February 11th, 2010
I wrote about Valentine’s Day episodes on Wednesday night, and in the process I argued that I prefer shows which use the holiday to service their existing universe rather than forcing their universe to conform to the holiday. Accordingly, I was legitimately excited about how Parks was going to handle the holiday, because the show has a lot of characters in love, falling in love, or in a position where love is possible but perhaps not materializing as they might have wanted.
“Galentine’s Day” manages to handle those relationships with a subtlety beyond most shows in their second season, building the episode around a romantic story which loses its romance once it enters reality, in the process shedding light on the state of the show’s various relationships. And since, as noted, I’m more invested in these relationships than I had realized, it made for a great episode for a lot of different characters.
I’ll get it out of the way now that I don’t particularly believe that Ann would legitimately consider Andy in a romantic way, or at least in the way the show is insinuating. I understand that they have a history, and that seeing Andy turn his life around would make Ann nostalgic for the simple times, the times you fall in love with the guy in the band because you’re young and carefree. But while the show has sold us as an audience on Andy’s inherent sweetness, and while I get that Mark is sort of boring by comparison, I think Ann is too mature for the kind of relationship she had with Andy.
Or maybe I’m just revealing that I am fully on “Team April” in this instance. They have similar arcs in the episode, as we see their respective partners (Mark, and April’s two boyfriends) put themselves out there and end up saying the wrong things: the boyfriends continue to treat April’s life as irony, refusing to accept that she would have changed in any way, while Mark is a “good” boyfriend but has to ask if he’s doing okay, as if he’s playing a role for her sake. I like Mark, but Ann is clearly not in love with him, and so I buy Ann getting nostalgic for the good times with Andy, imagining this new, more mature, version of the dude she probably once “loved.” However, April was there first, and it feels like a relationship with Andy is necessary for April to continue her self-discovery free from pure cynicism, while Ann has other avenues of self-actualization to follow (even if they’re not with Mark).
I’m excited to see where that goes, and more importantly invested in where it goes, but I thought the show was just as strong definitively ending the relationship between Justin and Leslie, and bringing Tom’s love for his fake wife to a sad conclusion. Justin Theroux was great in the role, but I love that the show ended their relationship based on Leslie’s terms, and that Justin wasn’t turned into a total douchebag in the process. Rather, as Ron (proving protective of Leslie just as she was protective of him last week) points out, he is a “tourist,” and the problems therein (of no real connection, of using people in a non-spiteful way) are a great way to get the character out of the picture without sending Leslie or Justin to a dark place. Similarly, Tom’s attempts to blackmail Wendy into dating him were all sorts of sad, and he certainly took it too far with his request for alimony, but it was something the show had to do, and they did it without turning Wendy into a terrible person (or Tom into one who is too pathetic to be funny – the coda, with Tom as the child within Leslie and Justin’s breakup, was great).
It was an episode that managed to make the end of relationships and the start of potential new relationships feel natural, which is a nice transition point heading into the Olympics break.
- I don’t have a whole lot to say about John Larroquette: he’s funny, the character was a bit one-note but quite funny, and his complete lack of chemistry with Pamela Reed was perfectly played.
- Leslie will keep getting love interests, but I wonder if there will ever be anyone who can live up to Louis C.K.’s Dave, or for that matter anyone who will care as much about her as Ron (not that I think they’ll go to a romantic place, but still).
- I loved Justin Theroux excited reading of “We took a ROAD TRIP, Leslie!” In some ways, his character suicide was the non-farcical version of what happened to Jon Hamm on 30 Rock, in that one of his most positive traits (his worldliness) becomes his greatest flaw, but it was really nicely played.
- As Jaime Weinman noted on Twitter before I got around to watching the episode, the John Mayer joke Re: Jennifer Aniston was more topical than they could have realized.