So I was pretty slow about blogging about Parks and Recreation since Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe left. While I kept up with the show, I haven’t been able to keep up with the blogging, but I thought the finale warranted a blog post because there’s so much to go over.
Interestingly enough, this week’s episode “Moving Up” felt a bit like a series finale. Because Parks and Rec is unabashedly happy and sentimental, all of the characters’ subplots went very well. If this was the final season, it would’ve been a pretty satisfying ending to the show, but thankfully we have at least one more season.
I’ve felt that the last two seasons have set Leslie up for some major decisions that came up this season: namely, should Leslie stay with the Parks Department, and should she remain with her family of friends in Pawnee, or was it time for her to move forward? These questions are made even more urgent when Leslie gets a job offer to be regional director for the Midwest for the National Parks (based in Chicago), her best friend Ann Perkins moved away, and she and Ben are pregnant with triplets. Leslie also have to watch over the merger of Eagleton and Pawnee. There’s a lot on her plate, but Leslie responds with all of these things with her gung-ho enthusiasm.
So with that in mind, I watched “Moving Up” and wasn’t disappointed. It was easily one of the best finales in the show’s six-year run. The story starts off in San Francisco. Leslie is speaking at a National Parks conference (with First Lady Michelle Obama as a keynote speaker). Ben and Andy join as well, hoping to convince a tech company, Gryzzl to donate free WiFi to the citizens of Pawnee.
Leslie’s still being hounded by Liam Bonneville to accept the Federal Government job. As if to show off a trump card, he introduces Leslie to Michelle Obama – and Poehler gets to do her awesome frazzled-dazed-fan girl reaction to the first lady. It’s great and Obama is a good sport, but Poehler’s bug-eyed, almost vaudevillian take was brilliant. And I’ve got to say, I love that the writers are so cool about making Leslie an unabashed Democrat. I know we’re all supposed to be bipartisan, and I get that – but it’s great to see the writers willing to ruffle some feathers by making Leslie an unapologetic liberal feminist (they’re about as rare nowadays on television as well-written black female characters). But even Mrs. Obama isn’t enough to settle Leslie’s fears.
And while Leslie wrestled with her options, Ben and Andy make their way to the Google-like Gryzzl. The folks at Gryzzl are millenials who turn out to be fans of Ben’s homemade board game, the Cones of Dunshire – a terrible and convoluted game that has caught the attention of nerds everywhere. He challenges the Gryzzl reps to a game of Cones of Dunshire, wagering free Wifi for Pawnee.
Meanwhile, Leslie, speaks at the conference and is quickly rebuked for her overly ambitious merger plan. The other delegates quickly disabuse her of the notion that the merger of Pawnee/Eagleton will be easy and quick. One crusty vet warned Leslie that it could take 10 years. Leslie quickly feels chastened at even entertaining the idea of leaving her beloved Pawnee, and to Ben’s chagrin, she decides to stay. Because Ben is TV’s greatest husband, he takes his wife to San Francisco’s redwood forest, reminding her that if she takes the leap, she’ll be capable to serve her fellow American citizens in much the same she did her fellow Pawneeans, only by working with the Federal Government. And so Leslie takes the job.
When she and Ben return to Pawnee, she shepherds a Unity Concert to celebrate the merger. She also announces her plans to move to her friends, all of whom are supportive – except they also erect a monument to the founders of the city, and include Leslie, who promised that she’d never leave – making the gesture unintentionally ironic.
After talking with Liam some more, she learns that she can hire two staffers for the Chicago job. She tries Ron who quickly turns her down. She tries April and Andy, both who turn her down, too. We don’t see, but she probably asked Tom, Donna, maybe even Craig. Even Larry. She’s despondent as she shares a heart-to-heart with Ron late in the evening. During his speech, she has another one of her ideas and proposes that the Chicago job gets transferred to Pawnee.
Then shit gets crazy.
We zoom forward three years in the future. Leslie has great bangs, and is killing it at her job. Her three kids are being minded by the still-married Aunt April and Uncle Andy. Ben’s still in the picture, but wearing a tux. And the two enter an elevator to make some sort of announcement – but we don’t know what…(I’m thinking Senator Knope?)
The other plot has Tom opening his Italian restaurant. This subplot is far more traditional: Tom, fitfully ambitious, but also fitfully lazy, is approaching his new business venture with the attitude of a baller. He gets support from his crew. April, Ron, Donna, and Craig are on hand to help – and I love this tiny group of misfits who want to help out their friend: interestingly enough, it’s their shared competence, often trumping Tom’s, that marks them, yet they help the guy out. After a disastrous soft opening, the gang rallies, and the opening is hugely successful. As I said, this subplot is far more conventional for a Parks and Rec episode – a seemingly impossible task is accomplished through hard work and friendship.It’s a diverting subplot, but still offered some great laughs, namely because of Retta and Billy Eichner who easily steals his scenes as the passionate Craig.
Before I go into my analysis – some great random points/notes:
- It’s weird for me to see the opening credits without Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe, but I’m glad Retta is included.
- One of Craig’s great, desperately screamed lines, I’m wiiging out!” – a nice shout out to Poehler’s fellow Saturday Night Live alumna
- I love Ben’s line to the Gryzzl people, “We’re no Akron, more like Dayton…but we could be Toledo…”
- Tom’s whine, “Please, Ron – I never asked for anything, today.”
- I gotta say the exchange between Michelle Obama and Leslie was great – Leslie’s uncontrollably loud gushing and the first lady’s cautious grace. And I love Leslie’s sycophantic line, “I agree with you on all things throughout history and until the end of time, forever.” Like her crush, Joe Biden, Obama is one of Leslie’s heroes.
- Ron’s retort to Tom’s plea to get his homemade chairs done quicker, “This is not government work, as such, I treat it with care and attention.”
- Retta and Billy Eichner have a fantastic chemistry.
- Larry getting Tom’s menus printed with pictures of his dog’s rectum was a little easy, but still funny.
- I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus is tremendous on Veep – and she’s genius, but really, this is Poehler’s year and she needs to get the Emmy this year. Like Louis-Dreyfus, Poehler combines a frantic genius for physical comedy with an impeachable brilliance for line reading.
- I like that Tom and Craig are friends now. I also like that Craig calls Tom, “Thomas.” In fact, I just like Craig.
- It’s great that Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa are bake to help Tom at the last minute – they’re gross and disgusting, but comics Ben Schwartz and Jenny Slate absolutely crush it as the debauched siblings.
- It’s also great to see the lunacy of Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa intersect with the craziness that is Craig. When the Sapersteins suggest they all go go-carting, Craig roars, “I wanna go horseback riding!”
- The always-welcome Mo Collins makes a cameo as the lecherous journo Joan Callamezzo.
- In a great shout out to an earlier season, Donna’s cousin, R&B singer Genuwine performs at the Unity Concert, dedicated his hit “Pony” to Lil’ Sebastian.
- I love Ben’s “really?” look during the Unity Concert when everyone loses their shit over Lil’ Sebastian. He still doesn’t get it…
- In an overstuffed episode, Megan Mullalley, Nick Offerman’s wife reappears as Tammy. Interesting that the two comedians play ex-spouses on TV and are spouses in real life.
- Love April’s refusal of Leslie’s job offer. “Thank you and I love you, but no thank you and I hate you…and I love you…”
- It seems like anybody’s who’s died has lately appeared as a hologram in concert, and it’s nice to know that Lil’ Sebastian isn’t above that, too.
- I just realized that Henry Winkler has a regular job, as a recurring character as the villainous Dr. Saperstein.
- Jon Hamm shows how funny he is by playing Leslie’s employee in the future – and he’s really bad at his job and is fired…He plays smarmy good on Mad Men, and when he’s doing comedy, he plays stupid great…
So, What do I think of this episode? It’s really great – brilliant. I like being pushed forward three years – I wonder if we’re doing what Desperate Housewives did when that show jumped forward a few years. It’d be an interesting way of closing up the show if next season is its last.
Because the writers have allowed for Leslie to grow so much -really outgrowing her surroundings, it only makes sense that she moves beyond just the parks department. If that were to happen, I don’t know how the show would work – And just as Rainn Wilson was briefly considered lead for his own Office spinoff, if Parks and Rec ends next year, I see a future with the show, with Ron as star.