The nice thing about NBC giving Parks and Recreation a final season is that it gives the show time to run a visual victory lap.
Remember when Ben came to Pawnee late season 2, pissed off Leslie, and then took her out for a beer? He instantly assumed that she wanted to be in politics, and why? Because he did too, and he saw that same aspiration in her. But while Ben began his career with crushed dreams, running away from the ruins of his hometown, Leslie is still hopeful for the future when he meets her, hungry for change and positive about all things political.
She’s so open about her political dreams, something that Ben has always seemed a little in awe of. So when Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) returns in “Donna and Joe,” and Leslie assures him that she doesn’t want to run for senate or whatever job might possibly be on offer, Ben says that she shouldn’t turn it down immediately, because he’s behind her 100 percent whatever she might want to choose. They (and Rachel Dratch as their stressed out nanny) can make anything work. Ben keeps his dreams fairly tight to his chest, but he’s willing to loudly and publicly support Leslie no matter what.
So in “Donna and Joe” things go full circle for Ben, with Leslie returning the favor.
Leslie can be a steamroller, there’s no doubt about it, but 2017 Leslie seems to have learnt some patience. She’s still fiercely passionate, but when it comes to Ben being offered the opportunity to run for congress, she’s surprisingly silent on the decision. Ben’s been biding his time, quietly gaining back respectability by managing budgets all around Indiana’s state and in Pawnee itself, and now his chance to take his career another step further is here.
There’s so many reasons not to run — Ben and Leslie have triplets, and they’re monsters, plus he’s already busy as Pawnee’s city manager, a job that he recently declared to April was his dream — but despite these reasons and his already busy schedule, it’s easy to see that Ben would love to step back into wider-scale politics.
Once upon a time, Leslie wanted to be a councilwoman more than anything else. She wanted to be President, too, but then she got her job at National Parks. Now, as she tells Ben, all of America is her park. People change — maybe not fundamentally, but the things that they want move and shift over time. Donna gets married this episode, something that she never thought she’d want to do; April organizes a wedding for someone that she loves; Tom admits that what he wants is to settle down with someone that he thinks he’ll probably love one day and Jerry, well, he finally gets a new name amongst his workmates: his real one, Garry.
I wasn’t completely taken with the wedding aspects of the episode (the weirdest thing was the editing of Donna’s wedding ceremony, and the cuts that were made between her, Joe, and their friends and family watching), but Ben’s timid acceptance of the idea that he could be a congressman (or woman, because you know, equal rights) was wonderful.
Ben wants this job, he really does, and with Leslie’s support (and their close personal friend, alcohol’s) he takes the leap.
Tonight, on The Mindy Project, it was said that life moves in huge leaps and never small steps. Parks and Recreation proved that hypothesis in “Donna and Joe”.
- “Let the little man dance.” Donna loves Drunk Ben and so do I.
- Ron loves weddings and churches. Who knew? (And finger food, but we all knew that.)
- “Knope, you’re a softie. But on the inside you’re a straight up boss. April, you’re the exact opposite. Y’all inspire me and I love you.” Aw Donna. I’m so happy for you and your insane relatives. (Ginuwine was back, and Questlove played Donna’s brother!)
- “Getting married is the bravest most wonderful thing you can do, because every day you come home and you’re just like whaaaaat?? It’s you! I love you! You’re my sexy roommate and we love each other!” Again, I just really love Drunk Ben. And it’s probably the last time that he will be drunk on the show since he’s going to be running for the House of Representatives. (Whatever that actually means besides being the place where “bills become laws”.) I feel like Leslie has already had some fantasies covering this, but I hope that it will be a smooth run to the top for him and their family. He’s earned it.
- I’m off to spend the next two weeks buying Parks merch in the NBC store, but I’ll be home in time to recap Parks and Recreation‘s final two episodes and you know, cry a lot.