A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Parks and Recreation is back for its seventh and final season. That sentence alone fills my heart with sadness, but there is a semblance of understanding lying in the reality that the show isn’t overstaying its welcome. The time for the end of Pawnee’s story has arrived and I’m glad the show is taking the high road and ending at the appropriate moment. It’s bittersweet, really, but I can’t think of any beloved shows leaving without Our characters have grown and grown apart five years later, each resembling the characters they used to be but markedly different (well, most of them anyhow). Leslie and Ben are the political power couple of good causes as they always wanted to be. Ron, not wanting to be flashy, is the operator of the Very Good Building and Development Company. Larry has now become Terry because, well, just because. Donna Meagle is now the owner and operator of Meagle Realty, which I am assured only deals in the classiest of properties. Tom achieved his dream of becoming a mogul and has opened up a variety of restaurants, including one that serves salads out of a decommissioned helicopter. Andy is the star of his own musical extravaganza television show as was only appropriate. April perhaps underwent one of the starkest changes, finding herself beholden to the life of a mature adult with her government job and realizing how much she truly missed the spontaneity that she and Andy had before.
Parks and Recreation always has been a show that in all honesty is more driven by its characters than the plot. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, of course, especially when your characters are as sharply and richly drawn as they are here. But plot is of essence as well and no one with any knowledge of basic storytelling is going to deny that. Indeed, the weakest episodes of Parks and Rec were when the show tried too hard to establish plot and sometimes forgot who its characters were at their core (the beginning of the show is a great example). The final season of this show needed something stronger than just familiar characters and new settings to truly not just work as a good season but a great one. Establishing 2017 as a new primary gateway for the narrative was a sharp move. It’s a tricky balance to pull off not just because the new settings established have to feel germane and lived in but they have to imbue the past just as seamlessly. To its credit, the show is able to make the time jump remain logical, throwing in a deep wrench between Ron and Leslie.
Something happened, something nefarious. Okay, well maybe it’s not nefarious. But regardless, that’s the sharpest wrench thrown into the mix by the writers to keep the audience guessing and glued in. Perhaps because the final season, like 30 Rock, is only thirteen episodes and we know Ron and Leslie so well that without any additional details we can assume that the conflict is in relation to their philosophical differences about the respective roles of government and the private sector. It’s a wedge that has created many an argument between the two without ever overshadowing their friendship. Yet this feels like it is on another scale entirely, related to the so-quaintly-named-that-it-must-be-something-dastardly Morningstar. It is a bit deflating admittedly to know that this douse of animosity will be resolved fairly sooner than later, but the writers keep the game intriguing enough to where ultimately you don’t really care what happened but instead you want to know what was the cause of this deep rift. Naturally, once that bit is over, we want Leslie and Ron to renew their vows of friendship over waffles and all the bacon and eggs available at the institution known as J.J.’s Diner.
As we are in the seventh season, the audience has courted a sense of familiarity with the characters of Pawnee and everyone who has come within its obese orbits. It would have been easy for the show to simply continue to play on that reality and do little else. But what Parks and Recreation has been able to do with that familiarity and camaraderie is impressive. Storytelling that has been there for a fair number of years at a certain point can stop relying on heavy exposition and retread of the same ground in order to achieve an emotional catharsis from the audience. Our favorite Parks characters continue to grasp that understanding perfectly and then they twist our expectations. Tom and Ben crying over a speech, April loving Joan, Tammy Two being naked in the library, Tom being awkward with Lucy, and Leslie’s spot-on Tammy Two impression are all moments we feel comfortable knowing. April hugging Ben and not feeling fulfilled at a mortuary are surprising moments, endearing because we know deep down how truly caring she is. But it’s moments like when Leslie and Ron form a team to help out their mutual enemy Jamm that make this show shine. Sure, it’s hilarious to watch Ron coordinate with Leslie in slapping Jamm as if on repeat, but it’s the underlying kindness and selflessness of the two in their endeavor that truly does the trick.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (2017):
+“I am really happy for me.”
+“I have the most valuable currency in America: a blind, stubborn belief that what I am doing is 100% right.”
+“My son sells them on Etsy.”
+“I see the irony.”
+Shia LaBeouf wedding designs
+“Being a responsible adult sucks butts.”
+“It’s like Voldemort or Ron.”
+“Who doesn’t bake a backup cake?”
+Newport National Park
+Andy and April’s creepy house
+“This is where it started for me. This is where it ends.”
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Ron and Jammy):
+“…severe tunnel vision about achieving my goals.”
+Game of Jones
+“Tom… what does culinary mean?”
+“In my experiences with buttfaces, you are one.”
+“Thank you, Commissioner Gordon, people of Gotham…”
+“It doesn’t count as stripping when no one pays you.”
+“I’m scared of death.”
+“People are dying to get in.”
+“Monsters Inc.…engage with the culture!”
+“Tammy does not abide by the Geneva Convention.”
+“Life is about taking risks.”
+“Shh… this is a library.”
+The Saturn analogy
Titles: 2017/Ron and Jammy
Written By: Alan Yang & Matt Murray/Harris Wittels
Directed By: Dean Holland
Image Courtesy: Screen Crush