he explain it? It's on the most recent Comic-Con panel, I think.
As I write this, Harmon’s logic seems flawed. Either way, he was knowingly moving the show in its current direction. He knew that the Gang would be entering new environments as they left the campus more frequently (another thing he specifically did was to keep the group confined to the Greendale campus in Season 1, so the audience could get to know them). So places like Abed's and Troy's apartment could, and should lead to even higher levels of craziness. The plot has to evolve with the Community world; crazy characters and a bigger world = more crazy. So, for sure, the best part of their apartment is the Dreamatorium. It's the heaven every little kid wants (or little kid in grown man's body); a playroom where imagination is king.
When this device was introduced, the possibilities seemed endless. That was until we saw Abed "spirit jumping" from one role-play to another. This effect alone put the most space between me being able to understand and like this new episode “Virtual System Analysis”. Knowing Abed was changing positions to play a bunch of different characters was kind of funny, but all the special effects got in the way of us, as an audience, suspending our disbelief about the Dreamatorium as well. I think that's what may have turned most people off about this episode. By all means its an understandable episode, it just puts our beloved characters in a new environment that isn't as comfortable as most others. I mean, the Dreamatorium's engine? It's either the best plot twist, or just lost on people.
But the greatness of this episode is the growth of Abed. Annie's plan works: Abed learns to channel other people's feelings into his head and we all grow a bit with him by simply watching the episode and accepting we might not "get" what's happening at first. But today's audience, they're going to tweet within seconds and Andy Bobrow's going to re-tweet them, and my Twitter is going to blow up with Community confusion and dissatisfaction—though I’m sure some people still got it. I’m not one of them, but there's always the second, third, and fourth viewings to look forward to.
God speed my Blessed Angels. Fuck me.