[Contains “awesome sauce” and SPOILERS!!!]
Looking back, one of my main issues with the second season of Parks and Recreation was that it kept toying with my emotions, hinting at a burgeoning romance between ‘April’ (Aubrey Plaza) and ‘Andy’ (Chris Pratt), while conniving to keep them apart… this trend continued into the first couple episodes of Season Three (2011), until ‘Ron’ (Nick Offerman) intervened, and gruffly ordered them to stop all their will-they-won’t-they shenanigans, and start going steady already. Hurrah! Five thousand hurrahs! All the hurrahs in the universe! In short order they combined their considerable charms to become The Cutest Sitcom Couple Of All Time, and words simply can’t express how much I adore/envy them. Of course, there had to be some hiccups/hurdles along the way, for the sake of comedy and/or dramatic conflict, but thankfully Ron kept a paternal eye on them, and steered them back towards each other whenever they went askew. Phew!
As far as A+A go, this season’s (many) highlights included: Andy defusing April’s attempts to make him jealous by bonding with the boy-toy she brought back from Venezuela… Andy getting arrested while doing all of April’s weekly chores to make amends to her… Andy properly expressing his feelings for April on a broken Ferris Wheel (after another stern talking-to from Ron!)… April’s joy at seeing Andy when he finally shows up at the B&B after trekking through the wilderness to reach her… pretty much the entirety of the surprise-wedding-party episode… April sincerely swearing on a “dead crow” that she’ll never cook for Andy… their contrasting responses to ‘Ben’ (Adam Scott) moving in with them to form a hilarious “odd triple”… their drunken role-playing at the launch of ‘Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) new boozy business venture… and April resentfully asking ‘Ann’ (Rashida Jones) for relationship advice, after inadvertently offending Andy. The only real lowlight for me would be the revelation that April’s favourite band is Neutral Milk Hotel, rather than Mouse Rat… because, how could she!?
Meanwhile, ‘Leslie’ (Amy Poehler) seemed to be spending her experience-points wisely, levelling up her intelligence and professionalism with each passing episode… culminating in the finale, where she was approached to run for an unspecified political office, in the following season(s). Despite her claim to total transparency, she has in fact been conducting/concealing a super-cute secret affair with Ben, her co-worker/supervisor, which may well come out in the future…? Weirdly enough, reviews cited on Wikipedia suggest that a lot of contemporary critics felt the rule against workplace romances that’s keeping them apart was simply a contrived plot-device, despite the writers basing it on real-life policies put in place by small town governments. Either way, I do think they make a fun couple, and am looking forward to seeing how things progress between them (hopefully) in upcoming seasons… though obviously they pale in comparison to A+A, who are (in case I didn’t make this clear before) straight-up adorable-as-fudge. Bless ‘em. Oh, it’s also worth noting that Poehler wrote a storming episode this season (ep #3.13), revolving around the gang getting hella-drunk on Tom’s “Snake Juice” liquor, which fuelled a shocking break-up between Leslie and her BFF Ann, before the two of them blearily reconciled the next morning, in the sober light of day. Although I’m largely ambivalent about Ann as a character, Jones did get a chance to show a lot more range as a comedic actress this time around, and her gal-pal scenes with Poehler remain a huge selling-point for the show. As is the rather anachronistic ideal that public servants might actually want to serve the public and work in their community’s best interest… rather than, y’know, just lie their arses off, line their own pockets, stoke fallacious fears, endanger journalists, and appeal to the lowest possible base… sigh…
As far as the (rapidly-expanding) supporting cast goes: Mo Collins scored some great scenes as local news-reporter/chatshow-host ‘Joan Callamezzo’ (eps #3.5/7) pursuing her ongoing grudge against Leslie… while Alison Becker returned as Pawnee Journal scribe ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’ rebuffing more of our heroine’s “helpful” headline suggestions (eps #3.3/5)… and Megan Mullally once again wrought havoc on Ron’s social-and-professional-life as vindictive ex-wife ‘Tammy Two’ (eps #3.4)… but what could’ve spooked her away in the finale, when she learned that her predecessor (“Tammy One”) was in the vicinity? I don’t know yet, but I’m dying to find out! Sadly, Natalie Morales only stuck around for a couple episodes as Tom’s surprisingly-grounded girlfriend ‘Lucy’ (eps #3.1/3), but checking her IMDb page spoiled the fact that she will return for an extended stay, in later seasons. Yay! There was also Mara Marini’s debut as prolific local porn star (and champion of The Arts) ‘Brandi Maxxxx’ (ep #3.11)… a one-off appearance by Parker Posey as ‘Lindsay Carlisle Shay’ (ep #3.12), a former friend of Leslie’s who defected to the Parks Department of a snooty neighbouring town*… and a classic subplot involving Ron indoctrinating a visiting schoolgirl (Alyssa Shafer) with his “libertarian” values, to the detriment of her grades and the annoyance of her mother (Jessica St. Clair) (ep #3.14). Oopsie!
* Eagleton, which used to be “two towns over”, but now shares a hotly-disputed border with Pawnee somehow!?