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Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Parks and Recreation, "Article Two" and "Jerry

Season 5, Episodes 19 and 20
Grade: B+
Verdict: In an hour of Parks & Rec tonight, we get two great episodes back-to-back. The first contains an epic filibuster by guest star Patton Oswalt, and the second makes more significant plot advancements while still maintaining a breezy feel. Spoilers follow...

Unless you live under a rock internet-wise, you've probably already heard about Patton Oswalt's guest starring role on this week's Parks & Rec. The episode contains only a fraction of the 8-minute filibuster Oswalt improv'd, which included his idea for a Star Wars-Marvel crossover movie. I think this is where Parks & Rec really succeeds as a show; they have a penchant for bringing on talented comedians, like Oswalt and Louis CK, and letting them bring their own thing to the role.

In the first episode of tonight's hour-block, "Article Two," we see a lot of battles. The first is a battle between Leslie Knope and Garth (Oswalt). Leslie is trying to get rid of outdated laws that are no longer relevant to the town, but Garth uses the filibuster to block Leslie's move. Leslie challenges him to a bet to see who can live life as an early settler of Pawnee. In the episode's second battle, Ron and Chris experiment on Jerry to see who's management style is more effective. In the episode's last battle, Ann and Ben get in a bidding war over a waffle iron for JJ's diner. They both want the iron as a gift for one of Leslie's random and overly-frequent anniversaries.

The combination of Amy Poehler and Patton Oswalt was perfect, and I really enjoyed the A story of this episode. I liked Chris vs. Ron as well, but I wasn't that amused by or interested in the battle between Ann and Ben. I was also genuinely touched by the scene where Leslie realizes how lonely Garth is (he responds to spam email because no one else contacts him). This show doesn't so over-the-top sentimentality very often, so it lands nicely when it does.

In the second episode of this block, Jerry retires, and does so in a very "Jerry" fashion. Though he's been pointing out his impending retirement for years (and in a really nice touch, they actually show a clip where Jerry say this from two seasons ago), no one pays attention, and so everyone is caught off guard when Jerry says goodbye. Leslie feels badly that Jerry hasn't accomplished many of his goals, so she works to help him cross some work-related goals off of his bucket list.

In a really good B-plot of this episode, Tom realizes he's becoming the new "Jerry" of the office. Tom's been really boring this season, but he was actually funny in this episode, for a nice change of pace. He's so superficial and vain, it makes sense that he'd be really flustered at the thought of being mocked. As others point out - you can't make someone like Andy the next Jerry because Andy has absolutely no shame.

In the C plot of this episode, Chris and Ann decide to move forward with their pregnancy. They chicken out at the clinic, only to sleep together later anyway. We're not sure what this means for them as a couple, but it seems likely to lead to pregnancy. Frankly even if they DON'T get back together, this just makes financial sense. Why pay for all the test tube business?

In the Jerry retirement plot, Leslie eventually ends up at Jerry's home and realizes what a happy and successful home life he has. Though Leslie has a loving husband, her home/fun time scrapbook is pretty empty, and she ends the episode resolved to start a family.

Jerry's episode was a little weaker than one featuring Patton Oswalt, but it was still really funny. As I mentioned before, I appreciate that this episode advanced two "baby-related" plots without being overly-cheesy or baby-centric. Hopefully we continue to see Jerry working in his part-time capacity, because the running jokes with him are just perfect.
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