This post contains spoilers through the February 2 episode of Parks and Recreation.
As much as I’m a little sorry that Parks and Recreation stepped away from Leslie’s campaign just as the show was figuring out how to handle that change in dynamics, I really appreciated that the show decided to spend some time with its other characters. It’s been good to see Chris come to terms with aging and heartbreak, to see Ben, Andy, and Ron have an adventure, and most of all, to see April figure out how to be a grown-up.
April actually reminds me of the characters on Glee, when that show is having actual, coherent character moments. She’s stuck in Pawnee, “a small loser town with loser people,” but despite occasional jaunts to South America, April doesn’t necessarily appear to have the educational or professional tools—or perhaps the emotional resources—to leave for good. Throughout the series, she’s shown gradual signs of turning from a petulant child into someone with adult instincts, if not always adult reactions. As Chris dates Millicent, April’s alternately tried to ease Jerry’s discomfort and to find something nice to do for Chris when Millicent breaks up with him. Despite being a goofball during the actual Model United Nations match, April’s the person who talkes Leslie down and gets her in a room with Ben, de-escalating their fight. Tonight, she actually finds it in herself to be kind to Ann. We’ve seen her and Andy venture out into the wider world to finish Andy’s bucket list. The question is whether they will, or if they’ll want to, leave Pawnee on a more permanent basis, or if like Tom, they’ll find an outlet for their still-developing talents and happiness in their hometown. And I think it remains to be seen if April will grow past Andy, who is older than her, and more settled in his childlike lack of ambition: his Mouserat dreams seem more easily satisfied by compromise than April’s unarticulated dissatisfaction.
Speaking of Ann, given that the show spends a lot of time showing Leslie imposing on her best friend, it was nice to see Leslie give some sugar back to the infinitely loyal Ms. Perkins. “Oh, beautiful spinster. I will find you love,” Leslie murmurs. And if she doesn’t quite succeed, she is the best advertising agency in town. “Alex gives my campaign legal advice, and Ann is the greatest human being ever invented,” Leslie introduces Ann to one potential suitor. And in the name of bucking Chris up, she reminds him that what Millicent did to him, he did, in some form to Ann: “Look at her. She’s a perfect human specimen and you tossed her out like day-old chowder.” These kinds of things might sound hollow if the show didn’t spend a lot of time showing us that they were true: Ann is every bit as good to Leslie as Leslie describes her being.
The dance itself was a wonderful bit of Pawnee, a valentine to the show’s long-time viewers. There’s the return of the town’s most notable creep—”Anne is not some morose mummy,” Leslie protests when April brings Orrin as a potential date for Ann. “Offense intended!” Later, we see him rapt by Chris’s DJing of music that Tom describes as “like the end of a movie about a monk who kills himself,” only to be informed by Chris that “it is!” There’s Ron’s manful handling of being ogled at The Bulge. There’s a welcome addition to the roster of Pawnee attractions: on Valentine’s Day, a Snow Globe Museum staffed by Martin Starr is pretty much exactly where I want to be, too.