By Kate Wilson
Parks and Recreation has finally set sail for their farewell season, and I’ve got to say – they do it in excellent (if unexpected) style!
The two-episode premier certainly had some unanticipated twists from the outset, but by the end of the hour I had confidence that the heart of the show will remain infallible.
As you may have guessed by the end of the last season, as well as the episode title, this season is picking up the story in 2017, but that is the LEAST of the surprises! We began with quite a few bombshells – not least of which being that the ever-affectionate power battle between Ron and Leslie has taken a terrifyingly sour turn somewhere in the 3-year time-leap. Perhaps due to an ominous off-screen battle, only referred to as “Morning Star”, Ron has now entered the private sector and runs the unflashy-but-accurately-named “Very Good Building & Development co.” This isn’t the only drastic shift — April and Andy are buying slow cookers (so much for cereal off of frisbees!), and rental insurance (UGH), but Andy does have his own awesome kids’ show, which I would totally watch in a heartbeat. Donna and Tom have left the Parks department to nurture their own businesses, and Gerry/Gary/Larry is now known as Terry.
However, the trepidation that these changes inspired was swiftly lifted as we saw April’s dramatic realization of what she and Andy have let themselves become, Tom’s unwavering adorableness (despite his impressive and long-awaited success as an entrepreneur), Donna’s enduring excellence, and Gerry/Gary/Terry being attacked by tiny ninjas.
The arc for the season is established without delay – Leslie must bid for a huge piece of land being sold by the Newport group with no funds, investors, or donations, and she must go head-to-head with a one Mr. Ron Swanson to do it. Not only this, but the old gang has been wrangled into picking sides – private business owners Donna and Tom are being hired/persuaded by Ron for the good of Capitalism and American values, while April and Andy are likely to be gifted and guilted into cahoots with Leslie and her so-impossible-that-she-might-just-pull-it-off-with-the-help-of-her-friends plan.
The second episode is similarly excellent but adds to the glory by effortlessly sliding back into a hilariously familiar Tammy2 story-line which momentarily unites Ron and Leslie to assure the destruction of Tammy and bring Jam back to sanity … Wait. JAM? Yep, Jam. April has another alarming realization about what her life has become over the past couple years and tries to reassess her job prospects (dragging a well-meaning but reluctant Ben to a mortuary in the middle of the day – don’t you have a job, man?)
Other familiar faces join Jam and Tammy2 in this jaunt – Joan Calamezzo surfaces (certifiably crazier than ever) and Tom’s old flame Lucy is spontaneously visited in Chicago by Tom and Andy (she was one of my favorites, so yay!). John Hamm inexplicably pokes his head around the door, even though Leslie had tried to fire him in the flash-forward last season (if anyone wants to hang, he’s at Subway), but no sign of Paul Rudd’s reported return as Bobby Newport just yet.
I adore that this plot line follows that of the first season but on a larger scale which nurtures the audience’s preemptive nostalgia, but I also love that the character dynamics are shifting, which adds a new and exciting tilt to the final season. A couple of notable absences were that of the Nope-Wyatt triplets and any mention of Ann and Chris. Even though Chris and Ann left an entire season ago, I have been wondering about their baby! It would have been nice to hear that they’re doing well.
All-in all I’ve got to say, the writers have welcomed us back to Pawnee with expert precision – pushing all the right buttons to assure the maximum excitement for this last installment! At this point, I am ready to put my life in the hands of these writers, so I’m just going to lean back, and enjoy the ride!