‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show; Two Funerals”
So far, we’ve had an easy go of it in the final season of Parks and Recreation, as the show has paved the way for these characters to continue on a journey we won’t get to experience. They’ve been slowly wrapping things up with moments of fan service that, no matter how expected, still feel comforting and fun, while still managing to commit to their own vision of how things should end. But it doesn’t really get emotional until tonight’s two new episodes, which continues the process of saying farewell while promising new beginnings.
Tonight’s first episode allows Andy’s Johnny Karate show to take over, even swapping out the opening credits for the Johnny Karate intro and theme song, as Andy puts on his last show for the kids of Pawnee. The final show (and the final season of Parks and Rec) is bringing out all kinds of special guests, like John Cena and Ron’s alter-ego, Duke Silver. It’s such a joyful, energetic half-hour, punctuated by the emotional conclusion between Andy and April, who feels bad dragging her husband away from what he loves, only for him to remind her that he wouldn’t be or have any of this without her, and April is what Andy loves most of all.
It’s just another example of what has made this series so great: characters like Ben and Leslie and Andy and April don’t make begrudging sacrifices or even reluctant compromises in their relationships — they just work together. At first glance, “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” seems like a simple and fun concept, but it’s filled with touching moments that feel all the more real because we know how bittersweet this ending is for the people in front of and behind the scenes.
“Two Funerals” continues the parade of guest stars, both new and familiar, but the absolute best has to be Bill Murray. We’ve never seen Mayor Gunderson, and Amy Poehler has said that her ultimate dream is getting Bill Murray to play the part. Knowing that makes his guest appearance all the more delightful, like the best possible gift to give to this show as it comes to an end. We also get the (brief) return of Paul Rudd’s Bobby Newport, as well as appearances from minor Pawnee characters like Joan Calamezzo, Dr. Saperstein and Mona Lisa.
Aziz Ansari also returns tonight after taking a few episodes off, as Tom plans a predictably elaborate proposal for Lucy before defying expectation and giving us some of the sweet, more subdued Tom. Meanwhile, Ron copes with the death of his barber and, at Donna’s urging, selects Typhoon (oh, yes) as his new hair stylist. There’s some symbolism in there about how even Ron is moving on in some way, albeit smaller in comparison to the bigger changes amongst his friends, but basically it’s just hilarious watching him be delighted by Typhoon. Spinoff featuring Ron and Typhoon, please.
Even Jerry/Gerry gets the big moment he’s always deserved. Over the last six years, I’ve long hoped that poor, picked-on Jerry would have the most rewarding ending of all, and he gets just that, feted as the new mayor of Pawnee, complete with a cover of K-Ci and JoJo’s “All My Life” and a hot air balloon ride.
Okay, the parade of guests and all the major and majorly wonderful life changes are definitely typical of a final season, but I hardly get the impression that things are winding down — quite the opposite. As we approach the final two episodes, Parks and Rec feels like it’s just getting emotionally warmed up. (I will not lie: I was in tears during April and Andy’s moment in the first episode, and also maybe a little during Jerry’s mayoral celebration.) Things are only going to get even more emotional from here, guys.
- Sir Edgar Covington! The return of Peter Serafinowicz is the most pleasant and unexpected surprise. They really are doing a great job of including as many minor characters as possible for the best goodbye ever.
- Johnny Karate’s five karate moves to success: Make something, learn something, karate chop something, try something new and be nice to someone. Basically, this is just a guide to being a good person. I approve.
- There’s a little gleam in Nick Offerman’s eyes in “Two Funerals” when he dramatically exclaims “Explain yourself,” like he’s holding back laughter. It’s pretty great.