Parks And Recreation Review “New Beginnings” (Season 6, Episode 11)

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We established in last week’s Parks and Recreation that Leslie has her sights set on bigger and better things. Emboldened by recent successes (and failures), she’s expanded her horizons and thinking about her place in the world. She’s after a bigger slice of the governmental pie, responsibility-wise, and it looks like she stands a good chance of getting it. This puts this week’s episode in a difficult position – we know that Leslie is not long for the department, just like Ann and Chris’ upcoming move – so what stories can there be about her character in her current location?

When you think about it, “New Beginnings” would have been a great title for last week’s episode, as opposed to this week’s. What we get instead is a hodgepodge filler episode where not much happens at all except Chris and Ann decide not to marry, maybe. That’s the full scope of the episode. Leslie just lingers around, casting aspersions on Tom’s abilities in his new self-created job role of Business Liason (which he excels at in the end, here at least) and bugging Ron about her concerns.

The story here is that Stu, owner of a stew stand in one of the city’s parks, wants to retire. Knowing this, Tom – in his role as Business Liason – reaches out to a local lemonade company to run the stand. Tom needs to make a big presentation to the council to run through the positive points of the venture, which he is all set to do, when Leslie freaks out about what she perceives as his inability to do even the simplest task. Ron thinks she should leave Tom to sink or swim in his new role, which she does eventually do, but only after an episode of hectoring on her part.

If not handled correctly, the story of Leslie Knope could turn into When Perkiness Attacks. Enthusiasm with no vent or direction is a destructive force, and Leslie bizarrely enough reigns over “New Beginnings” as a marauding wave of negativity. In the beginning she insists on interviewing for her new role as head of department, even though the job is already hers, demanding special treatment in the end when Ron interviews her as he would anyone else. She then tells Ron that Tom is not up to the job based on no evidence whatsoever, then tries to convince Stu from the stew stand to not retire at all, just to sabotage Tom’s presentation. It’s a shameful performance all told, and possibly one that is intended to ease the pain of her transition from local to national government.

If, as Amy Poehler pointed out in her Golden Globes acceptance speech, we’re at the halfway point for Parks and Recreation, then the natural ending the show seems to be winding down to is just a lull in its momentum. Whether the show is in it for such a long stretch is neither here nor there – I doubt it, frankly. All that matters is that the show starts building something big with Leslie, and fast. It was a shame to have Tom right there and not really do anything with him besides perform a laser-based presentation, but then again, I’m a huge Tom fan. I’d be fine with Tom taking over from Leslie, or maybe the rest of the season becoming a battle of wills between the two characters. I want Tom to get too big for his boots. I want Leslie to underestimate him, and I want Ben to look on worriedly. Go Tom!