Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation
Episode 7: Leslie vs. April
By: Carlos Uribe

Parks and Recreation is a show about Pawnee's parks and recreation department and a town councilwoman named Leslie Knope.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I think this episode could be split into two different parts for the main plot. The first part is what the title refers to. April wants to create a dog park. Leslie is proud that April is actually trying to accomplish something until she learns that April wants to use lot forty-eight as the dog park. That's the lot that Leslie has been trying to turn into a park for the last four seasons. It's a lot that had dominated the first season but has gradually gone into the background. The only reason it comes back now is to act as the source of conflict between the two. This puts Leslie and April on opposing ends. When Leslie learns that April is actually dedicated to making the dog park happen, she decides to go to Ron to try and use one of his techniques to contain her. The lesson that Leslie gets from this meeting is to try and distract April with another of her interests. That happens to be a really weird art show. It doesn't work on April because she's a big enough cynic to actually see through the move. The distraction fails and April tells Leslie that she's meeting with Congressman Jamm. This reveal is what helps to shift the change between the first and the second part.

The first half of the episode put Leslie and April at odds. The second episode makes Congressman Jamm the antagonist that unites them both. It begins when Jamm back-stabs April by arguing that the lot should be sold to a hamburger fast food joint. Since April has brought the fate of the lot to the city council, Jamm has the justification he needs to discuss his restaurant plan. Ann doesn't want this fast food chain to open up because it means she'll be eating there everyday. Ann manages to get the two of them to make peace and to work together. Leslie has a wonderful solution in using Jamm's front lawn as a dog and human park until he agrees to allow them to present their ideas and not ignore them. What makes this plot work isn't that it pits Leslie and April temporarily against each other. It's that it showcases the character growth that April has gone through. She started out as a cynical slacker who didn't care about anything. Leslie saw some potential in April but was rebuffed constantly. Over time, Leslie's personality managed to crack April's wall. April started to advance through the office and she's started to be more outgoing. The transformation of the character has been slow but it's noticeable. This is an episode that takes that development and brings it to the direct attention of the viewer by having April passionately argue for dog parks. Of course, there's a reason that April would want a dog park: for Champ.

While Leslie was realizing that her mentor is becoming more like her, Ben agrees to help Tom with his new business idea when he realizes that Tom actually has one. It is so interesting to compare Tom from the previous season with this season's Tom. Entertainment 720 had been a complete disaster. It was a punchline. Tom's new business idea is something that the character, along with the series and viewer, is taking more seriously. He has gone from trying to impress people without actually having any substance to actually having a professional business plan. It's this character growth that convinced Ron to invest in his company. This is an episode where Tom asks Ben for actual advice and Ben is pleasantly surprised by the difference between this new company and Tom's old one. Tom is now trying to find a way to promote his new business but he's having difficulty. Making matters more complicated is that people keep trying to hire Ben. Ben isn't interested in leaving his accounting firm because it provides him with a good stable job. It isn't until the end of the episode when he realizes he doesn't want to just be an accountant. He quits his job and agrees to help out Tom. In this action, the series is able to do two things. It continues to provide credibility for Tom's new business and it manages to once again show just how much Tom's attitude towards business has changed.

April might be at odds with her friend, Leslie Knope, but her husband is facing reality. Andy wants to be a police officer because he wants to investigate crimes and catch bad guys. He's in love with the romantic idea of law enforcement. When his computer is stolen, he doesn't see it as a bad thing. His good nature leads him to believe that someone took him up on his offer to help him train for the police academy by stealing his laptop. He tries his best to question his co-workers until he learns from Chris that his computer was actually stolen. An actual police officer gets involved and Andy is shocked when he learns that the officer is just going to write a report. He's discouraged when he learns that policemen largely just fill out paperwork. It's simply not as exciting as he imagines it to be. Chris offers him the spot of a part-time security guard to allow Andy to truly assess if he wants to be a cop or not. This plot didn't really highlight Chris' development as much but rather put up a large obstacle in Andy's journey to be a cop. That obstacle being the reality of being a policeman versus what Andy thinks it actually is. This difference is so big that it leads to Andy doubting himself.

Leslie vs. April is far from the funniest episode this show has done. Don't get me wrong: I'm laughing regardless but it does feel like there were simply less jokes in this episode than usual. This episode was really great because it managed to really show just how different Tom and April are. The main plot might have tested the April and Leslie relationship but that's only because of April's development. This isn't really a plot about their bond although it certainly covers it. The obstacle it provides Andy is one that comes from a character place. In other words: this was yet another great episode of Parks and Recreation that proves that nobody has a handle on their characters like the writers on this show.

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