Parks and Recreation began its seventh, and final, season last night. Yet, despite all these episodes we’ve seen throughout the years, the season premiere felt sort of like a reboot. This is because, as you presumably recall, this season is taking place in the future. We are talking about the far off year of 2017. We got a little tease of the future in the Season Six finale, but this episode really let us into what’s happening now in the world of this show, and it involves a lot more than the incompetent Ed being fired for the second time.
It’s a lot to handle, but fortunately the show is up for it. We begin with Leslie, who is basically the same Leslie, with a new haircut and the job she got at the end of Season Six. Ron, meanwhile, has left government and moved into the private sector, where he runs a very good building company that lets you know that this is what it is, in its name. Tom’s a real-deal entrepreneur with a successful bistro. April and Andy are worried they are becoming boring adults, even if Andy has his own TV show as Johnny Karate. Ben is city manager. Donna is engaged. Jerry is Terry now. That about sums it up.
The main thrust of this episode, which seems likely to be a major storyline going forward, is the battle for a large patch of land being sold by the Newport family. Leslie wants to get the land for a national park. Rob has paired with Gryzzl, the in show tech giants you may recall from last season, to try and turn the land into a Gryzzl campus. Naturally, this turns Leslie against Ron. They have always been friend and foe in equal parts in year’s past, but they are much more foe now. Ron does’t even realize Leslie’s hair is different.
Leslie’s pitch is classic Leslie—going for emotion and human decency, and offering to name the park after the Newport family. The Newport’s lawyer (a scrappy attorney with a lot of grit, who comes from a law firm of statistically minded gentlemen) lets us know that Gryzzl and Leslie have the final two bids. At the end of the episode it’s clear that this isn’t over.
While the ending is fairly anticlimactic, perhaps because the episodes are airing in hour-long blocks, it was really enjoyable to watch Leslie and Ron go against each other. These are, after all, two of the best characters in television history, and they have great chemistry together. Even if they don’t throw each another into any more cakes, this should be a lot of fun to watch.
Ben’s storyline is simple. He’s getting a major award, Tom is going to introduce him, but he makes it all about himself. Then, in private, he reads his real speech to Ben. They both cry—like, really cry—in a scene that is equally funny and emotionally resonant. April and Andy, meanwhile, realize the terrors of slow cooker creep. They don’t want to be boring. They want to be fun and exciting and weird and unpredictable, just like the old times. Alas, Andy needs heartburn pills now, and April has responsibilities too. But being responsible means having money, so they can splurge and buy a super creepy house in the heretofore unseen Pawnee warehouse district. Oh, also Werner Herzog is selling the house, and seeing Werner Herzog in Parks and Recreation is wonderful. There is not as much substance here, but in its own way, it worked.
The show really set itself up to fail with this big move into the future. Had they not pulled it off, it could have been rough. Instead, it was excellent. A very good, very smart episode of comedy. And the future is not really important to the show. We just see a handful of future technological advances, which is fine. Everything is still about the characters, who are still great characters. Thus, the final season of Parks and Recreation is off to a great start.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)