When Leslie was first introduced to April, their relationship was clear. Leslie was the kind of person who believed she was only as successful as her ability to entice someone to take her on as a role model. April was apathetic about all things political and was simply filling in a desk to waste some time. Leslie saw something in April, though. She saw the spark of something she recognized in herself, the thing that would ignite and burn sadistic April, allowing Leslie Jr. to rise from the ashes like a slow-moving molasses-covered phoenix. But really, Leslie was fooling herself. April wanted nothing to do with any of this. Leslie just had issues, and wasn’t able to read people.
Well, jokes on April, because despite Leslie’s best efforts, she started taking an interest in Pawnee, working in the office, rising up until she was in a position to pitch projects of her own. She fell in love with a fellow worker, and the two got married in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by coworkers they loved (and Jerry). She came into her own, dropping the sarcastic hipster facade just long enough to genuinely enjoy life, and maybe even take a good photo for the cover of Pawnee’s parks magazine.
Meanwhile, Leslie was watching from the wings, beaming with pride. I’m not entirely sure how much of Leslie’s influence rubbed off on April, or whether April’s transformation happened to be merely correlated with Leslie’s nagging. But Leslie took credit. And I can’t blame her for it.
This speaks to the way a lot of us live our lives. I don’t mean to go off on too far a tangent, but I occasionally get asked about my path as a journalist—what I did when, and why—by people who wish to recreate the steps. I’m able to spin them a yarn that is, I presume, helpful in some way. Or so I hope. By the end, it sounds like I took a very deliberate approach with my career, that every step was meticulously laid out, and the whole time, I was very aware of where I was about to go.
That’s horseshit, though. Anyone who tells you they had a plan their entire life and managed to stick relentlessly to it like a vat of slow-moving molasses (I very much liked that Sweetums disaster) is either a) lying, or b) boring. In my experience, it’s the people who are able to roll with the punches, taking advantage of whatever computer disappearances life throws at them, that find themselves the most successful. Sure, if you ask them later, they’ll be able to say that yes, thing one led to thing two, and so on. But I guarantee that when thing one ended and thing two had yet to begin, they were fucking terrified.
So yes, April is interested in politics now. Was that her plan? Probably not. Is she embracing it as much as she can? Yes. Does it take Leslie far too long to recognize this? Absolutely.
See, April comes to Leslie and wants to build a dog park on Lot 48, the spot behind Ann’s house. This is a personal project for Leslie, so she’s torn between her pride at April’s progress and her affinity for getting the job done, any and every job. They feud a bit, and slowly realize their hatred for Councilman Jamm (played yet again by expert dick-player Jon Glaser—God I miss Delocated) is what’s going to bring them together. There is compromise to be found that will save Ann Perkins from eating at a burger chain every night.
Leslie plans meticulously, but we’ve watched her over the last four seasons-and-some-change realize the important lesson that all the planning in the world cannot prepare you for what lies ahead. So yes, at first she balks at the idea of April riding her coattails, so to speak, and using Lot 48 for April’s own deeds instead of Leslie’s. After all, Leslie’s the one who put forth all that effort. But this is a new Leslie, not the same one from season one who believed that she could will herself into a better life. She’s open and honest with herself and others, and it’s a testament to this show that her friendship with April—something nobody could have predicted—has very naturally progressed to the point where I forgot they were once vehemently antagonistic toward one another.
The more Ben and Leslie hang around each other, the more I’m starting to see how similar they are. Ben, like Leslie, came from the mindset that there is a plan you must follow that leads to a good life, and veering away from that plan ruins everything. Leslie hangs photos of Joe Biden on her wall and deconstructs how he got where he got, and wants to emulate that. Ben doesn’t have as tangible a role model, only the idea of one, but it’s the same difference. He takes the job at the accounting firm because he believes certain things are meant to be easy. When he looks back on his time post-engagement to Leslie Knope, he wants to know he did all he could to best prepare for the future.
It’s only after his parade around Pawnee, on the arm of Tom and his Rent-A-Swag business, that he realizes there’s no point in coloring inside the lines. His foray into political campaign-running was a wild success. His attempt to breach the walls of his ironclad Pawnee job responsibilities to date Leslie was a wild success. Why shouldn’t the rest of his life be as carefree and fanciful? Because it’s terrifying? Welcome to real life, Ben Wyatt. Things are terrifying because they are important. And again, who could have predicted that Ben would throw caution to the wind to help Tom Haverford, of Entertainment 720 notoriety?
Meanwhile, Andy never has a plan. Well, he concocts schemes, which are different from plans in their longevity. He decided he wanted to be a police officer, so he went 100 percent into policing for, you know, a few months, even believing the recent robbery on government property was part of an elaborate test put out by one of his coworkers (perhaps Donna, who was taking her talents to South Beach at the time). Andy is the person who leads the noble life. All the characters on the show could do themselves a solid and take a cue from Andy. When he fails at anything, he dusts himself off and thinks about the next way he’s going to scrape his knees.
What a show, this Parks And Recreation, where Andy Dwyer is the voice of reason. You might be meeting Joe Biden one moment, but then you have to attend Orin’s terrifying “Human Farm” art installation the next. Whatever the case, there is no plan, only a great story of those two things happening within a few days of each other, and in hindsight finding the sense of it all.