Not that I don’t love Parks and Recreation enough already, but after a season that articulated a difficult point—that it’s actually very hard for the old-fashioned values we profess to admire in politics to win out—beautifully, I’ve been very excited to see how the show is going to make a difficult transition. Moving Leslie to City Council, Ben to Washington, and Andy, potentially, to the police department were all probably necessary both to grow the characters, and to widen the show’s aperture beyond the Parks Department, which could risk becoming a cliche. And watching this preview clip for next week’s episode, which follows Leslie and Andy to Washington, makes me especially optimistic, for three reasons:
1. It’s giving Leslie a larger stage. Taking Leslie to City Council was always going to give her a chance to do more than organized Harvest Festivals, and us an opportunity to get to know her new colleagues more extensively than Leslie’s meet-cutes with Councilman Hauser ever allowed. But I like the idea of her going to Washington, even glancingly. Leslie was always headed for bigger things, no matter how much she loved the Parks Department. And if the first phase of the show set up her move from a civil service position to elected office, as Parks and Recreation enters what could be its final season, it makes sense that show sets up a promise for an end-game: Leslie leaving Pawnee altogether for a brighter future, and a chance to make a bigger impact
2. And through it, bringing the Parks and Recreation touch to the federal government. That said, having conquered Pawnee, it makes sense that Leslie gets a new test for her optimism. I love the idea of Leslie lobbying for federal funds—and the prospect of her testing out her commitment and cheer in an environment vastly more cynical than Pawnee and dysfunctional on a scale Leslie can’t even begin to imagine. I don’t want to see Washington break Leslie Knope. But sending her there is good preparation for her new job at City Council.
3. The show is giving April some challenges, and a chance to figure out what she likes. I know there are some people who would love for April to stay her cranky, aggressively disinterested self forever, mourning the loss of a unique female character to adulthood. But April shouldn’t be denied the chance to grow up, and the best B arc in Parks and Recreation last season was watching her start to feel the stirrings of passion. Ben’s decision to take April to Washington gives her a little space from her marriage to Andy, and her mentorship by Ron, to develop other skills and attachments. Ron and April were a fantastic fit initially, given their shared desire not to get anything done. But it’s been good to see her work with Chris, who shoved her into enthusiasm. And now it’ll be a further development to let her work for Ben, closer to a peer, who can help develop the flares of initiative she’s shown on projects like the pet drive.