Saying goodbye to Parks and Recreation might be harder than expected. It’s evident from the show’s run that Michael Schur and his writers know how to deliver emotional moments without pomp and circumstance, like when they handed us the beautiful scene of Leslie and Ben’s engagement seemingly out of nowhere towards the beginning of season five. These types of sneaky gut shots right to the feels are what makes Parks and Rec the beloved show that it is, and I guess I should have known that in the final season, they’d be coming quick.
As funny and quotable as tonight’s first episode “William Henry Harrison” is, the night’s second episode “Ron and Leslie” may be remembered as a series highlight. From my memory, Parks and Rec hasn’t done a “bottle episode,” an episode in which two or more characters are trapped within one set for the almost entirety of an episode, yet. That fact works to the show’s advantage because the timing is perfect for two warring old friends to spend some quality time.
“Ron and Leslie,” inevitably reminded me of “The Suitcase,” an episode of the also ending Mad Men that’s constantly referred to as one of the best episodes of that show’s incredible run, due in part to the fact that a former mentor and mentee are having to lift some of their emotional baggage from the past. Watching Leslie annoy Ron for the first part of the episode is fun. Actually, watching Ron be annoyed by anyone or anything is usually funny, but when the episode shifts to a more serious tone, with talk of Morningstar, is when the episode truly takes off.
Leslie’s side of the story is understandable. She took a better job because it was what was best for her family, she hired April away from Ron as an opportunity for April and for more help, and of course, she was peeved when Ron quit the Parks Department without telling her. Her main beef is with Morningstar, the apartment complex that Ron was hired to build intrusively next to the Pawnee Commons that required houses, specifically Ann’s old house, be torn down. Leslie mythologizes the smallest parts of Pawnee, so it’s not surprising that she would cherish the former house of her best friend, a place that hosted many significant memories.
Despite all of this, Ron’s side of the story really pulls on the heartstrings. Witnessing the high watermark of masculinity that is Ron Swanson express sadness is perhaps why the moment felt so impactful, but watching Ron recall the pain of seeing all of his friends leave him behind might be the melancholiest this show has ever gotten. Or maybe it was downtrodden Ron being forgotten by Leslie, or maybe it was seeing Ron alone at the diner? Nick Offerman does one hell of a job acting out his thinly veiled grief. Whatever the apex of unhappiness may be for you, learning that Ron really cared for everyone so deeply that he’d actually ask for a job in the federal government (!) just to be around them again really struck a chord.
Then we got the loving reunion that we all knew would come at some point this season, but didn’t expect so soon, and certainly not with as much Billy Joel music present. I noted in the review for the premiere episodes that, as interesting and different as the idea was, pitting the Parks crew against each other just felt wrong. The camaraderie of the Parks and Rec crew adds to the feel-good nature of the show, and I’m happy that the nastiness has subsided. Who knows how this effects the National Parks Department’s campaign against Grizzle, but we can all rest a little easier knowing Ron and Leslie are friends again, chowing down breakfast food at J.J.’s Diner.
The Best of The Rest
- “William Henry Harrison,” centered on Leslie trying to find a historical reason why the land that the Newports are selling cannot be developed. She learns that former president William Henry Harrison, who died in office after a month, had a hunting cabin on the site. Leslie grasps at this straw as Grizzle recruits Annabelle Porter, the Pawnee celebrity behind the trend setting Bloosh, to stage a counter conference. Mostly, this episode just tries to sour Ron and Leslie’s relationship even more so they can make up the next episode.
- The Reasonablists (Hail Zorp!) return to try and lay a religious claim to the land.
- Terry fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a notary.
- Ron hates flash. That’s why he refuses to sign his name in cursive.
- In 2017, Bloosh has twice won a Pulitzer for Listicles.
- The William Henry Harrison museum features a What If? Exhibit that wonders what the country would be like had the ex-president not died. They predict that The Wire totally would have swept at the Emmys. They also have exhibits about other things that were famous for a month and other famous Harrisons.
- Bloosh’s hot trends of 2017: asymmetrical overalls, angora toothbrushes, locally-sourced Italian flip-flops, and beef milk.
- “It’s f***ing milk.” – Ron, in response to beef milk.
- April’s likes: dogs, sleeping late, weird birthmarks.
- Leslie recruits WHH descendant Zach to help at her conference. Andy knows him from camp: “Zach! Camp Wamapoke! You got a boner!”
- Grizzle is backed up by the Somebody’s Daughter Dancers.
- Ron burns Leslie with “you’re not that good at scrapbooking.”
- In 2017, the Game of Thrones finale will see Khaleesi marry Jack Sparrow.
- Leslie burns Ron with “I think wood is stupid and so does everyone else! Ron loves plastic!”
- Ron tries to escape using the claymore that’s always sat on his desk, but is surprised to learn that it is filled with confetti and balloons, as it was a birthday surprise from Leslie.
- On Leslie’s application, Ron compares her to Leon Trotsky.
- “I’ll watch a foreign film! I’ll talk to a man with a ponytail!” – Ron describing the horrible things he would do to escape from Leslie.
- Oh hey, Craig’s back.
- Ron makes Leslie a picture frame from the wood from Ann’s front door.