“Parks and Recreation” ended a great, great season with a great hour-long finale, and in particular a madcap final 10 minutes that hinted at big changes to come in the future. We’re just glad we don’t have to wait until midseason next year for its return.
“The Bubble” and “Li’l Sebastian” (may he rest in peace) may not have been designed to play back-to-back, but they worked really well as a unit, as both focused on Ben and Leslie’s attempts to keep their relationship on the sly, to ever-widening bad results. It culminated in their frantic mismanagement of Li’l Sebastian’s memorial and — horrors! — Ron losing part of his mustache and all of his eyebrows in a torch-lighting mishap.
That the final scenes — which also featured Leslie being approached to run for office, Tom and Jean-Ralphio launching their Pawnee-based entertainment conglomerate and the appearance of both of Ron’s exes named Tammy — never felt out of control despite all the chaos is a tribute to the cast’s ability to play things at just the right level and the writers for knowing just how cartoonish Pawnee can be without tipping too far.
If there was one problematic note, it was the fact that Leslie (while looking directly at Ben) blithely told the election people she had nothing to hide. Either she’s so guileless that she genuinely doesn’t think something that could get her fired isn’t a thing, or she’s subconsciously sabotaging herself. With a citizenry as easily outraged as Pawnee’s has been shown to be, it’s not the smartest move on her part, even if it does set up a bunch of story-telling possibilities for next season.
That’s a pretty small gripe in what was otherwise a very fun hour of TV. Adam Scott and Amy Poehler have the perfect kind of chemistry to pull off the still-awkward-but-kinda-hot phase of their semi-secret relationship, and the running-through-both-episodes gag about who else knew (Ann, then Ron, then Leslie’s mom, up to George the maintenance guy) let them showcase it. It’s also becoming clear how much they complement one another: For every time Leslie just wants to run away to Belize, Ben favors being honest and direct. And for every time he balks and stammers his way into a conversation, she can talk him down and out of harm’s way.
“The Bubble” also had great fun with Chris’ new management initiatives — particularly Ron’s swivel-desk — while “Li’l Sebastian” was just a feast of ongoing character gags, like Ron’s outsized love for the tiny horse, Tom’s big-yet-small ambition, the two Tammys and Chris’ fear of his own mortality. The latter was a nice counterpoint to the unbelievably sunny person he’d been since we met him. Tendonitis is very much non-life-threatening, but it’s easy to see how in Chris’ mind the fact that his body is, despite his best efforts, actually aging a little would seem like a much bigger cloud than it does to us mere mortals.
There’s almost too much else to cover in those final moments, from Andy’s very literal (and rather catchy) take on what would be 5,000 times better than “Candle in the Wind,” to the mysterious (and apparently very scary, given both Donna and Tammy II’s reactions) Tammy I, to the reappearance of Detlef Schrempf as the official basket-shooter at Entertainment 7Twenty — whose demise, I suspect, we’ll hear about in the Season 4 premiere in the fall. It kind of had my head spinning, but in the best possible way. (But seriously, who will play Tammy I?)
“Parks and Rec” made a big leap forward last season, and this season it had one of the best sustained runs any comedy has had in a long time. This is a show that’s playing at the top of its game, and the only downside now is that we have to wait until fall to see it again.
What did you think of the show’s finale, and of Season 3 as a whole?