Parks and Recreation: “Live Ammo” (4.19)

TV Reviews Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation: “Live Ammo” (4.19)

After its brief hiatus, Parks and Recreation jumped right back to the thick of things, with Leslie Knope’s campaign and the hard choices it entails. Due to some budget problems we don’t really get to learn much about (while it may seem annoying that the show always has that to turn to for plot impetus, that’s pretty much how government is), either the Parks Department or the animal shelter in Pawnee must be closed. Then, after Leslie is able to find some other programs that could be shut down instead, she has the end of the day to keep Ann from being fired. Turned out that those ancillary government programs are exactly what her job is through.

What’s so good about this scenario is the way it illustrates the way Leslie is largely unfit for public office—which is exactly why she’s so likable. She’s given a Sophie’s Choice decision as to what to do, and a typical politician would make the choice that’s better for the city, or for herself, depending on who they are. But Leslie refuses to do either, and would be willing to sacrifice her own ambitions rather than letting the things she loves be trampled. While “Live Ammo” allows her to find an acceptable solution hastily, in what feels like a bit of a cheat, it’s just a quick way of fleshing out the metaphor that she won’t accept any of these negative options, as impossible as that might be.

While Leslie’s story was good, if a bit less fully thought out than usual, the other parts of the episode were fantastic. Parks and Recreation has long been great with animals, from Li’l Sebastian to Champion, and you could tell how delighted the entire cast was with having gangs of them around. That this worked as a way of having April appreciate some of her new duties was perfect, and it all felt like another natural part of Pawnee. April has had such a gradual character arc that it’s hard to see her change episode by episode, but this entire story that revolves around her couldn’t have centered on the girl she was a few years ago. The frustration she feels at caring and not having that result in real change is pretty much Leslie’s entire life, the next step is for her to learn how to keep that from grinding her down.

The third plot continued the Ron and Chris comedy duo, which remains excellent, and makes me hopeful that Leslie will win her campaign for another reason. The amount of immediate change that would force upon Parks and Recreation seems almost unprecedented in a sitcom. Ron and Chris spending more time together would certainly a positive result, though, and as always they manage to completely disagree with the other one’s worldview, while also fully respecting each other as people. Another bonus of their unique dynamic is that they sort of alternate playing the straight man, since neither of them are exactly normal human beings. While in other shows they would be always the butt of every joke, Parks and Recreation always leaves them with humanity—they’re still people, never just symbolizing their philosophies of life.

Which is what sets Leslie and now Ann and everyone else in the show apart, too. Leslie was never able to see those programs being cut as numbers on a budget, instead she saw the people being affected. Week after week, Parks and Recreation is about the interplay between government and the people, but not in an abstract way but rather in a way that directly considers each human. As incompetent as the Parks Department staff may be, after an episode of the show it’s impossible not to wish that people like them, who care so much about every life they affect, worked in every branch of government.

Stray observations:
•I agree with Leslie and Ann: I want to live in Tom’s apartment, too.
•The best thing about the Mr. Hamster Penis nickname is the way no one really seems to care about April dubbing the guy Mr. Hamster Penis. Guess he must get that a lot?
•The hatred I felt towards the woman who left her cats was far more than April’s.
•Gotta love how Tom says puuupy.

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