Time jumps are tricky. They’re the sort of plot device that can run the risk of feeling gimmicky if not utterly integral to the immediate story being told. Some shows have made it feel reinvigorated (Desperate Housewives) and some felt like it was an afterthought (Weeds). The first two episodes of the seventh and final season of Parks and Recreation falls somewhere in between. It doesn’t lose anything of substantial value transitioning forward three years, but it doesn’t exactly gain anything, either.
So, it’s 2017. Gryzzl has invaded Pawnee and everyone has silly never-gonna-happen futuristic iPads and most of the main cast has moved on. Tom is a self-described mogul, Donna’s real estate business is booming, April and Andy are freaking out about becoming totally ordinary, and Leslie is obsessing over a new park. Okay, not everyone’s moved on, exactly. Despite the time jump, and a few job displacements amongst the main cast, it’s pretty much status quo around town.
“2017” brings to the forefront what seems to be the season’s main plot point: Leslie and Ron are arch-nemeses now thanks to his new company’s (“Very Good Building & Development”) partnership with Gryzzl and their attempt to take an undeveloped plot of land near Pawnee to turn into a new Gryzzl Campus. You can probably guess what Leslie wants to do with it. Though it’s only the opening hour of the final season, and their fight brings about the biggest change from the time jump, the proceeding duel feels contrived and forced. Leslie’s done this already, with Ann’s park, and we got entire seasons of backstory to provide reasons why she wanted it to get built. The sudden introduction of the exact same exhausted problem doesn’t gel with the nascence of the setting this season.
But, of course, the show is still full to the brim with its optimistically weird view on the world. Series standouts like Mo Collins’ Joan Callamezzo and Jon Glaser’s Jeremy Jamm each have their own time to shine in the two-parter (Joan’s slow spiral to rehab as told by April is one of the hour’s high points). No Jean-Ralphio or Perd Hapley, unfortunately. Or any hint of Leslie and Ben’s triplets, for that matter, which feels like a tragically wasted opportunity. Leslie mentions them tangentially once or twice, but no sight of her and Ben’s frantic new lives as parents is anywhere to be seen in the season opener. Another notch in the negative column for the time-jump.