Welcome to the future that is Pawnee 2017, everybody!
Season 7 of Parks and Recreation premiered Tuesday with some big changes, but also the small sense of familiarity that we’ve grown to love. Having been a longtime fan of Parks and Rec and the structure that it’s kept intact for 6 seasons, I have to admit these first two episodes were a little jarring at first. The heart of the show is still there but some aspects make it feel like an entirely new show at the same time.
Let’s dig in.
We left off last season with a time jump to 2017 where our lovable Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), new mother of triplets, was now the head of a Pawnee branch for the National Parks Service. This season picked up in a similar fashion with Ben (Adam Scott) and Leslie stepping off an elevator on their way to a meeting. Ben was looking mighty dapper in a tuxedo and Leslie was rocking some new bangs. Giving someone bangs or a new hairstlye is always a good way to note there was some sort of a time jump.
I can see how Parks and Recreation may have hit a road block with where to take this season. In reality, someone like Leslie Knope would have moved on and up in her career. However, for the sake of the show and the character’s we have grown to love they needed to find a way to keep her in Pawnee. So, while at times the show may seem jarring, I can understand the need for these changes. I would have been fine with just a final season of office shenanigans, but storytelling however, always has to keep moving forward.
My biggest concern after watching these two episodes was that the cast wasn’t together enough. Long gone are the days with everyone sitting around or meeting up in the office. Everyone is off doing their own things and occasionally together, but in much smaller groups and seemingly separate storylines.
It appears that one of the main arcs of this season will revolve around the Newport family selling off 25 square miles of their land to the highest bidder. Leslie, as head of the National Park service, sees it as a wonderful opportunity for Pawnee. However, she has a little bit of competition from Gryzzl, which is the start-up tech and social media company we met last season. Gryzzl wants to pay $90 million for the land in order to build their new offices. This leads to an interesting set up. The builder for Gryzzl is none other than Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who left the Parks department to start his own construction company called Very Good Building and Development Company. That’s Swanson for ya.
Leslie is upset that Ron is working against her to get this land, but it becomes quite apparent that something had already happened between the two of them to cause a riff in their relationship. They keep referring to an event called “Morningstar.” What this means, I am not sure but it will definitely come out throughout the season, or maybe even through flashbacks? Again, another use for the bangs!
While trying to recruit old parks department employees, Leslie discovers that Ron already has Donna (Retta) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) on his side. This episode doesn’t really conclude the feud. It ended with an altercation between Ron and Leslie at Ben’s Man of the Year ceremony that resulted in them both face first in a cake.
Team Leslie, which consists of Terry (formerly Larry and Jerry), April (Aubrey Plaza), and Andy (Chris Pratt) go to visit Ron, Tom, and Donna. Leslie wants to apologize for having such tunnel vision about the land purchase and perhaps not taking into account what her fellow friends also have to gain. However, she’s still mad at Ron and he isn’t allowed to eat the cookies she baked. He does anyway. It was nice to see them all together no matter how short!
In the end Leslie places a $0 bid on the land with the promise that the park would be named after the Newport’s and they would be remembered for generations. She secures a sympathy spot in the running, so now it is down to the National Parks Service and Gryzzl.
The two other storylines taking place were Ben’s Man of the Year ceremony to celebrate his work on the Pawnee bicentennial and April and Andy realizing that they have become boring grown-ups. Like I mentioned earlier, the story lines seem a little choppier this season than before but hopefully once they find their footing things will have more flow.
Tom is going to be introducing Ben at the award ceremony, which of course leads to Tom going off his cue cards and using it as an opportunity to praise himself and all of his accomplishments. Tom’s Bistro is very successful and he has opened up four other restaurants as well. When Ben confronts him about the speech debacle, Tom explains that his original speech made him too emotional but chooses to read it then to Ben in his office. Ben cries.
When April gets really excited over a new crockpot, she realizes that she and Andy have become boring adults with salaries, plates, and renter’s insurance. The spontaneity that they once had is gone. She is still working for the government and Andy has his own TV show, The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show while also working part time for Leslie.
They decide to get “crazy” at Ben’s event but that just leads to the discovery that wine makes her sleepy and he needs Zantac. However, while driving around in the warehouse district, they find an old haunted house with “amazing” features such as a stairway to nowhere, no kitchen, three bomb shelters, and at one point was a holding cell for people that went crazy at the doll factory. They decide to buy the house and I think it will make for some funny stories for them this season!
Episode 2: Ron and Jammy
The hour then moved into the second episode, “Ron and Jammy.” Clever. In this episode we see the continued storyline of Leslie vs. Ron as they try to secure the Newport land, which will be coming down to a vote by City Council. Enter Leslie’s on/off again rival, Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) who was hilariously regarded as the “human equivalent of gas station sushi.” Spot on. He is the swing vote here and she needs him to swing her way.
However, the Jamm we have seen in the past is no longer there. Now, Jamm is the spitting image of Ron right down to his new mustache and maroon cotton polo. Turns out he has a new lover, Tammy 2 (Megan Mullaly). Tammy 2 does not want Leslie to have the vote and therefore neither does Jamm who has been completely brainwashed by her. He is sick from all of the whiskey and meat he is forced to eat and drink, he’s depressed, unresponsive, and just not Jammy. Seeing this makes Leslie call for a brief truce in her feud with Ron who is the one person that knows how to break free of Tammy 2.
Some of the tactics they use to un-brainwash Jamm include, a chastity belt (which doesn’t hold much weight as the two have not gone that far yet), a tactic in which they spray Tammy 2’s perfume “Girth” in his face then slap him, a Swanson made “crotch blinder,” and role playing different situations. It made for a fun scene and Amy Phoeler’s impressions of Megan Mullally were fantastic!
While Jamm seems to somewhat pass the practice tests it all comes down to an actual encounter with Tammy 2 herself in the Pawnee Library. When she sees that she is losing her control she strips down naked and tried to use her body to get Jamm back under her rule. Yes, in the library. She also promises Leslie the vote would go her way if she were to give Jamm the okay to go back to her.
Leslie does pause for a moment but then turns down the offer. Would we expect anything less of her? Apparently Ron would. He tells her that he was pleased by her decision to stay on Jamm’s side. Whatever happened with Morningstar must have been bad for Ron to be surprised by the position she took in the situation because in any other season she would have done the same thing. I hope we get into the Morningstar thing soon.
Much like the first episode there were two other story lines going on as well. Tom has had trouble finding love since he found success with Tom’s Bistro. His ex-girlfriend, Lucy (Natalie Morales) shoots him a Gryzzlbook message congratulating him and wishing him well. After getting drunk, Tom and Andy have the brilliant idea to go to Chicago and find Lucy. A $830 cab ride later and there they are!
They convienetely run into Lucy and tell her that Andy is considering taking a job in Chicago as a cover story. This prompts her to talk about how she misses Pawnee sometimes and often thinks about going back. Tom does start to redevelop feelings for Lucy but cannot find the nerve to tell her. Instead, he offers her a position back in Pawnee at Tom’s Bistro. She accepts but also drops the bomb that she has a boyfriend. There really must be something in the water in Pawnee since no one ever wants to leave. Guess we will see where this one goes. Andy seems to think they will fall in love, which would make me happy. Tom deserves it and he no longer is obsessing over his ex-wife who was the reason he and Lucy broke up in the first place.
Lastly, April is having some concerns about her future. What once was a randomly selected internship has turned into a career. After hearing Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins) give a speech about how she always pursued her lifelong dream, April is unsure what she wants to do with her life.
Just as a side note, Joan’s new book has the best name. A Game of Joans. She is fantastic.
Her and Ben go on a brief tour with a mortician, which is what she wanted to be as kid, but leave shortly after she realizes all the years she would have to spend in school. For now she will stick with the parks department but Ben promises to help her figure out what it is she really wants to do.
Overall, it felt good to be back with the gang again. I do hope that they integrate the stories more or set up kind of like “home base” for all of them to be together at once. I loved that about this show and don’t like how stagnated and separated all the stories felt. I am hoping that we get some flashbacks to 2015-16 as well to provide some context as to what really happened with Ron and Leslie.
I’m looking forward to recapping this final season with you all!