Thanks for joining me for Season 6 of Parks and Recreation! I look forward to discussing this show with you.
Parks and Rec is largely about the good people can do, and the power of positivity. The show is mainly about people who love each other, or at least come to like each other. Once the show hit its stride in the latter half of Season 2 and in to Season 3, personal strife gave way to institutional strife: how difficult it is to do good when the world throws as many obstacles at you as it can. And the show has always been about the struggle between apathy (Ron, April, many townspeople) and empathy (Leslie, Ben, Ann, Chris).
“London, Parts 1 and 2” suggest another struggle coming to the forefront: chaos and control.
The opening scenes quickly answer the previous season’s cliffhangers*: It’s Diane who is pregnant! Ron had already been planning on proposing, and so the two elope. Instead of a long struggle of Ron trying to control the chaos he finds his life in, he embraces it. He does not flee or agonize, but does what is right (admitting his love and stepping up to the challenge of his new family).
Leslie, in typical fashion, tries to take over the nuptials, but her need for control is stymied. Ron and Diane prevail, and have the quick wedding they desire. Leslie, I think, sees her life as one that is constantly in flux, as she has moved from deputy director to councilwoman to facing a recall. She strives to control every moment, even the positive ones. She cannot always hold back the chaos, nor should she.
In the next scene, “one month later,” Leslie addresses the recall issue. She is facing low poll numbers and is trying to fix everyone’s problems. This, too, fails. She doesn’t fail because Pawnee doesn’t want to be controlled, but because Pawnee loves disagreement, challenge, and chaos.
Soon after, Ann reveals she and Chris are still together; later in the episode, we learn that Ann is about 9 or 10 weeks pregnant. She and Chris are thrilled; they appear to be dating, though they do not state in this episode if they plan to marry.
The last cliffhanger: Tom tries to find out who is out to destroy his business. This episode lasts for longer, ending in the reveal of Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa’s father, Dr. Saperstein, as the competitor. The doctor thinks Tom has ruined his children’s lives and so seeks to ruin Tom. Near the end of the episode, Dr. Saperstein admits his children are disappointments, but he’s making money, and so won’t give up his competing store. Instead of focusing on the chaos of his family life, the doctor tries to control his financial life.
Meanwhile, Leslie, Ben, April, Andy, and Ron travel to London. Leslie is accepting an award and Andy and Ben are meeting with a potential donor for their charity. The vitriol Leslie has experienced from the people in Pawnee finally gets to her, and her speech is a negative one, explaining why she is angry with Pawnee. Ron tells her she must be a grown-up, and she works at this until the end of the episode. Earlier, she had said how much she missed Pawnee and that it’s the best city in the world, but by the end of the episode, she admits to Ben that there’s more to the world than she realized, and they should travel more.
Leslie tried to rein in the chaos in her life by clinging more tightly to it: by trying to solve everyone’s problems, by completing thankless (and, sometimes, ultimately useless) tasks. But she realizes that this death grip of control has blinded her to life outside of Pawnee. Pawnee might be the best city in the world, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in visiting the rest of the world.
Andy, meanwhile, is staying behind in London, to help the British donor run his charity. Andy and the British aristocrat, Edgar Covington, bond because they are both man-children. But both have the sense to realize they don’t know what they are doing: Covington asks Andy to stay and help, and Andy admits to April that he can’t.
But April tells him to stay and give it a try. April had long been reluctant to grow up, reveling in the chaos of an adolescent life. But thanks to both Leslie and Ron’s influence, she has slowly been maturing and pushing Andy to do the same.
Clearly, Season 6 will be one of upheavals: will Leslie be recalled? Will Andy succeed in England? Will Ron adapt to family life? It seems that the characters will have to balance the chaos and control in their lives.
*April’s decision about veterinary school has not been revealed in this episode.
Notes and Quotes
- This show loves quick engagements and weddings; while Ron and Diane marry more quickly than April and Andy and Ben and Leslie, it’s not by much. Still, it’s nice not see a show draw out wedding planning.
- Two parallels to Season 5×01: Leslie traveled to Washington DC in Season 5, here she travels to London. April was working in DC in Season 5, now Andy will be working in London.
- As a nurse, shouldn’t Ann be less squeamish about pregnancy? Or is it just the fact it’s Jerry?
- “Some of these problems are pretty damn small and petty.” Finally, Ann reveals she and Chris are still together and it’s going well.
- “History began on July 4, 1776. Everything before that was a mistake.”
- “Good cheese eye, Leslie.”
- “Stay away, crab.”