As the final season of NBC’s set-in-Indiana sitcom Parks and Recreation commences, we’re talking all things Pawnee in our weekly episode recaps. See more here.
Back to the future! As foreshadowed at the tail end of Season 6, the show has sped ahead to 2017. (Because, you know, Amy Poehler would rather not work with babies.) When last we left Pawnee, the Parks team seemed to still be working as one happy family. We pick up straightaway with a cameo holdover from last season’s finale: Jon Hamm’s inept Ed gets fired yet again by Leslie for losing yet another file. And the credits roll.
As we get into the meat of the season, we learn how everything has changed three short years into the not-so-distant future. Here’s our breakdown of the first two episodes, “2017” and “Ron and Jammy,” of this, the final season of Parks and Rec and, if we’re entirely honest, the unofficial-but-official conclusion of NBC’s Must-See TV.
» April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) is the director of the Parks regional office under Leslie Knope (Poehler) and worries that she and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) have become boring due to the introduction of a Crock-Pot in their home: “We’re boring people who bore each other by being boring.”
» Andy works part-time at that same Parks department while simultaneously filming his own television show, one on which the show’s resident scapegoat, Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry/now Barry Gergich (Jim O’Heir), is attacked by child-sized ninjas.
» April and Andy attempt to reboot their lives by visiting a rundown home in Pawnee’s supposed Warehouse District when we meet yet another zany resident, this time played to perfection by none other than the acclaimed documentarian Werner Herzog:
» April attends a book-signing for local media maven/shit-stirrer Joan Callamezzo’s (Mo Collins) latest book, Game of Joans, which is sure to land in her own book club. We learn that wacky Pawnee Today TV host Joan, forever a Katie Couric–meets–Nancy Grace archetype, has fallen even further into self-delusion. Infected by Joan’s passion for life and zeal for her job, April wonders if she is truly happy in her current professional role alongside Leslie. And once again, Donna Meagle (Retta) comes to the rescue to impart sage wisdom explaining the theory of “Saturn Returns.”
» Ben is wildly successful as Pawnee town manager and preparing for a gala in his honor. Upon seeing him in his tux, Leslie gets distracted: “That tuxedo make you look like a sexy orchestra conductor.”
» Though Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) is supposed to introduce Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) for the gala feting Ben, Tom—in true Tom fashion—instead pays tribute to himself. Later he shares what would have been his speech about Ben in the latter’s office. Cue waterworks! A lachrymose scene ensues, with the face of each splashed with tears. “I was going to talk about how you stood by me despite my many failures,” Tom tells Ben. “And how I stood by you through your many terrible outfits.”
» Tom later expresses his loneliness to Andy: “I must be the first person to have money, power, and notoriety but still feel empty.” This leads them on a journey to Chicago—hey, now home of the World Series–winning Cubs—to find Lucy (Natalie Morales), Tom’s ex. He woos her, platonically speaking, into working for him back in Pawnee. Thus Lucy will run Tom’s restaurant, and her current flame will presumably move back into town as well but work away from her. (This will end well!)
» The big reveal of the new season occurs as Leslie and Ben head to a hearing for the sale of land by Sweetums heir Jessica Goldstein (Susan Yeagley), Ben’s former boss, where we learn Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Leslie are now archenemies! The “Morning Star” incident has pitted Leslie and Ron against one another, which we can only assume has something to do with Leslie forcing Ron to eat veggie burgers.
» Ron is now working in the private sector as the chief of Very Good Building & Development Co., which has been hired by Gryzzl, a Google/Apple-hybrid company that wants to buy the Sweetums land to create a campus for itself. This flies in direct conflict with Leslie’s plan to make the land a national park, though she remains driven by her usual pluck: “I have the most valuable currency in America—a blind, stubborn belief that what I’m doing is right.”
» The Pawnee City Council members who are hearing proposals for the Sweetums land sale narrow their finalists to Ron and Leslie, which leads Leslie to befriend her former archnemesis Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) to gain a council vote in her favor. Problem is, Jamm is now under the control of Ron’s ex-wife, Tammy Two (Megan Mullally), and her formidable feminine wiles. Indeed, she has transformed him into her own Ron-like substitute. Seeing the damage already done by Tammy Two to Jamm’s psyche and physical appearance, Leslie and Ron put aside their (veggie) beef to help the councilman out of his, well, jam.
Bonus points for Leslie’s impression of Tammy Two:
» The episodes end with the always-captivating Mullally, in classic Tammy Two mode, stripping down naked in the library in a last-ditch (and failed!) attempt to get Jamm back in her saddle.
» Chris Pratt gives us one final laugh after an hour’s worth of Parks and Rec as we zoom out from a look at Tom helping Lucy fill out her new-hire paperwork. But let’s be honest: It’s this image that we will all leave with from this week’s episodes.
A lot of good groundwork has been laid for this final season. Our only complaint, as usual, is that we need more Donna (“Treat. Yo. Self”). Even so, we look forward to learning more about this mysterious “Morning Star” wedge that’s driven Ron away from Leslie and also seeing which entity—Mr. Swanson’s private firm or Ms. Knope’s regional Parks squad—will win the bid to turn unused Pawnee land into a national park.
See our Parks and Recreation final-season recap blog and more coverage here. The show’s series finale airs February 24 at 8 p.m. on NBC.