Other Ten Percent 4/25/14

Apr 25 2014

The season finale of Parks and Recreation you guys. So good. AV Club seems really intent on making it a thing that this show has declined in quality over the years and I…don’t know if that’s so. I’m a firm believer that 30 Rock had a pretty solid slump until its looming series finale re-energized it but Parks and Recreation has kept on trucking and having its characters slowly transform the way a good sitcom should. The critical need to make a flaw of Parks and Recreation’s ability to create gold within the rigid structure of the sitcom always seemed kinda like Mr. McAllister’s weird need to see Tracy Flick fail in Election out of some combination of jealousy, a dislike of overachieving and some weird sexual thing in one scene? I dunno, Election was kind of an odd movie now that I think about it.
But even that weird psycho-sexual drama I probably just made up cannot withstand the powers of a Parks and Recreation season finale. Including this one which the AV Club gave an A. For, indeed, there’s nothing this show does better than writing all of its characters into satisfying and appropriately heartwarming conclusions.
One of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time is make a list, whenever Parks and Recreation does finally wrap up, of the show’s top 10 series finales because the show has been perpetually on the bubble basically since it aired its first episode and that’s resulted in seasons that have at least one, and often two episodes that effectively tie off all the characters, their relationships, and the themes of the show in a generally satisfying way. Then NBC realizes they’ve once again created 6 separate sitcoms for the season and all of them are awful and renew Parks and Recreation again.
In fact this may be the first time the show wrote a season finale knowing they were coming back again next year (please do not look that up I’m too lazy to do research and the season 2-3 and 3-4 transitions also could have had them with a confirmed renewal) which makes it initially confusing that this season finale seems far more determined to leave the show in a place where everything seems safely resolved. In fact though the show makes things so AGGRESSIVELY resolved it actually wraps back around to making you desperate to see more.
In the first forty minutes the show ably brings the season’s major plots to a close including the Unity Concert (Donna’s cousin Ginuwine shows up and dedicates Pony to Lil’ Sebastian!) and Tommy’s Bistro (featuring the triumphant return of Jean-Ralphio and the entire Saperstein clan). It also ably navigates the paradox the show’s set up for itself this season of Leslie choosing between staying in the town that she loves and stagnating or abandoning everything she’s stood for in Pawnee to move to the next phase of her career.
But the finale is forty four minutes and that’s why I feel the need to put a SPOILER WARNING here in big letters. After spending most of the episode doing exactly what you expect a Parks and Rec finale should do the episode includes a coda that DOES NOT AT ALL do what you expect the finale to do.
After convincing her new boss to move her new job with the National Parks Department to Pawnee Leslie puts up a photo of the cast in her new offices on the third floor of city hall. The camera pushes in on the picture because “oh isn’t that sweet and heartwarming” and then it PULLS BACK OUT and bam it is 2017 and Leslie has her job running all of the national parks in the midwest fucking ON LOCK enough to fire Jon Hamm (!!!) playing a guy who’s been such a fuck up for the last three years that he’s even worse than Jerry/Garry/Larry Gergich (who is now named Terry). Ben has a job or at least an evening that requires him to wear a Tux and that leaves Andy and April babysitting Ben and Leslie’s triplets who are almost annoyingly adorable since we’ve skipped the first three years of their lives.
While other show would use all that crazyness to give you a sense that life goes on for these characters you won’t be seeing again Michael Schur has already confirmed in an interview that Parks and Recreation now takes place in the near future of 2017 and that we’ll be seeing all the show’s characters in a new status quo next year. He hasn’t confirmed that Jon Hamm has some gypsy curse put on him that requires him to be on any comedy show if they can find him on the street and say “Jon Hamm we need you to cameo as…” but I think we have enough circumstantial evidence at this point to just take it as fact anyway.
Parks and Rec isn’t the first show that’s done a big time jump like this. In that same interview Michael Schur says the Battlestar Gallactica time jump was an inspiration for this one. It’s probably about time for an OTP countdown of the best uses of time jumps in television shows actually since this one probably rates higher than BSG’s for how low stakes it makes this future. From the little bit we’ve seen everybody seems relatively happy and settled and that means the engagement is with the characters rather than the cliffhanger which is the deal Parks and Recreation has always made even though it seems to make critics nonsensically angry.
TV Critics are dumb about this show is what I am saying. Watch it. (FIRST FIVE SEASONS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX)

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