‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “William Henry Harrison; Leslie and Ron”
Although a lot has changed in the (fictional TV) years since we last saw the cast of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ some things never change, like Leslie’s unflappable determination and Ron’s stubborn attitude. These two butting heads over their ideals is nothing new, but there’s something kind of unsettling about the cavalier and stoic way with which Ron approaches his business—he’s always been a libertarian with anti-government and pro-capitalist views, but who could imagine a Ron who makes deals with a business like Gryzzl?
That’s a facet to this—and it’s such a big one—that doesn’t quite make sense, which is why the second of tonight’s two ‘Parks and Rec’ episodes sort of needs to exist to help us understand what’s pushed Ron so far. The first episode, “William Henry Harrison,” is set up as the first of two parts (“to be continued” tag included), with Ron and his team looking for a prominent Pawnee personality with major brand power and consumer influence to be the face of their campaign to purchase the Newport land for Gryzzl. Of the two potential candidates—Jorma Taccone’s Roscoe Santangelo, who doesn’t get enough screen time, and Erinn Hayes’ Anabel Porter—Ron chooses the latter. Meanwhile, after hearing proposals from various citizens (which is a fun way to revisit the absurdity of town hall meetings), Leslie has gone with a pile of bricks that was once the hunting lodge of President William Henry Harrison, which means she may have found a historical landmark.
Ron hosts his press event right on the heels of Leslie’s, and thanks to the powerhouse duo of Tom, Donna, and Anabel with all their bells and whistles and buzz phrases, they’re clearly the favorites. But as his team points out, usurping Leslie’s press event is enormously wrong, and it’s not a move we’d expect from Ron—it’s a total Jeremy Jamm move.
The cliffhanger of the episode (which can hardly be called that, considering that the second episode starts immediately) finds their friends locking Ron and Leslie in the old Parks office to talk out their differences and reconcile because they’re driving everyone up the wall. It’s much-needed: for as much as it’s been interesting to see Ron and Leslie butt heads on a much larger scale, the plot is beginning to agitate, and Leslie has gone from her typically passionate self into the rare territory of shrill, while Ron’s stubborn stoicism has gone from humorous and endearing to absolutely unreasonable.
But the second episode, “Leslie and Ron,” spends much of the half hour as a drama punctuated by occasional moments of humor, as Leslie endeavors to find out where she went so wrong in their friendship. Some of the best Ron Swanson moments have involved the melting of his heart, the chipping away at his stony facade, to reveal something more tender within. Leslie and Ron’s friendship has become a solid foundation for the series, so while much of the second episode feels a tad on the dramatic side, it’s worth it for the last 10 minutes or so, when we find out that Ron’s increasingly cold demeanor is the result of loneliness—he’s felt abandoned, and when he tried to meet Leslie for lunch to humbly ask for a job and rejoin his friends, she stood him up. This was the final push he needed to move on with his life, and it’s made him more of a grinch than ever. Hopefully, now that Leslie and Ron are back on good terms, the final season can move forward as they find a way to unite for the common good once again.
The biggest issue I’m having right now with ‘Parks and Rec’ is NBC’s almost inconsiderate and dismissive scheduling of the final season—burning off the episodes two at a time as if they’re just trying to hurry up and get rid of their last truly great comedy. Like the “Leslie and Ron” episode, NBC is also skewing more dramatic these days, while FOX has once again established itself as the main hub for great sitcoms.
It would help to let these episodes have some breathing room, to let us consider the cliffhanger from “William Henry Harrison” for a while and, you know, allow it to actually serve as a comedic cliffhanger. Instead, those final moments aren’t as exciting because the resolution is even closer around the corner than usual—like, three seconds around the corner, if even that. The final season is bittersweet and for fans of the show like myself, this is such a major farewell. I wish NBC would treat their own show with the same reverence.
- I continue to love the casual mentions of major pop culture changes in the future: Khaleesi is marrying Jack Sparrow in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale, which makes sense if you’ve read the yet-to-be-published books.
- And: Morgan Freeman and Shailene Woodley are in the midst of a major celebrity feud.
- My favorite peripheral character, Oren, makes a brief appearance in a flashback to April’s zombie teenage pizza party biker bash.
- Speaking of April, Andy is trying to help her find a new career path, and while his suggestion that she find a job where she can work with people one on one (which she prefers in all things) is a small one, it’s a step.
- Hail Zorp!