Season 7, Episode 8: Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington
Posted by Sage
Much has been made of the generation dubbed the “millennials” and their perceived lack of drive and direction. But, like all generalizations, this one is flawed.
That’s why April’s journey on this final season of Parks has been so important. Ambivalence is one of April’s forever charms, and it’s especially fun to watch it run up against Leslie’s relentless enthusiasm. But the heart of April’s character is that her aloofness is often a defense mechanism; she actually cares about things very deeply. She’s allowed herself to be opened up by the people around her and no longer wears her cynicism like armor. Though, most of the time, she’d sooner punch you than admit it.
What Parks has been able to capture about the Millennial experience is the pressure to choose and stay on a path, long before we’ve seen enough of the world to predict what we’ll want. April joined the Parks Department as an intern; succeeded in spite of herself; and now (well, in 2017) finds herself halfway up a ladder she doesn’t want to see the top of. Changing careers isn’t as easy as shining up a resume; competition for jobs and the traditional hiring process make it nearly impossible to jump onto another track.
This is Parks we’re talking about, where no one gets there alone. Instead of admonishing her for her restlessness, April’s friends and colleagues get to work. As you know, I watch more TV than is necessary or healthy. But I’ve never seen anything like what Parks showed us in “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington.” A group of grown-ups rallied around a struggling young woman in a way that was anything but patronizing to make sure that she had all the opportunities she deserved. And then the choice was left up to her.
Andy dusts off the dream job checklist (first mistaking it for his running tally of cool new nicknames: Count Chockula, Apple Juice), and enlists April’s other friends to help him find the ideal gig for her. I have a lot of feelings about the zeal with which Ron and Ben took on this project. (“She’s brilliant, and a very fast learner.”) And even more about Barney, world’s most enthusiastic numbers-cruncher.
Meanwhile, April has to come clean. Though I’m certain the Twin Peaks reboot will invite plenty of discussion, it’s been nearly destroying Ben to the secret that April wants to move on. He knows what’s she’s thinking (“Well then, welcome to the Terrordome.”) and that she won’t be changing her mind. It’s time to tell Leslie.
It’s a terrifying prospect for April. Leslie has been her champion, and as usual, she’s done her job a little too well. April doesn’t hold back much emotionally from her anymore; it’s Leslie and Andy who are on the receiving end of most of April’s most sincere moments. I love that wary, “this isn’t going to be good” look that her friends get when they know they need to pull Leslie’s brakes. But for April, this isn’t just about standing in front of The Steamroller. I think that April still can’t believe that people believe in her, and she feels so ashamed when she thinks she’s let them down. (She’s the same with Ron in “Two Funerals.”) She worries – though she’d never say it – that Leslie will regret all the time and manic energy she’s put into developing her Gov Bud.
“I really want all my friends to be happy together, but more importantly, I want them to be happy.” Leslie can’t stop envisioning (and binder-ing) the future. Her focus and optimism and ambition have led her to this point, but the times that she has relaxed into change are so much more important. None other than Madeline Albright (who Leslie wore down into hanging out with her) talks Leslie through her immediate panic about April’s needs and into rational thought. “You were so wrapped up in your story that you actually ate my waffles,” she tells her sometimes oblivious friend. She can’t ignore April’s feelings like poor Madeline’s breakfast. Leslie takes April to the American Service Foundation (If that’s a real thing, congratulations on your half hour, primetime commercial!) to be placed in a non-profit. Instead, April falls in love with the foundation itself, as it involves her favorite job perk (and mine): telling people what to do.
DC is still going to be their city, and that’s still going to be their bench. They’ll meet there to plan and share ideas and talk about missing Pawnee. And it’ll be even better, because April and Leslie will be kicking ass in different fields. While they’re there, Leslie is offered the role (and the electrifying paperwork and bureaucracy that go along with it) of Deputy Director of Operations at Interior. (“Do you mind if I borrow your hat? I just want to throw it up in the air victoriously.”) She and April can spread their influence and lady power and the work ethic that’ll put their colleagues to shame. (Who has time to play in a bi-partisan, Polynesian folk band, Sens. Hatch and Booker??)
We claim to want creative employees, but then discourage those who question their choices. We get our free-wheelin’, Liberal Arts education (April majored in “Halloween Studies”) and then get shoved behind a desk. No wonder we’re We should constantly be checking in with ourselves to make sure that we’re happy and engaged and productive. And at the same time, we can’t knock the struggle. April learned that this season. She may not want to be Leslie Knope, but being a Leslie Knope in training has given her the tools she needs to succeed at pretty much anything. So here’s to you, April Ludgate-Dwyer: holding it down for in-progress Millennials everywhere. And to your friends, for giving you the space to figure it out.
- Leslie’s hair is so point right now.
- I’m so disappointed that the Swanson Brothers aren’t staring in their own house-building reality show.
- “Did anyone ever tell you that your tenacity can be intimidating?”
- Andy’s Good Will Hunting fantasy.
- “Well, you know, we had a good run, but he’s dead to me now.”
- “I do not compare people to Mary J. Blige lightly.”
We’re slowly catching up, y’all. We’ve got more Parks recaps coming your way, plus a list of the show’s most enduring life lessons and (eventually) my Top 15 episodes of all time. Thanks for bearing with us.
Lastly, I want to mention the loss that the Parks family experienced this week. Harris Wittels was one of the comic geniuses who established this show’s humor and heart. By all accounts, he fought his addictions hard. Aziz posted a blog last night honoring their friendship and working relationship that is definitely worth your time. Harris had so much great work ahead of him, and he’ll be missed.