Parks and Recreation Keeps Viewers Engaged

Ben and Leslie are engaged! Two weeks ago, Parks and Recreation fans were in for an exciting surprise when Ben (Adam Scott) shocked Leslie (Amy Poehler) with an adorable marriage proposal. 

For anyone who hasn’t watched Parks and Rec (and shame on you), Leslie Knope, everyone’s favorite bureaucrat-turned-city councilwoman, and her boyfriend, Ben Wyatt, have, since the beginning of the fifth season, been struggling to keep up their long-distance relationship while Leslie honorably upholds her elected office in Pawnee, Indiana and Ben works for a congressional campaign in Washington, D.C. Having proven his awesome campaign skills, Ben seemed set to stay in D.C. and pursue his talents on other campaigns—or so we thought. Not until the very end of the episode did we discover that Ben chooses Leslie over his career.

After I squealed for approximately two and a half minutes in reaction to such a satisfying surprise ending, an inevitable question popped into my head: “So, what’s next?”

After all, in many television shows, stable, lasting relationships are rare simply because they lack a certain dynamism and cannot be sustained throughout multiple seasons. Thus, we get Rachel and Ross, Blair and Chuck, Skylar and Walter White, Don Draper and everyone. So, as strange as it may seem, my extreme happiness was followed by a pretty bad state of bummed-ness. How could Parks and Rec manage to sustain Ben and Leslie’s relationship?

Aside from my worries, we can see the storytelling benefits that arise from such an engagement: most important, the wedding—the frenzy, the excitement, the mishaps, the sense of finality. More immediately, we see Leslie and Ben’s union necessitate fresh, funny characters.

In the next episode, in which Leslie hosts her engagement party, we meet Ben’s frighteningly deadpan father and his quirky, bitter mother, who are divorced and hate each other. And did I mention his father’s super young, super sassy girlfriend Ulani? Well, it turns out she’s pregnant, which causes a whole new bundle of problems for Ben and Leslie.

In regard to my fatalistic fears of Bleslie’s (Len’s?) demise, perhaps I have overlooked something quite important: the stylistic quality Parks and Recreation has achieved over the course of its five seasons.

Ask any fan of Parks and Rec, and you will hear that, in comparison to the first two seasons, the show has really hit its stride, devoting all its narrative love to the unique, well-crafted characters and their mundane yet hilarious interactions in Pawnee’s Department of Parks and Recreation. So, at the end of the day, whether Ben and Leslie stay together or not, I still have faith in the artistry of the writers, directors and actors, knowing that whatever comes to pass will be compelling and hilarious.

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