Last night’s season premiere of Parks and Recreation brought back Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and all the other hilarious weirdos who’ve been missing from our lives for so long. It also pulled off the neat trick of taking major changes in its characters’ lives (geographical moves, job moves) and using them as fodder for humor instead of shark-jumping.
At the end of the last season, I wondered how the show was going to function now that Leslie had won the city council election (and Ben Wyatt‘s heart as well) and was no longer an underdog. Well, never fear. A representative of Pawnee is always an underdog, especially in the big city environs of Washington DC. Although Leslie starts the episode by dorking out over the city’s majestic sights (which Andy thinks are all clue-holding boobs and penises, just like in the movie National Treasure). But soon, her insane pluckiness is overcome by bureaucracy and an amalgam of tall women she names “Hot Rebecca,” and she can’t even enjoy meeting two of the people from her heros list, senators Olympia Snow and Barbara Boxer. I also love the scene where she snubs John McCain in the coat room because she is sad:
Back in Pawnee, Ron Swanson is attempting to run the parks department in Leslie’s stead, but runs into some obstacles when he’s not allowed to run the annual “Leslie Knope Employment Enjoyment Summerslam Grill Jam Fun-Splosion” the way he wants to, which involves slaughtering an adorable pig in front of everyone. I can’t help thinking there’s a subversive vegan message hidden somewhere in there, as it exposes the hypocrisy of non-Ron Swanson individuals who are unable to “look their dinner in the eyes and consider the circle of life.” While everyone’s waiting for Ron to deliver his back-up meat, we get to see how Tom and Ann’s improbable relationship is progressing (they broke up but are pretending to still be together to win a bet with Donna), and we’re reintroduced to Tom’s amazing taste in product ideas. (Sparkle suds: dress loud. Disco dairy: spread the party.) Maybe this will be the season Ann discovers there are other men in Pawnee besides the ones who work for the parks department.
Back in DC, Leslie gets an unlikely pep talk from Andy, who doesn’t know what amalgam means but “nails it” anyway, reminding her she can do awesome things. Like clean up the Pawnee river herself while her federal funding app is still pending! Meanwhile, Ron gets a rare smack down from Chris (who is, though it’s easy to forget, his boss) for making the BBQ all about his idea of what a BBQ should be, and not at all about thanking the employees. This reminds us a key fact about Leslie: she’s wacky and dorky and tries too hard, but most of the time she’s trying too hard to do nice things for other people. She’s no Michael Scott, that’s for sure.
And Ben! Who could forget Ben’s sweet ass? Leslie’s obvious physical affection for him is funny because you wouldn’t expect her to objectify her nerdy boyfriend, but it also makes the point that women like to look at men just as much as men like to look at women, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Feminism!
I can’t wait to see what new Andy-isms, Tom-isms, Ron Swanson-isms, and Leslie-isms the rest of the season holds.