Episode 8 - Smallest Park
6 March 2012
This was really enjoyable and built nicely on last week's story. I didn't like the way Leslie and Ben acted out at the Model UN but the writers used that tension wisely and created something strong here.
I thought the writing went to a much more realistic place with Leslie. Her scheme to string out her collaboration with Ben both captured the zaniness of her personality while fitting it into a believable work context. His response was even more enjoyable. He was so cold and no-nonsense about shutting down their working relationship that you couldn't help but feel sorry for both of them. When a character like Ben is well established as polite and diffident, a change in tone like this can be very effective.
In now typical Parks fashion (after they just married off Andy and April) the writers decided to go the way no one expected and have Leslie ask Ben to be her boyfriend in the open. It was unpredictable and ran counter to TV logic and I really appreciated it. I thought Leslie played that moment beautifully. Again a tonal shift from silly steamroller to suddenly being a tearful woman in love. They are a lovable dorky couple and I hope this leads to some interesting stories as they face up to Chris and the inevitable media scrutiny.
The tiny park was a clever prop to allow this story to be told. To see it decked out perfectly at the end also captured a bit of that Leslie Knope personality.
I liked the Tom story a lot. Again last week I talked about the downside of him returning to his old job and not growing. Again the writers trump me by having Tom still be Tom but actually use his gifts to generate a little revenue for the Parks department. I loved the way the writers used Jerry in this story. His attitude to government work is honest but dull. The writers captured the goodness in him without removing the ammunition that makes him the butt of everyone's jokes. He was the perfect mirror for Tom to look at to get fired up and may have had his best line ever when he said "Weekends are for dreaming." Without meaning to it was the cruellest put down for Tom to hear because that's what he spends all his time doing.
Finally we had Ron playing Dad to Andy as he and April sampled the local college courses. This had some really fun moments including Andy misunderstanding what a "crash course" meant and Ron telling the guitar teacher "you would make an incredible brunette." Again seeing a character trying to improve themselves was sweet and Ron's affection for his surrogate children is always a little heart warming. The last few episodes have seen a lot of pithy Swansonisms. Some I enjoy, some seem a little too obvious. In general though I like the minimalist use of Ron. I think he is a character who gets funnier the less he is used. I giggled at him saying "One thing I promised myself when I buried gold in my back yard is that I'd never be a hoarder or a miser about it."
This was a very strong episode and one that captured so much of what is good about this show.
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