NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Parks and Recreation are present in this review.
Parks and Recreation kicked off its final season on quite an interesting note, skipping ahead two years in time to 2017, hence the title of Season Seven’s premiere. With Leslie now a Regional Parks Director, dynamics around Pawnee have changed in all sorts of interesting ways. Fortunately, all of the familar faces have flourished, even if some appreciate the growth more than others.
“2017” picks up immediately where Season Six’s finale left off, complete with the time jump to 2017, with Ben set to be honoured, while Leslie frantically runs around trying to negotiate for some important Newport-owned land, that she wishes to turn into a national park… for $0. This appears to be the big overarching plot of the show’s final season.
Before we think about that though, is Parks and Recreation still funny after its time jump? Oh yes! As usual, the show really impresses out of the gate with the start of its final season, even with so many apparent changes. Despite that, the fresh direction does a superb job of illustrating how each character has grown, or perhaps not grown, with Tom, Donna and Ron having moved on from the Parks department to new ventures, while only April, Andy and Jerry/Gary/Larry now remain in Leslie’s corner. Actually, Larry is Terry now, as Season Six’s final moments stated, because there was another Parks guy named Larry, so Larry has to be Terry. Of course. Except, on Andy’s kids’ show (yes, Andy now has a kids’ show as his musical alter-ego, Johnny Karate), he’s Mailman Barry, and gets beat up a lot.
In a cool way, “2017” feels as pleasantly familiar as it does forward-thinking. It sort of seems to illustrate the old principle that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even in new positions, the cast of the show has ultimately changed very little in terms of their character foundations, and it feels like even after having moved up in the world, everyone is still up to their old shenanigans, just on a grander scale.
The only major change is that Leslie and Ron have now had a falling out, which is the result of some sort of project called, “Morningstar.” We don’t know what Morningstar is, but clearly it was enough to leave Leslie with a newfound hatred of Ron, someone that she’s looked up to as a mentor for the entire series up to this point, even against his will most of the time. Ron now works for Gryzzl, as the head of his own furniture-making business, “Very Good” Furniture Building (a hilariously fitting name for a Ron Swanson business), with Gryzzl being the same company that Ben got free wi-fi for all of Pawnee from after confirming himself as the inventor of Cones of Dunshire at the end of Season Six. This pits Ron and Donna (who is brokering the land deal for Gryzzl through her Regal Meagle real estate firm) against Leslie in the war for the contested land.
This episode simply served to establish the stakes for the final season’s time jump, and that meant that other big developments like Ben and Leslie’s triplets were sort of in the background. Nonetheless, the episode was hilarious throughout, between Leslie’s war cupcakes shared with Ron and Donna (the A in war is a heart, but they’re still at war!), April and Andy desperately trying to be interesting when April believes that they’ve become boring adults, and Tom now being a greedy restaurant mogul, naturally hogging the spotlight when he’s supposed to be introducing Ben for his honouring.
It felt like Parks and Recreation was at its best during this premiere in many respects. It wasn’t burdened at all by moving the time period ahead, and still had that same kind of charming, memorable humour that the show does best throughout the episode. By the end, Leslie ends up being one of two parties considered by the Newport’s, with the other of course being Gryzzl, and the rest of the season is set to kick off from there.
In truth, the best story arc of the episode was probably April’s quest to become interesting again, which culminated with April and Andy impulsively buying a haunted house from controversial filmmaker, Werner Herzog of all people, another surprising cameo that followed another bit appearance by Jon Hamm as an especially stupid employee that Leslie fires this episode, again. If anyone needs him, he’ll be at Subway!
The gang’s all here, and “2017” felt both comfortable and refreshing as the starting episode of the show’s final season. Parks and Recreation has never failed to be an outstanding comedy series, and it’s great to see that NBC has a clear, inspired plan for its final thirteen episodes. The show is as funny and memorable as ever, even now set in the not-too-distant future, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the last eccentric hurrah of Pawnee’s most loveable government servants.
- The time jump worked great
- Andy and April's haunted house purchase
- Ron and Leslie's hilarious falling out
- Ben and Leslie's triplets are barely mentioned