January 16th, 2014, 8:30 PM, NBC
After considering a congressional run, Leslie returns to her job in the Parks department, where she finds out the rest of her friends have moved on without her and are running the department with efficiency and speed. She has a hard time learning to let go and trust Tom when his new project is presented to the city council, and to adjust to how little influence she has around an office that has taken on a new rhythm. Meanwhile, Chris proposes to Ann and then they rush to buy engagement rings, which results in a battle of principles and indecisiveness; and Ben’s first day as city manager causes him to run afoul of his employees, which results in a prank war with April, Andy and Donna.
There’s something disquieting about this episode of Parks. That’s mostly because it takes the time to actually explore what it’s like to have your friends, your co-workers, move on with their lives without you and live happily as beings independent of your once-essential care. As I’ve stated in previous columns, this year’s theme is growing up, moving on and moving out, and there’s a bittersweet sense of sadness that permeates everything-it’s as if they’ve anticipated the show’s cancellation, even though no announcement has come down from NBC. Little Leslie’s grown her wings, and the rest of her staff-from Tom to April-are starting to come into their own right before her eyes.
And yet, the more things change for Leslie, the more they remain the same for poor series buttmonkey/scapegoat Ben, who ends up in a prank war against his will after his staff tries to get him to loosen up. Adam Scott does such a great job playing Ben’s humiliated discomfort that his knowing performance shines through.
I honestly hope Aziz Ansari gets a spin-off, because Tom Haverford is such a treat, and because it would be a shame to cut off the process of his growing up mid-stream. Of all of the characters on the show, he’s changed the most this season, and is starting to grow out of his dependence upon material things quite gradually and naturally. Leslie doesn’t know that; hadn’t even noticed that, and watching her realize what Ron’s known for months is another lovely moment of progress. I only wish that she and Tom had had a conversation about the situation at some point.
Chris and Ann’s relationship continues to surge in a natural and yet adorable way. Within episodes they’ll be off-canvas, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Donna steps forward into the best friend slot once Ann’s all the way in another state.
An entirely enjoyable episode, “New Beginnings” does contain a few questions. How do Chris and Ann even have enough money left over after their move to plan a wedding? Does the show know where Leslie’s journey is going? If it does, could they clue us in? But even with its minor flaws “New Beginnings” is funny, wise, sweet and ridiculous; a great read. And keep watching for that post-credit stinger, it’s hilarious.
- ”You think I’m a border collie? Obviously I’m a cocker spaniel.” I love that they continued this one-off joke and that there’s an actual chart still in the break room.
- Ron/Leslie conversations remain my favorite conversations on this show.
- And you have to love Ron’s…Ron-ness. All the way to Illinois without another thought, eh?
- Quote of the episode: April: “You got blood all over me! Thank you”
- Next week: Leslie and Ben try to run a “Farmer’s Market.”
[notification type=”star”]88 /100 ~ GREAT. It’s getting bittersweet in here, but getting to the end of the seasons’ half the fun.[/notification]