Laura Tormos ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
After this week, the looming heartache that has been threatening to wreak havoc on our lives and emotions has finally set in. No longer is it a scary, almost-here vague cloud of what is sure to be disorienting sadness—it is now a very real storm that has started to rain down upon a world that in just one week will be devoid of new Parks episodes. While it’s no “Donna And Joe” or “Leslie And Ron,” these two episodes are absolutely fantastic in their own right, and really hit home on the idea that this beloved show that has brought happiness to so many people will be over forever sooner than we were all ready to accept. On the other hand, so much of what’s made this final season so great has come from the creative team’s knowledge that the end is nigh. They no longer have to hold anything back—they can be at peace with pulling out all the crazy stops they have ever thought up without having to worry about what comes after or worry about keeping everyone in Pawnee.
As a result, we got two wonderful and very different episodes that are saying goodbye just as much as we are back home from our couches. The Gryzzl Arc (with the exception of “Leslie and Ron”) was like the show taking one final breath before the farewells began, which is what everything since “Donna And Joe” has been—a farewell. One long, wonderfully drawn-out curtain call packed with goodbyes, callbacks, cameos, and, sadly, conclusions. Some of us would love Parks and Recreation to go on forever, but if it had to end—which it is—it sure is doing it gracefully.
“The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” was fun, allowing Parks and Recreation to change up its pace a little before its grand finale and get in on the format-bending fun that shows like Community and 30 Rock often employed. The show’s use of mockumentary format was a little missed, but wouldn’t have worked as well for this episode—and it certainly added a brighter and more hyperactive mode of storytelling fit for Andy’s (Chris Pratt) personality. There were especially some really good moments when some of Parks’ good-natured cynicism snuck its way into the kid’s show via April (Aubrey Plaza), and Donna’s (Retta) blues-y rendition of “Kung Fu Fighting” was spot on. The fake ads just before the commercial breaks were also fantastic—Ron’s (Nick Offerman) exceptionally long pause was particularly hilarious and appreciated.
What really elevates this episode comes at the end, however, in a short scene between Andy and April. He rushes off stage to console her, and despite how short it was, it really drives home how consistently his love for April brings out the best in him. He may be walking away from the best job he’s ever had and that he really enjoys, but, ultimately, his happiness lies in April and his genuine desire for her to find what she’s happy doing. This seemingly small scene is deceptive in that it is actually monumental, and Parks and Recreation once again achieves in teaching us a valuable life lesson—and this one is that having everything you want is an occurrence that is more often than not unlikely to happen, and something that would feel vaguely like cheating if they were to do for their characters. Instead, they realize what they need in order to be happy, and gives them the opportunity to go after it.
We see this continue throughout “Two Funerals” as well when Tom (Aziz Ansari) proposes to Lucy, and when Ben (Adam Scott) tells April that he doesn’t need to become mayor or erase his past failures. He knows himself well enough that he recognizes that he doesn’t need that kind of validation. He’s been trying to run from Ice Town for a long time, but he realizes that his failure paved the path to his subsequent successes, and that is all he needs.
The death of both the mayor (Bill Murray cameoing as Gunderson’s grinning corpse) and Ron’s barber was used as the springboard for for the characters to grapple with the finality of the series as a whole—a way to say goodbye, but, ultimately, start something new. Leslie (Amy Poehler) might not know that this show is coming to an end, but she does know that with half of her friends leaving town, this particular era of their lives is.
I was specifically really interested in Ron’s storyline, because it seems like one of the more challenging ones. Here is a man who is iconically stagnant, resistant to change—and if there was ever a character to be left behind as the rest moved to better things, it was always going to be Ron. But in having him end up in Typhoon’s chair, getting along with the kind of man you would least expect him to—flamboyant, talkative, gossip-y, and frivolous—we can see him crossing the threshold of that thing we had been talking about. That step towards the unfamiliar that often leads to growth, if he will allow himself to. Ron has already described himself, in his limited word use, as happy—we all know he is a man of simple tastes—but this small nudge towards the uncharted that Parks so often likes to explore is a wonderful reminder that he, like the rest of the characters, will be just fine. Even after they all seemingly cease to exist.
With only one episode left, however, I’m not sure I can say the same for myself.
Overall Episode Grade: A