As we saw in last week’s season opener, Parks and Recreation has definitely set some healthy goals for its sophomore year. In two short episodes, we’re already seeing a new push toward topical stories and jokes, more fleshed-out relationships among the supporting characters, and – most importantly – a Leslie Knope that isn’t completely unbelievable. Like the Ludachrysanthemums and Souljaboytellems so lovingly planted in the pit garden, Parks is beginning to blossom. It’s a beautiful thing!
What was so often missing from last spring’s episodes was a sense that these characters really knew each other (let alone themselves); that they had lives outside of Leslie’s immediate orbit. Last night’s episode, “Stakeout,” worked to correct this by teaming up three disparate pairs – Leslie and Tom; Mark and Ann; and Ron and April – and seeing what happened. Ostensibly (and respectively) what happened was jailtime, slow-moving romance, and a hernia…but what REALLY happened was far more interesting, and of course totally in line with the “planting seeds” theme.
Degenerates are using the pit garden to grow marijuana! Or so it appears to Leslie, who after spotting some suspicious looking plants decides to stake out the pit and nab the green-thumb. Her chosen stakeout partner? Tom Haverford, under-achieving and prone to wearing very bright, monogrammed polos. Perfect stakeout gear! The night quickly unravels when Leslie notices, literally 50 feet away, Mark arriving at Ann’s house to pick her up for their date. None too thrilled, she does what any self-respecting adult in the same situation would do: snaps pictures of them through a telephoto lens.
Back at the office, Ron has been sitting immobilized for the entire day thanks to a hernia. His only hope is intern April, who comes back later that night after a hunch convinces her that he’s still at his desk. Their pairing is the most fun of the three, if for no other reason than these characters are so far the least well-known of the bunch. What do we learn? That Ron is relentlessly stubborn (maybe we already knew that); April is more loyal, or at least kinder, than we thought; and that these two make a very dry comedic duo.
Leslie and Tom spot Andy in the pit, who claims not to be the pot grower. “I was just supposed to have a rock fight with some crazy guy!” he tells them. Plus he’s there to “protect Ann.” (Andy. Leslie. Mark. I mean, Rashida Jones, I get it, but what is it with these people and Ann Perkins?!?) After devouring a candy necklace Leslie had brought on their stakeout, the night quickly takes a turn. As Leslie and Andy leave to find food, Tom gets locked out of the van. Then Mark and Ann pull up. They see what looks like a burglar. Then they call the cops.
Welcome Louis C.K.! The funniest stand-up comedian in America was the perfect choice to play a low-key Pawnee law enforcement agent, and he makes a fine entrance arresting Tom Haverford for…well, excessive sassmouth. (Or as Tom suggests, “parked while Indian.”) Leslie takes the lead in trying to get Tom out, and in the course of her loud defense (“I think your friend might be a pervert”; “That’s what everyone thinks when they first meet him!”) somehow entrances the local cop. He later gives his opinion of Ms. Knope in his first talking head: “I was attracted to her in a sexual manner that was appropriate.” Love is in the air, people!
It’s exciting to watch a show grow week by week. Like the garden the Pawnee Parks Department planted at the bottom of the ever-present pit, it’s only a matter of time before these disparate seeds Parks’ writers have planted become something truly special. (And really, who doesn’t want this show to succeed?) What do you think, guys? Have Amy Poehler and co. caught your attention enough this season? What does Parks need to do to hit its Office stride?