Are You Better Off?
“This case just remained interesting.”
After the season three finale, "Li'l Sebastian" aired, showrunner Mike Schur discussed his strategy for writing season finales: "Write the juiciest, most exciting cliffhanger-y possible scenario you can write, and then you have all summer to figure out how to get yourself out of it." Schur seems deadest on sticking to that system with the season five finale of Parks & Rec.
Last night's episode featured a number of cliffhangers: How will April and Andy deal with April going to Bloomington? Ron's going to be a dad? How's he going to handle that? Whose trying to steal Tom's business? Some work better than others, and some developed more organically. Regardless, a lot happened. Let's grade.
It seems the people of Pawnee want to recall Leslie Knope. This came out of the blue. Sure, Leslie angered a lot of people during her first year as City Council woman and we were reminded of all of those people through a clip show of sorts as some of the year's most memorable guest stars hurled insults at Leslie (or "thanks" if you're Jason Schwartzman) at a town hall meeting, but there was no build up of joint animosity until now. Regardless of how it started, however, Leslie is now thrust into a position where she needs to defend herself and her positions while the people of Pawnee defend their right to be fat, lazily and sexually oblivious.
Throughout it all Leslie remained relatively calm and rational (finger-wagging and dance movie-naming aside) and thanks to some rational words from her husband she's ready to fight. If I'm totally honest, I don't care what happens one way or another. As far as I'm concerned Councilwoman Knope hasn't been nearly as interesting as Parks Department Deputy Director Knope. Still, I want good things for Leslie. I hope she gets them.
April & Andy
"I want to wait until we're 50 and adopt a couple of adult twins from Romania."
The fake-out had me. I spent the whole episode rolling my eyes at the predicability. Of course it's April who's pregnant, and of course Andy wouldn't notice because he's Andy. I almost zoned out because it was so cliche and lame. But of course it wasn't that cliche and lame. I just horribly underestimated the people at Parks & Rec. I can't believe I suspected they could have been so lazy. Of course April and Andy aren't ready to be parents, and of course the writers knew that. I really should just turn my brain off and veg out like the rest of America when I'm watching TV. I might actually enjoy something.
Not only did Andy turn out to be right about April not getting pregnant, he got a chance to bring Bert Macklin out of retirement and to be sweet and supportive. Also, he figured out the pregnant woman is Diane without anyone having to explain it to him. Our little boy is growing up.
Ann works better playing off other characters than she does having any stories to herself. Last week seeing her advise Tom about Mona-Lisa was more satisfying than any out-of-the-blue baby-wanting, and watching her get sucked into Bert Macklin's quest for the pregnant woman played to all her strengths. It doesn't hurt that she seems to be getting slightly zanier every week. That seems to be the best way to survive in Pawnee. If wanting a baby does that to her, then shall she never be so lucky.
Playing press secretary for Leslie and being otherwise supportive and adorable, Ben continues to win the title of "Best TV Husband" easily. Although with Andy around, he best watch his back.
Ron was underutilized this episode, but I think that was all a part of the plan to throw us off the trail of him and his girlfriend we haven't heard much about recently. It worked. A baby with Ron Swanson for a dad and Xena for a mom? That's going to be one kick-ass kid.
Appeared but not graded: Chris, Mona-Lisa, Jean-Ralphio, Donna & Jerry
"Are You Better Off?"
I feel bad giving any episode of this show such a low grade because I love it so much, but it just didn't earn anything higher. There were twists that dropped my jaw and others that made me very excited to see where the show goes next season, but I can't grade according to what I'm hoping I'll get to see, I need to grade according to what it was, and from beginning to end this episode just didn't pop. It was merely fine. But, as I mentioned, the cliffhangers point to good possibilities, and the writers have all summer to come up with something truly great come next season. Here's hoping they live up to their promise.
- "I will buy lunch. You can have as many burgers as you want."
"Welcome to the FBI."
- Sweetums calls napkins a vegetable. Their rationale: "They're made from plants."
- "I run a pornographic DVD emporium."
- "I actually think that you should get a 'Hello Kitty' tattoo."
- "What have I done, like, to humanity?"
- "Do you know how many different pills I take? Birth control or otherwise? There is now way I could be pregnant with a human baby."
- "Last one to pick up 100 rusty cans has still accomplished a great deal."
- The writers set the bar too high with "Li'l Sebastian." I'm not sure they could ever top that as a season finale.
A whole season just ended. That should give us plenty to talk about. Which storyline are you most excited to see play out? I'm going to go with Ron, just so long as they don't destroy that delicate balance that makes him one of the best characters on TV. What say you, Dear Readers? Share your thoughts in the comments.