The Strong Women Series

Here, you'll find a collection of posts from my talented female friends, each defending the women in their favorite television series. These posts contain some of the most intelligent discussions ever featured on this website. I highly recommend that you read them all.

A Goodbye to 'Parks and Recreation'

We said goodbye to a few great television shows in 2015, and one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is NBC's 'Parks and Recreation.' Here, I talk about what made the series so special and different from all other comedies and say goodbye to each cast member and character individually. Grab some waffles and tissues and enjoy.

Jenn's Pick: My Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

Do you like meta humor? Movie references? Pineapples? If you do, you were probably also a fan of USA's hit comedy 'Psych.' In this post, I count down my fifteen favorite episodes of the series. Do your favorites make the cut? And, bonus: Can you find the pineapple in my post?

Character Appreciation Post: Felicity Smoak ('Arrow')

Felicity Meghan Smoak is one of the most captivating, optimistic, endearing characters on The CW's smash hit 'Arrow.' And in this post, I list all of the reasons why she is. Read, dear friends, and fall a little bit more in love with our blonde hacker.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Suits 4x16 "Not Just A Pretty Face" (Don't Let The Moment Pass)

"Not Just A Pretty Face"
Original Airdate: March 4, 2015

We all need people in our lives for different reasons.

I have two really close friends that I work with: Kate and Heather. Kate is sweet but she's also tough. She's the person I need in my life because she's taught me how to stand up for myself more and to not be afraid to have an opinion. She's also the person who will always encourage me to go to the gym. Heather, meanwhile, is more emotional: she's the one I turn to when I'm having a bad day and need some encouragement or when I want to talk about fashion. I love them both but I need them for different reasons. In the season four finale of Suits, the main theme of the episode is about needing other people. It's about how far we will go to keep the people we care about in our lives. Let me give you a run-down of the plot now, because we'll spend a lot of time talking about characters in the coming paragraphs: Sean Cahill (head of the SEC) is in a bit of a bind because he can't find the dirty money that Charles Forstman gave to Eric Woodall. If he doesn't find the money, they won't be able to prosecute Forstman and both he and Woodall will walk away clean. Sean is desperate and enlists Harvey's help to find the money. As it turns out, Harvey and Forstman had a convoluted past (Harvey trusted him and got too close, then was exploited and blackmailed by Forstman because Harvey needed money to give to his brother) and therefore, Harvey is hesitant to make the same mistake twice. Mike and Rachel then make it their jobs (literally) to find out where that missing money went. As they soon discover, it is going to pay for treatment for Eric Woodall's first wife who suffers from Alzheimer's. And that's when Harvey discovers the reason why he won't turn on Forstman: he has too much at stake. Back at Pearson Specter Litt, Norma suddenly dies, leaving Louis an angry, grieving mess and Donna cleaning up the pieces and helping her friend for the time being. Elsewhere in the episode, Jessica is still trying to recover from her break-up with Jeff. It's not going super well.

The point of "Not Just A Pretty Face" was that people are put into our lives for reasons and often, we have the tendency to ignore those reasons or to presume that those people will always be there; that we can just wake up and pick up wherever we left off. People need other people, and no one realizes this in the season finale more than those characters at Pearson Specter Litt.

The 100 2x15 "Blood Must Have Blood, Part 1" [Contributor: Laura Schinner]

"Blood Must Have Blood, Part 1"
Original Airdate: March 4, 2015

Even though at times the different groups have come together, the battle to survive on earth has always been a three-way war between the Sky People, the Grounders, and the Mountain Men. Alliances mean nothing when faced with the decision of what is best for your specific group of people and at the end of the day, they are who matter most. This leads to difficult moral decisions for many characters, none more so than the leaders of each group.

In this week’s episode of The 100, this became the central point of conflict for Lexa. While she cares about Clarke, maybe even loves her, she had to do what she has done all along to keep her people alive: think with her head instead of her heart. And that meant betraying the Sky People and making a deal with the Mountain Men to get her people out of Mount Weather. Logically, this is the decision that makes the most sense. Hundreds of her people were being held captive and they were about to start a war that would have killed hundreds more of her people, with no guarantee that they would win. Sacrificing forty-four Sky People for the lives of so many of her own people makes sense. Even if in her heart she knows that Clarke will never forgive her for this betrayal, she had to do what was right for her people.

The main difference between Lexa and Clarke, something that the characters have struggled with all season, is that Lexa is always going to think with her head first while Clarke’s instinct will always be to think with her heart. No matter how many times Lexa has tried to get Clarke to change, even convincing her to abandon so many people to save herself when the missile hit in "Rubicon," Clarke is always going to be more concerned with the moral implications of her actions. We saw what her decision to leave with Lexa did to her, and it’s not something she’s willing to let happen again. For Clarke, decisions don't have to be broken down into either thinking with her head or her heart; she can do both. She’ll make a decision based off of what her heart is telling her and then use her head to find a way to make it work. More likely than not, this will lead to the death of some of her people next week but in the end, if they can end up saving the rest, it will be worth it to her.

Things are even more complicated at Mount Weather, where the Mountain Men are living safe lives but yearn for more. Many of them want to see the outside but that too is rife with moral dilemmas. For some of the Mountain Men, the sacrifice of so many outsiders (the Grounders and Sky People) isn’t worth their own freedom to go outside. But for others, like Cage Wallace, it is more than worth it. Looking at it objectively, if there was one true villain on the show, it would be Cage. His people are comfortable inside Mount Weather and if completely locked off from the outside world, they wouldn’t need to harm anyone. It’s his greed for more, to open up the outside to them, that drives him to make so many morally questionable decisions. But even those decisions can be justified because after all, he’s just doing what Clarke and Lexa are also doing: trying to give his people the best life possible.

While the leaders of each group make these decisions to do what they think is right for their people, there are some from every group who do not agree with them. These people have fundamental issues with the moral implications of their actions. From the Grounders and Sky People, we see this happen with Lincoln and Octavia. Lincoln has slowly grown closer to the Sky People while at the same time Octavia has grown closer to the Grounders. When it came down to it though, and both were faced with the fact that Lexa had made a deal with the Mountain Men to only save her people, neither were willing to retreat with the Grounders. At this point, both are right in the middle of the two groups, not fully one or the other. In a lot of ways this means that for them, no one group is more important than the other. They’re, instead, part of a group of people who believe that no matter where you come from, your life should matter just as much as anyone else’s.

At Mount Weather, there are people who feel the exact same way. In the past few episodes we’ve seen these people risk their own lives to keep the Sky People safe, not willing to let them die even if it meant being able to see the outside. Maya and her father are key examples of this. They’re faced with the difficult reality that if they save the Sky People, they will no longer be accepted at Mount Weather. They also won’t be able to leave with the Sky People because they are not immune to the radiation. Despite the fact that there is no good way this could end for them, they willingly help keep the Sky People hidden and safe.

Similarly, Jasper and many of the other Sky People are unwilling to let harm come to those who are not endangering them. When Maya’s life was threatened, Jasper was frantic, trying to find a way to save her. It doesn’t matter that they come from different groups; they obviously care about each other a lot. And even when planning an attack on Mount Weather, Clarke is very adamant that no innocents should be killed. She knows that not everyone there is against them and she is not willing to harm those who mean them no harm. While they are extremely concerned with keeping their own people safe, at this point in the series, they aren’t willing to sacrifice innocent people to do so, unlike the Mountain Men and Grounders.

All these moral entanglements came to a head in the character of Dante Wallace in this week’s episode. While he wants nothing more than to be able to live outside, he has up until now been unwilling to let the Sky People die for their cause. When faced with the reality that all of his people could be killed in the impending war, he has the most difficult decision to make. He cares about his people just as much as any of the other leaders and does not want to see their entire existence wiped out. At what point does the decision to save a few become less important than the decision to save your people? For Dante, this was the breaking point, as he gave in and helped his son devise a plan to save their people. Like with so many other character’s decisions, it’s difficult to view what he did as inherently wrong. Because of the complexity of this show, there simply is no right or wrong answer to many of these moral questions and that is what makes The 100 so compelling to watch.

Memorable quotes:
  • "I told you I'd come back for you."
  • "Get it? Dam joke."
  • "Catastrophic failure? THAT'S your plan?" "Well, when you say it like that, it doesn't sound like such a good idea."
  • "I'm moving as fast as I... actually, I can go faster."
  • "You're one of us now."
  • "But I made this choice with my head and not my heart."
  • "I have no home."
  • "All I was gonna say is 'please don't leave me.'" "Not a chance."
  • "It can't be over."
Everyone welcome Laura to the site as our weekly reviewer of The 100! She'll be covering part two of the season finale next week and then re-watching and reviewing over the summer hiatus. What did you think of "Blood Must Have Blood, Part 1"? Do you agree with Lexa's decision? Are you worried about the fate of the ark people left within Mount Weather? What is going to happen to Raven and Wick? Hit up our comments and let us know your thoughts and predictions. Until then, folks! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Girl 4x18 "Walk of Shame" (Welcome to Our Freaking Journey)

"Walk of Shame"
Original Airdate: March 3, 2015

Technically I'm an adult, but I don't quite feel like one yet and I wonder if I ever will. I still have to call my dad to ask him about how to check the oil in my car, what my insurance means, and the steps to buying a house. Some days, I really do wonder if I'll wake up one morning and suddenly feel like I'm twenty-six. It'll be a day that calling my bank on the phone won't seem intimidating and I'll be able to hold a conversation with people about mortgages and insurance and 401k plans. Then I watch television shows like New Girl and episodes like "Walk of Shame" and I feel a little bit better about my life and my choices. Because this is a show about people who are in their 30s and don't have their crap together. Isn't that refreshing? Look, I love television a lot. And I love seeing happy, successful, really well-rounded characters on television series who have good jobs and are married and settled with kids. But what I also really love is seeing a character like Jessica Day: a woman who doesn't have her life together but who feels like she needs to because society tells her she has to. I love seeing a woman like Cece who admits that she's really confused as to who she is anymore -- that she doesn't know herself.

Jess has an amazing little rant in this episode which I'll talk about more but from the A-story to the B-story, "Walk of Shame" is all about learning to embrace who you really are: especially the messy parts of yourself that you would rather fix. Because failing and being stupid and messing up is part of your journey. And the sooner that we can accept those pieces of us that we really don't like and the sooner we can admit that we're a work-in-progress, the better off we will all be. Truly, there's nothing shameful about that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x12 "Darkness On the Edge of Town" (Evil Is As Evil Does)

"Darkness On the Edge of Town"
Original Airdate: March 1, 2015

You know the saying "it's always the quiet ones"? It's something that people mutter once they realize the potential for quiet people to be both dangerous and volatile. We never expect the quiet people to fight back; we never think that they will be the ones to snap at you in anger. We never expect that the people who are harboring so much darkness are often the ones who appear the happiest and brightest. Conversely, we always expect the villains to be just that -- dark, cruel, cold-hearted villains. We never anticipate them to have the same fears and desires as we do. But "Darkness On the Edge of Town," Once Upon A Time's most recent episode, reminded us of both of these facts: it presented us villains who (as we can see in the flashbacks) are terrible, evil, manipulative women... but who also can be self-sacrificing. It also presented us with a person who we typically view as a hero who -- in reality -- has darkness in her heart.

So let's talk about our return to Storybrooke, shall we?

Parks and Recreation 7x12/7x13 "One Last Ride" [Contributor: Jaime]

"One Last Ride"
Original Airdate: February 24, 2015

I started watching The Office near the end of its second season, when I was twelve years old.  It soon became my favorite TV show, to the point of obsession: I would watch anything that the actors were in, research the writers to learn everything about all if their previous work… It was bad.  So of course, when it was announced that Greg Daniels and Mike Schur were creating a spinoff of The Office that was going to star Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones, it was a pretty big day for me.

Of course, Parks isn’t and never was a spinoff.  From the beginning, the heart of the show has been its characters, and the work they do together.  It’s not necessarily a goal-oriented show – new obstacles and opportunities come up constantly, but the show isn’t about watching people succeed and seeing what new stones they can step across.  It’s about the journey – watching everyone band together to run Leslie’s campaign, watching everyone come take over the final episode of Andy’s show.  Of course we care about these people, and want them to achieve the things they want to achieve, but none of the conflicts, none of the stakes that have ever been created on this show would mean a thing if it wasn’t for the relationships the audience has developed with the characters.

In my weekly reviews of season seven, I’ve consistently gone back to discussing the structure of the season, and how it’s functioning as a final season.  If you’ll remember, way back in my first recap, I said this season was more like an epilogue than an additional season of an ongoing show.  It’s a luxury that most shows don’t get: knowing exactly when it’s going to end, so it can take the time to build to a proper and worthy ending.  And really, the last five or so episodes have worked as a goodbye to the characters – building their season-long arcs, ramping up the conflicts, and finding some sort of resolution, one that, if not a full resolution, at least ties things up enough that we can move on and not feel as if we’re missing some vital piece of information.

So going into the series finale, there weren’t a ton of balls in the air that needed to land.  Instead, it was all about saying goodbye to the characters as they said goodbye to each other – it’s their last day together before Donna moves to Seattle and April, Andy, Ben, and Leslie move to Washington, D.C., so to honor the occasion, Leslie has gathered everyone together in the parks and rec office two hours before it officially opens, in order to regale everyone with a lengthy and jam-packed presentation about their history in the department.

While they’re there, a man comes by to complain about a park near his house that has a swing that’s been broken for months.  Donna quickly points out that none of them actually work there anymore, which in a weird way, is one of the most emotional moments of the episode.  This is Parks and Recreation; these characters met working in local government, working directly to address public need, and now, none of them are in local government.  None of them need to cater to the whims of Pawneeans anymore.  It’s such a simple way to show how much has changed, and obviously this is an element that couldn’t have worked outside of the final season or maybe even without the time jump.  Because there was so much going on with the initial transition to 2017, and because so much of what was going on was still grounded in government practices, it was easy to forget that parks and recreation was no longer a foundation of the show.

But it’s the final episode, after all, and finales are all about parallelism and going back to one’s roots.  So Leslie decides that the group will tackle this issue, giving them one last project to work on together.  The first step is getting a particular form signed, which Donna is able to provide thanks to a scrapbook Leslie made of departmental paperwork.

There are two recurring plot devices in this episode that spur the action.  The bigger one, and the more obvious one, is the repeated flashforwards, cued by Leslie touching one of the characters, thus bringing us into glimpses of their future.  The other device is this ongoing quest to get the swing fixed, which is represented in the first half of the episode by this form they need to get signed and processed.  This works on more of a narrative level; every scene in the episode set in the present is furthering the journey of this form or the swing, and goes hand-in-hand with the jump to the future.  Each step Leslie takes, she takes with a different member of her team, and along the way, creates physical contact with everyone that incites the flashforwards.  It’s such a brilliant microcosm of the show itself – obviously, it’s huge that Leslie connecting with her friends is what induces the sequences, and the show lingers on the physical contact in a way that mirrors one of the most important themes that’s run throughout all seven seasons: the effect Leslie has had on everyone, and how her enthusiasm and drive has inspired them all to act.

And in finding a moment to create physical contact, the show also creates opportunities to give Leslie a personal moment with each character to thank them for what they’ve done to her and say goodbye individually.  Now, it’s not that the episode is focused on Leslie’s goodbyes; it says so much more about the characters she’s speaking to than it does about herself.  They’ve left a mark on Leslie just as much as she’s left a mark on them, which isn’t necessarily something we’ve seen as much throughout the show.  It’s been there, of course, but the prominent focus has been on watching everyone grow with Leslie as a centerpiece.  Here, she turns the focus on everyone else, and makes it abundantly clear that they’ve all inspired her just as much as she’s inspired them.

The first flashforward we see is Donna’s.  We know that she and Joe are getting ready to move to Seattle, and in 2023, they’ve happily adjusted to their lives there.  She’s a successful realtor, and after getting a large commission check, she tells Joe that she wants to use it to fund a vacation to the Amazon.  Basically, she wants them to go on another adventure.  But after Joe tells her that his school has cut the math club – and teaching math in general – she contacts April.  Instead of going to the Amazon, she’s going to user her money to start an education program through April’s foundation that will fund afterschool programs and allow teachers to be able to teach whatever they want.  Its name?  Teach Yo’ Self, of course.

Joe loves the idea, but he’s quick to remind Donna that it’s her money, and she should spend it however she wants.  But this is exactly how she wants to spend it: she’s had tons of adventures in her life, and she wants to start a new kind with Joe.  It’s such a different side to Donna, compared to the person who used to surround herself with men and her Benz and the occasional cigar in a shady club.  But now she’s focusing on her future with Joe, and in fact, has become passionate about the same things Joe’s passionate about.  What’s even greater is that this isn’t really an arc that only ran throughout season seven; it began when we first met Joe in season six.  Immediately, it was obvious that there was something different about him, and that he meant something to Donna that no one or nothing has ever meant.  So even then, it feels like a given that a relationship between the two of them would bring out new elements of Donna’s character, and here, we’re finally getting to see them in their full light.

The next step in their attempt to fix the swing is getting the form signed by the director of the parks department – Craig, who conveniently arrives for work just when they need him.  His future?  After singing in Tom’s Bistro in 2019, something I imagine Craig does often in an abuse of his power, Typhoon buys him a drink and, ultimately, the two get married.  Personally, I was hoping for a Craig/Jean-Ralphio endgame, but I really can’t complain.  And decades later, the two have grown old together, and tell each other they have no regrets about how they’ve lived their lives.  Well, okay, it’s Craig, of course he has some regrets about some things, but he doesn’t regret anything about his life with Typhoon.  Ultimately, it’s just a really nice sequence, lacking any conflict, that just serves as a nice wrap-up for Craig, a character who joined the show in season six and therefore we haven’t spent much time with, compared to the original cast.  So it’s okay that his story doesn’t have the same complexity most of the others do, because it simply allows us to get one final, happy glimpse of a character whose function was always to entertain and make the audience happy.

After getting his signature, Leslie has to bring the form up to the fourth floor to be processed.  Of course, the fourth floor is famously gross and terrifying, so April naturally jumps at the opportunity to visit it one last time.  While they’re up there, Andy mentions how he hopes D.C. will have some of the things he loves about Pawnee – you know, like Taco Bell, KFC, things like that.  Oh – and Leslie.  She quickly points out that, yes, D.C. will have all of those things, even her, and that she and Ben will be there for the two of them whenever they need.

Having that link into April and Andy’s flashforward is such a beautiful connection, because it really gives a context for the arcs of the two couples and shows how, while having so many differences, April and Andy still have a huge amount of respect for Leslie and Ben as people and as a couple.  So in 2022, when Andy approaches the subject of having kids and April feels unsure about what to do, they both turn to Ben and Leslie for advice.  Ultimately, Leslie tells April that she can’t be the one to decide whether or not April and Andy have kids; no matter what, there is no right time or right moment, and it’s just a decision you have to make when you already have something great and want to make it even better.  Exactly a year later, April and Andy’s son is born – on Halloween, with April in full zombie make-up, while “Monster Mash” plays.

The whole sequence is so sweet and so indicative of how far April and Andy have come.  But it also shows the function of the flashforwards within the episode.  It’s not just about saying goodbye and getting to feel warm and fuzzy that your favorite characters are happy; it’s a way to show that even though the arcs we saw throughout the season (chiefly April’s job search) have been resolved and these characters have moved on, they’re not done growing.  They’re not free of challenges or obstacles just because the main narrative of the show, and the show itself, have ended.  In fact, it’s exactly like I said way back in my review of the premiere, when I described this season as an epilogue.  The season six finale served as an ending to so many of the arcs that began way back in the pilot, and ran throughout the show.  But it also served as the beginning of things, the first step in many ways for these characters.  Then the time jump happened, meaning that we didn’t get to see those new arcs in their entirety; we came back as they were ending, meaning the characters had undergone changes that we didn’t get to witness, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen and that they weren’t huge or meaningful.  The exact same thing happens here.  Just because we’re not really going to know who Andy and April are in 2022 or 2023 doesn’t mean that what they’re going through doesn’t matter, or that it’s not a vital part of their overall characterization; moreover, it doesn’t mean that this is the end of who they are, or of who they’re going to become.  This show and its characters are always, always, always evolving, and even though we don’t really know who Andy and April are or what they’re going through past 2025, it’s obvious that they’re still in the middle of becoming who they’re going to be.  The end of the show might be only a few minutes away, but the end of these characters is much further off than that.

Back in 2017, Leslie enlists Tom’s company in going to the Maintenance department to submit the request for the swing’s repair.  On the way, they run into Jean-Ralphio (the love of my life), who’s sitting in a wheelchair.  Don’t worry, he’s fine, it’s just an insurance scam.  He’s devastated to hear that Leslie is leaving, but don’t worry; judging by what happens to him in the future, he gets over his pain.  In 2022, he fakes his death (with Mona Lisa’s help, of course) in order to receive insurance money that they then use to start a casino in Tajikistan.  Of course.  And while we don’t know how that panned out, there is a small clue in Craig’s story that further hints at Jean-Ralphio’s future.  There’s a champagne bottle with Jean-Ralphio’s name on it, implying that he’s started his own line and actually found some success in, you know, a more legal and above-the-line sort of way.

Leaving Jean-Ralphio behind to manage his grief over Leslie leaving (don’t worry, he’s fine), Leslie and Tom continue to the maintenance department – only to remember that it’s closed on Fridays.  But never fear, kids: Tom’s going to find a way to get it open.  And then we see his future: in 2019, he makes plans to expand his restaurant, after seeking advice from Ben, Ron, and Donna.  Ben even notes how well researched Tom’s proposal is; for once, Tom knows exactly what he’s doing, and is making responsible, informed business decisions.  So…cut to some unknown amount of time later, and Tom’s lost everything.  His money, his restaurants – all he has now is a documentary that he made about his failures, that he can’t stop watching.  Tom’s failed before, but this time, it’s different.  This time, he didn’t do anything wrong, and because of that, he can’t move on.  It sucks, plain and simple.

Some undisclosed amount of time later, Tom is finally able to move on to something new: a book about his failures, and how they led to success.  The book is a hit, and finally, Tom is happy again.

Tom’s story was the only one that felt kind of unsatisfying to me.  I love the idea that this time, his failure absolutely wasn’t his fault, but it just doesn’t seem like a good ending for him.  We spent so much time watching him build the bistro, and watching him finally become responsible, that for him to lose it and then find success in another venture in the span of ten seconds just didn’t have the same meaning that the other stories did.  Maybe if we’d gotten to see the decline of the bistro over time, and spent more time with Tom’s depression then ultimate decision to write about it, it would work better, but it just happened way too quickly for it to really fit him as an ending.  Going back to what I said earlier about how these sequences are the middle of these characters’ lives, not the ends, I think part of why Tom’s story didn’t work is that seeing the bistro go under is the ending to a story whose beginning and middle we didn’t see.  It wasn’t like his storyline this season was dealing with the difficulties of running a restaurant, so all we get is the aftermath of a story with huge emotional stakes that we didn’t get to experience.  In that sense, Tom is the only character whose storyline felt cheated by the shortened season.  I mean, what was his arc this season?  It mostly focused on Lucy, but there was no real conflict there.  They spent one episode settling into their relationship and worrying about how serious it was, then we were told they were ready to get engaged.  It was just something that was happening, not something that was growing.  I love Lucy and Tom together, I do, but I wish their relationship had just been some ongoing thing rather than the main focus of his storylines this season, because ultimately, it just didn’t lead up to a proper and fitting ending for him.  And it just stands out so much more when he’s really the only character whose ending wasn’t proper and fitting.

But at least Tom is as loyal and helpful as ever, so in 2017, he makes good on his promise and makes a call to the most powerful man in Pawnee to help them get into the maintenance offices: Mayor Garry Gergich.

As it turns out, Garry loves being mayor, even though he knows it’s only ceremonial and that it’s only going to last a few more weeks, until the recall election is held.  But, after holding Leslie’s hand, we find out that Garry actually wins that recall election – and every following election for the next couple decades.  It turns out that the town Garry has loved his entire life loves him back, and after getting reelected at least ten times, Garry celebrates his 100th birthday with his family by his side (his wife and daughters looking as young and beautiful as ever) and then dies peacefully in his sleep that night.  Because of course he does.

The final step in fixing the swing is – you know, actually fixing it.  What, you thought I was going to have a better metaphor than that?  It’s Ron’s turn to join the battle, and after fixing the chain and telling Leslie he’ll send her the $38 bill for his labor, the two sit on the swingset.  Leslie asks if he’s going to stay in Pawnee after everyone leaves, which he probably will; he’s always lived there, after all, and Ron Swanson isn’t exactly one to embrace change.  Leslie reaches over to grab his hand, which is probably one of my favorite images ever from this show.  Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson on a swingset, hand-in-hand…Hang on, I’m gonna get some tissues.

In 2022, Ron quits his job at Very Good Building and Development, to the calm acceptance and understanding of his brothers.  Then he goes to visit Leslie and Ben in D.C., and after catching up (including sharing a picture of his children, which just goes to show how far Ron has come.  Remember earlier this season when he showed Leslie a picture of John, only because she made him, and then he immediately ripped it up?), Ron shares that Ivy has been accepted to Stanford.  Luckily, he and Diane aren’t going to be stressed financially; on Ben’s advice, he sold some of his gold and bought 51% of Lagavulin Distillery.  Because of course he did.

But money isn’t what brought him to the Knope-Wyatt home; he’s there because with his kids growing up, he feels like his time working indoors has come to an end.  He wants to do something where he can provide a service, but doesn’t know what – so instead of dealing with it on his own, like he did back when he wanted to ask for a job in the National Parks Service, he made it a point to come visit Leslie and seek her advice.  Leslie promises to find him the perfect job, and of course she comes through: she recommends him for the position of superintendent of Pawnee National Park, the land they worked together to obtain, and then accepts it on his behalf before even telling him about it.  Ron is stunned, and doesn’t even know if he’s qualified – something Leslie immediately shoots down, telling him, “You’re Ron Swanson.”

Ron meets the park rangers who will be reporting to him, and after instructing them on how their job is to protect the land and keep it beautiful, he informs everyone that even though they’re going to be working together, he’s not looking for any new friends.  But after seven seasons of watching Ron and his workplace proximity acquaintances become friends, I just can’t believe him.  He then climbs into a canoe and paddles across the lake, finally in his element.

After leaving Ron on the swings, Leslie tells Ben that she regrets every decision they’ve made and that she wants to stay in Pawnee.  She’s not getting cold feet, it’s just that she doesn’t want to leave their friends because she doesn’t know when they’ll all be together in the same room again.  Of course, Ben understands her concerns, and acknowledges that it might be a while before they’re all reunited, but so much will happen between then and now that it’ll be worth it.

So what’s Ben and Leslie’s future?  Well, for one thing, Ben wins the race for the seat in the House of Representatives, and by 2025, they’ve become pretty familiar with the Bidens, and have become frequent dinner party guests.  And of course, Leslie still panics every time she’s around Joe Biden, but she seems better.  That’s what we call character development, kids.

At the Bidens’ dinner party, Leslie is approached by someone who tells her that the governor of Indiana is stepping down, and that the DNC wants Leslie to run – just as Jen Barkley finds Ben and tells him that she thinks he should run.  Leslie excitedly tells Ben about it on their way home, and he’s thrilled for her – but then tells her that he, too, wanted to run.

Leslie makes a list of pros and cons, but ultimately, either of them running would have the same exact pros, and the only con is that the other wouldn’t get to run.  It’s an impossible decision to make because neither of them has even the slightest edge, so Leslie suggests they put the issue on hold for a week while they go back to Pawnee.

One of my favorite moments in the finale was when they went back to Pawnee’s City Hall and, on the outside of the building, there was an advertisement for people to sign up for that year’s Harvest Festival.  And when I say it was one of my favorite moments, I mean I saw it, gasped at an obnoxious volume, and then wept for like three minutes.  The Harvest Festival is the perfect reminder of how far everyone has come, especially Ben and Leslie.  That was the project that made Leslie respect Ben, and without that, they absolutely would not be where they are now.  Moreover, that was the first time everyone really came together for a huge undertaking, and the first time their hard work went largely without opposition.  There was nothing standing in the way of the Harvest Festival except this team’s ability to make it great, and of course they succeeded.  To see such a strong reminder of where everyone has been, and how far they’ve all come both professionally and in their relationships with each other, was the perfect visual to help the finale strike all the necessary chords.

It turns out that Ben has arranged for all of their friends to meet them in City Hall when he and Leslie arrive – even Ann and Chris.  Leslie bursts into tears the moment she sees everyone, because, as she puts it, “We’re all together in the same room.  In this room.”

While we saw other characters within a specific one’s flashforward, this segment is really the only one that splits the focus.  We get to catch up with everyone and see what they’ve been up to since the time covered by their segment – Andy and April have a two-year-old and she’s pregnant again, Tom is writing his second book, Donna’s been working full-time at her foundation (but, of course, still finds time to treat herself)…Oh, and Ann and Chris are moving back to Pawnee, because Chris is going to run admissions at Indiana University.  It’s so important to me that it’s Leslie and Ben’s sequence that opens up to include focus on everyone else – they’re still the focal point, sure, but it’s because of Leslie that everyone else is able to converge and reunite.  It’s her influence that created these jumps into the future and her influence that brings everyone back together in the same room – the only thing she wanted from the future.

Leslie approaches Ben about the campaign, telling him that she’s decided she doesn’t care who runs.  No matter what, there will be other opportunities for the person who doesn’t run, and they’ll still have each other.  So she suggests they flip a coin.  That’s right – Leslie Knope, the highstrung scrapbook-maker anxiety-ridden ball of ambition, wants to leave it up to chance.

They go to announce to their friends that one of them is going to be running, but before Leslie can say that, Ben announces that Leslie is running.  After all, she wrote about wanting to be governor in her kindergarten dream journal.

The list of reasons I love Ben and Leslie is limitless, but one of my favorite things about this couple who were initially kept apart by work is that work has never come between them since.  Leslie runs for city council?  Ben supports her.  Ben runs for Congress?  Leslie supports him.  And by 2025, they’ve been married for, what, twelve years?  They’ve built so much together, and everything they have comes before any career goals they may have.  But because of what they have with each other, there’s no need for them to sacrifice anything; work or family has never been an issue because no matter what, they can make anything work.  And more importantly, their own ambition never gets in the way of their relationship, or of the other’s dreams; Ben has no ego about giving up the chance to be governor because he knows without a doubt that his wife would make an amazing governor.

With everyone gathered together, Leslie makes a speech about all the work they’ve done together, and how no matter what, for all the amazing things they accomplished, it’s even more amazing because they did everything together.  After telling her friends, “What makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people that you love,” it briefly jumps ahead to 2035, where Leslie, a two-term governor, accepts an honorary doctorate from Indiana University.  She once again reiterates the importance of working with a team filled with people you care about, and finding work that’s worth doing.

And then, with that moral weighing heavy, it goes back to 2017.  The swing is fixed, meaning their final project together is over.  And, of course, the man who petitioned them to do it in the first place?  Yeah, he doesn’t care.  But that’s the thing – all the work they did as government employees, it was never about appeasing the public.  It was about finding tasks to take on together, about working together and alongside each other, about figuring out how to put differences aside and build up each other’s strengths.  It has always been, and will always be, about the people.  After all, work is third.  Friends?  They come first (except sometimes waffles are first).

Fittingly, in the last scene of the show, Garry asks everyone to take a group picture.  As they all stand together, side-by-side, Ben turns to Leslie and asks if she’s ready.  Her response?  Yes.  Yes, she’s ready.

Some other moments from the stellar episode:
  • Leslie and Garry’s song about the coffeepot, complete with Garry dressed as coffeepot just for Tom to comment, “Come on Garry, you’re the mayor now.  Have some dignity.”
  • “I came in ninth in Italy’s Got Talent.  I served on a NASCAR pit crew.”  Clearly Donna is thriving in the future.
  • Leslie’s beautiful goodbye to Craig: “You know, Craig, when I first met you, I thought, ‘There’s a man who loves his job.’  And then I thought, ‘Oh wow, he’s intense.’  And then I thought, ‘Oh no.  He’s insane.  That person is psychotic and I need to call the police.’”
  • Ron was Typhoon’s best man!  You guys!  Ron was Typhoon’s best man!!!
  • Andy’s overly romantic plea to get April to consider having a baby: “I want to put a babe in you, babe.”  I’m swooning.
  • Okay, but the picture of April, Andy, and Champion in her delivery room that is so reminiscent of their picture in “Summer Catalog”.  I cried.  I cried a lot.
  • April and Andy’s ideas for baby names: Burt Macklin, Jr.; Demon Spawn Baby Satan Dwyer; and the winner, Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-lantern Dwyer, Jack for short.  I was a mess at everything during the episode, but the fact that they named him Jack was the first moment that really got me, because he was so obviously named after Chris Pratt’s son Jack.  This show, you guys.
  • That moment between Leslie and Jean-Ralphio, though.  He’s always loved her.  I’m not convinced that they aren’t the real love story of the show, but then again, I’m biased because, as you all know, Jean-Ralphio Saperstein is the love of my life.
  • “Leslie?  I’ve always loved you.”  “I know.”  SEE?
  • The fact that Garry’s name is spelled wrong on his tombstone is just…so perfectly Garry.  Even more perfect?  Leslie commenting, “Ugh, close enough,” after Ben pointed it out.
  • Leslie shooting down any oppositions Ron may have had about taking the job at Pawnee National Park: “Your job would be to walk around the land alone, you’d live in the same town you’ve always lived in, you’d work outside, you’d talk to bears.”
  • “I’m gonna take this energy and I’m gonna go crush Joe Biden in charades.”
  • “Hey Jen, I didn’t know you were here.”  “I’m everywhere.”  “What?”  In an alternate universe, Jen Barkley is president of everything.
  • Ben’s outrage that Jen considers Cones of Dunshire to be a potential issue for his campaign when it’s the ninth highest selling multi-player figurine-based strategy fantasy sequel game in history.  She just doesn’t get it.  Ugh.
  • Leslie’s pure joy at seeing Ann made me weep.  And weep and weep and weep.  She loves her precious unicorn so much!
  • Ann and Chris are wearing wedding rings, so it’s safe to assume that they got married somewhere along the way.  HAPPY ENDINGS EVERYWHERE, YOU GUYS.
  • Leslie giving Chris a list of compliments to pay Ann because let’s be real, no one could ever love Ann the way Leslie does.
  • Andy forgetting Chris’ name.  You GUYS.  It was hilarious, and kind of a subtle reminder that for as much as all of these people love each other, not everyone in this group has spent as much time with each other.  Chip Trager, you guys.
  • Leslie and Ann’s joy over Oliver and Sonia spending time together and hopefully falling in love.  Because of course they’re going to fall in love, right?  After all, with Ann and Chris back in Pawnee, you know those kids are going to be spending a lot of time with each other.  I can see it now: Sonia Knope-Wyatt-Perkins-Trager.
  • The fact that Tom’s first book includes a section of personality quizzes that correspond to each of his friends is one thing, but his total confusion when Ben says he got Tom the last time he took the quiz was everything.  Ben and Tom’s dynamic has always been one of my favorites, so I’m so glad that they got one last moment together.
  • The fact that when in addition to bestowing an honorary doctorate upon Leslie, Indiana University also names a library after her was everything.  Because sometimes life just isn’t fair, and no matter how hard you work, no matter how had you accomplish, you just can’t escape those punk ass book jockeys.
That’s it for “One Last Ride,” and, tragically, that’s it for Parks and Recreation.  I hope you all enjoyed this final season as much as I did, because for me, it truly cemented the show’s statuses as one of the best in history.  I have loved every second we’ve spent with these characters, and the fact that it’s all over now is such a huge loss.

With that, I’m gonna go fake my death and use the insurance money to open a casino.  See you in Tajikistan, nerds!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 2

Last week, we kicked off our first installment of a new weekly series titled "This Week's TV MVPs," where every week a bunch of distinguished blogger friends of mine and I will examine the performances on television and write about who made our "most valuable performers" list. This week is a bit unique because it was the week in which the seven-year series Parks and Recreation drew to a close in one of the most sentimental, sweet, lovely ways possible. We loved "One Last Ride" and thought everyone in the cast was so exceptional that this week, those of us who are fans of the series picked TWO MVPs: one from Parks and Recreation and one from another television series in order to honor the NBC comedy's final episode.

Joining me this week are:
So let's get to it, then! Here are some of the best performers on television this week!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Suits 4x15 "Intent" (The One You Love Most)

Original Airdate: February 25, 2015

Lately on my favorite television shows, there seems to be one central question being asked: how far would you go to protect the person who means the most to you? In Arrow, it's clear that Oliver would do anything for the person he loves most (his baby sister, Thea). In Suits' penultimate episode of this season, it's extremely evident that Harvey Specter would do anything  in the world to protect Donna and make sure that she is safe. In a lot of ways, Oliver and Harvey are similar -- they're both stubborn, unconventional in their methods, and have difficulty verbally expressing how they feel. That's why Oliver lost Felicity the first time: he couldn't tell her how he felt. He couldn't tell her that she meant so much to him. In "Intent," the same thing almost happens to Harvey. He almost turns around and walks out of Donna's apartment doing the same thing he always does: masking his feelings behind insinuations. Instead, this episode marked a turning point in Harvey and Donna's relationship because I think that the threat of actually losing her hit way too close for comfort this time around.

Matters of the heart don't just fall on Harvey and Donna in "Intent," though. As we know from last week's episode, Jeff broke it off with Jessica, rather angrily. And he did so because she lied to him. Because she's spent their entire relationship lying to him and it doesn't seem to affect her. So in "Intent," Jessica decides to do what she should have done years ago: open herself up. Harvey and Jessica are a lot alike and the parallels in this episode are very subtle but important in terms of their respective relationships.