Parks and Recreation Season 7, Episode 11
Posted by Kim
Penultimate episodes of a series usually serve to set up one final conflict to be overcome or it takes its main character out of their normal circumstances in order to bring them back home for the series finale. Think about it. Carrie moves to Paris with the Terrible Russian in Sex and the City. On Friends, Rachel is offered her dream job working for Louis Vuitton in Paris. Joey Potter ditches Capeside and finally takes that trip to Paris that she’d delayed ever since Dawson Leery (selfishly) kissed her in Season One. (Question…why is it ALWAYS Paris? Discuss in the comments.) This is not the case with “Two Funerals”. No one is running off to Paris (that is soooooooo Season Six Beslie because they are progressive that way). Unlike previous finales of Parks, we don’t have any doubt that Leslie is ACTUALLY leaving Pawnee this time. “Two Funerals” is not about any of our characters having a last-minute crisis of faith. It’s about Leslie wanting one final giant Leslie Knope shenanigan before she closes this chapter of her life. It’s about Ben wanting to leave Pawnee, this little town that he never expected to fall in love with, in the hands of someone who will cherish it as he does. And it’s about Ron opening up himself to a new barber. Because aside from butcher and lover, that’s the most important person in a man’s life.
Ben and Leslie aren’t the only ones moving on with their lives. The erstwhile Parks Department gathers at Tom’s Bistro (which I like to think was a weekly occurrence for them, especially once Ron and Leslie reconciled) where Donna announces that she and Joe are moving to Seattle and Garry says he is retiring (for reals this time). Their meal is interrupted by a news alert saying that Mayor Gunderson has died. Everything in Pawnee is changing, which prompts Leslie to say that there are “too many endings and not enough beginnings. We need something to BEGIN.” The Leslie of season one would have been thrown into a spiral by all of these events piling on top of each other. She would have dug her heels in and fought against it with every fiber of her being. Season seven Leslie, on the other hand, isn’t trying to STOP the change because she knows she can’t. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to throw herself wholeheartedly into a new adventure, which is why she latches on to the idea of helping Tom propose to Lucy. Because if everything is going to change, at least it’s going to change with Leslie Knope flair. “You guys are the happy beginning we all need,” she says, with a manic gleam in her eye. Some things will NEVER change.
Sometimes the simplest things have the most meaning. Tom recreates his first date with Lucy, complete with pancakes and a silly card trick. Except this time Lucy’s card simply says “Will you marry me?”. It’s sweet and it’s perfect and naturally Lucy says yes. Our little Tommy is all growed up. I wish we’d had more time to see this relationship blossom because they got to this point awfully fast (thanks again for the truncated season NBC) but the Parks team made it believable within the constraints they were given.
Meanwhile, as city manager, the task of finding an interim mayor in the wake of Gunderson’s death falls to Ben, who immediately recruits April to help him. This story serves as a perfect way to say goodbye to an abundance of the recurring characters that made the tapestry of Parks and Recreation so rich…but really Mike Schurr knew I needed one last story with my favorite crack!ship of Ben and April. I’ve said in previous recaps how much their relationship fascinates me. They truly are kindred spirits and despite all of April’s protesting, she cares deeply for Ben and his happiness and sense of self-worth. She knows how the shadow of Ice Town hangs over him despite all his accomplishments. She knows that Ice Town is merely a footnote in Ben’s life, which is why she says that Ben should just be mayor. But, like we all should do when it comes to our mistakes and embarrassments, Ben finally realizes that he doesn’t want to erase Ice Town. It’s a part of him. Fighting to erase that debacle has made him who he is. It brought him to Pawnee, to Leslie, and to the life (to steal a phrase from Fools Rush In) he never knew he always wanted. None of that would have happened had he not been a teenage mayor.
When Ben finally does make his choice for interim mayor, it blew my mind that I didn’t think of it before. Of COURSE Garry Gergich should be the mayor of Pawnee. He’s a man who has spent his whole life in Pawnee. He’s built a ridiculously perfect family in Pawnee. He’s given his life to the city and he’s been nothing but a servant to it. Despite always being called the worst and often being inept, Garry has never lost his utter sense of joy and contentedness. He has ALWAYS believed that his life has been blessed…because it has. Pawnee couldn’t be in any better hands really.
– The second funeral in “Two Funerals” is that of Ron’s barber Salvatore. Out of all our beloved characters, Ron Swanson is the one who resists change the most. Being married to Diane and being the father to three kids has softened him quite a bit, but Ron will forever be a creature of comfort. He likes things the way he likes them. He’s been cutting his hair the same way his whole life. Ron is also slow to trust people. That makes the way he bonds his new barber Typhoon all the more delightful. A stoic man like Ron Swanson should not immediately warm to someone as effusive as Typhoon. But Donna Meagle (bless her light) knows her friends and her look of glee when Typhoon immediately starts talking to Ron about EuroTrash is DELIGHTFUL. “Please talk more about how you hate Europe and Bicycles,” Ron says with a grin. Turns out he is more capable of change than he thought.
– Did I bury the lead that Bill Fucking Murray made a cameo as Mayor Gunderson?
– I always had a suspicion that Ethel Beavers was a saucy minx. Thank you for confirming that, show.
– Bobby Newport is going into space and Paul Rudd ages in reverse.
– I don’t even know how Dr. Sapperstein is still alive after everything Jean Ralphio and Mona Lisa put him through. Talk about the definition of (awesome) demon spawn. Then again, he also enables them so he probably deserves it.
And that’s “Two Funerals”! Thank you so much, dear readers, for your patience as we dig ourselves out of our hole of backlogged recaps! Sage will obviously be your guide as she reflects on the series finale and what Parks has meant to her. Stay tuned!