Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 21: Moving Up, Part 1
Season 6, Episode 22: Moving Up, Part 2
Posted by Sage
“We just have a general idea of what is going on in the world, and we have some general ideas for what happens to those people over the course of this future season, but until we really get back in the room, I’d really prefer not to try to commit to anything too soon. It just sort of like shuts up creativity. … I have an idea for the final image, the final scene and the final image of the show, and I have no idea whether that’ll be the final image or not.”
Is there a more thoughtful or collaborative showrunner working on TV right now than Mike Schur?
Parks and Rec closed out its sixth season with a massive shake-up. But because this writers’ room values character and story over “gotcha” moments, the unprecedented three-year time jump felt earned. No fear of the unknown here. Don’t get me wrong: the pervasive sense of impending doom in your Breaking Bads or your Mad Mens is as much a creative triumph as the opposite. But being a Parks fan means respite from TV-induced anxiety. We can safely love these characters without fear or restraint; we know they’re in good hands.
“Could Leslie have it all?” was the question set up by the back half of this sixth season. And in the season finale, she answered it for us. She can kick ass at work and raise an adorable family. She can move up in the world and stay in her hometown. She can get bangs and fire Jon Hamm.
As soon as Tom met Ron on City Hall’s newly remodeled third floor, I knew where the Midwest office of the National Parks Department was moving. Was the move a cop-out? I say no. First of all, Leslie decides early in the episode to take the job. With Michelle Obama calling you to action, how can you walk away? Yes, she gets cold feet about the merger and leaving her friends, but I fully believe she would have ultimately gone. I think it’s important that we saw that. And secondly, Leslie has always believed that Pawnee was destined for greatness. For six years, she’s been grooming the town for big things – beyond Harvest Festivals and Unity Concerts. She successfully transformed Pawnee into a home that none of her friends and coworkers want to leave. How quickly would first season April or Tom or Donna have packed their bags if they’d been offered jobs in Chicago?
The case is successfully made, to us and to Grant. It’s no coincidence that Grant happened to be in town for the Unity Concert before he agrees to run the “Best Option, Hands Down” proposal “up the flagpole.” He’s no fool. He wouldn’t just take Leslie’s word for it that Pawnee is the greatest town throughout history, till the end of time, forever. He sees it in action – a massive civic project that may have been supported by Leslie, but was conceived and pulled off (with considerable flair) by Pawnee itself.
And what a show it was. The Unity Concert’s eclectic line-up reminded me of those big, free outdoor concerts that my college activities committee would put on every year, though we were never graced with a holographic Lil’ Sebastian. Ginuwine’s rededication of his biggest hit to the greatest equine citizen ever produced in Pawnee was by far the funniest moment in the episode – possibly the season. I mean, Lil’ Sebastian is a mini-horse and not a “Pony,” but why split horsey hairs? Apparently full songs from The Decemberists, Yo La Tengo as Bobby Knight Ranger, Ginuwine, Wilco as Land Ho!, and Ben Wyatt’s favorite band, Letters to Cleo, will be showing up online soon and hopefully on the sixth season DVDs. Earlier this season, Ben wore a threadbare Aurora Gory Alice t-shirt on his day off – and without comment. This week he stood offstage and passionately sang “Here and Now” along with Kay Hanley. What other show cares about its characters this much?
The best part about this besides Ben’s face and shirt and dance moves and total commitment is Leslie hightailing it outta there. Also, I’m as fond of the Melrose Place theme song as anyone born in the ’80s, but I’m hoping there’s an outtake of “Cruel to Be Kind” somewhere.
Schur told EW in the post-finale interview that he and the writers sketched out two possible outcomes for every character after the three-year time jump: success and failure. I don’t expect to see much of the latter; everyone (Larry/Jerry/Terry aside) is flying pretty high in the finale. Tom is finally the V-Iest P in his restaurant, sandwiched in a booth between a ’90s R&B star and a hot chick. Ron has completely surrendered his whole self to his family, leaving him immune to the toxic charms of Tammy 2. (“Trollin’ for some Dad ‘D.'”) One of Ben’s geeky distractions finally strikes a chord with the chic nerd set. (“I mean, people are playing with my Cones, babe.”) April gets to delight in giving her family the news that she’s getting divorced, before re-marrying the love of her life – just for fun. And Andy has the best of both of his musical worlds: giving kids pee-pants and playing rock & roll with his friends. He worked so hard on this festival and he just has the purest heart of any of them. I’m so glad he got the chance to close it down. “I love this town so much, and I’m just so proud to live here,” he says, before launching into “5,000 Candles in the Wind.” He used to live in a pit.
“It is my belief,” Ron tells Tom, “that you never start a job you don’t intend to finish.” That may be fine advice for making chairs, but it’s hardly universal. When it comes to building a family or enriching a town, that work is never done. By moving the regional office to Pawnee, Leslie doesn’t just get what she wants. She gives her town another opportunity to rise to the occasion and handle the influx of people and business that being a federal government hub will bring. JJ will have to hire more servers. Paunch Burger might need a second drive-through. Maybe Tom’s Bistro will have a few more locations in 2017. Perhaps Ben’s “big night” involves some kind of honor for creating the greatest RP game of all time? What a fancy new Pawnee for little Ann, Ron, and James Tiberius Knope-Wyatt to grow up in.
There’s urgency and a distinctly more worldly feel to our sneak peek of Leslie’s life in 2017. Schur told EW that during next season – likely the last – the focus will shift from Pawnee politics to Leslie’s new, expansive domain. It’s a bold move. But with characters so rooted and well-defined, Parks shouldn’t be afraid of opening up. We shouldn’t be afraid of letting it. This little show has survived by always following Leslie’s maxim to “go big or go home.” And now it’s challenging itself again. Do Mike and Amy and their writers know exactly how this experiment is going to play out? No. But that’s never stopped them before.
- “We gotta break in there.” “They give tours.”
- “Tom’s Bi.”
- The Department of the Interior’s resident bad boy Liam Bonneville wears a leather jacket and is totally aloof praising Leslie’s now legendary proposal. HOW GREAT IS THAT.
- I imagine that every tech start-up douche in San Franciso looks just like Blake Anderson. Well done, casting.
- “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Swanson.”
- It has been way too long since we’ve seen my boo, Jean Ralphio. But he did not disappoint. “Ja boy’s a question on the bar exam, ya heard?” “No way, The Closer? Ooooft!” “I WANNA GO HORSEBACK RIDING.” “Deal.” “Dadd-yyyy!
- ‘Pleeaaasssase, Ron I never asked you for anything today.”
- “YOU ARE FROM CHICAGO SO YOU LIKE IT.”
- I don’t know who’s more OTP, Joan/Jean Ralphio or Craig/Jean Ralphio:
- “And then after they give us the free WiFi, we tell them the treasure was love all along.”
- “Merger, She Wrote.”
- “I don’t know who I am! A man without a palate isn’t a man anymore! I love you, Donna!”
- “I’m going to be paralyzed by hypotheticals until I die here in this minivan.”
- “Wait. I’m on Endor…sorry, that’s not why we’re here.”
- “I’m crying out of happiness and sadness and gratitude and because I’m carrying triplets and for a fifth reason that I can’t figure out.”
- “Damn, Donna. Why you gotta bring the Quackson Five into this?”
- “Hello. I’m Johnny Karate.”
- Zoey called Ron “Daddy.” Tissues, please.
- “Thanks, babe. You’re so good at reminding me where pizza is.”
- By far, my favorite cameo of the whole finale: Barney from the accounting firm.
- So many adorable throwaway Donna/Tom friendship moments. Fist bump for these BFFs.
- “I am so furious at you but I’ve already forgiven you and I need you to teach me to play the saxophone.”
Parks has always excelled at season finales, mostly because they usually haven’t gotten their renewal news by the time production times rolls around. With this seventh season renewal, they’ve been given the opportunity to close it out the way they want. With a whole season to prepare for Pawnee’s final farewell, just how epic will that series finale be?
We’ve thankfully got a long way to go until then. What did you think about the finale, readers? Are you pro- or anti- time jump? Leave all your thoughts in the comments and thanks for hanging out here with me all season.