“Ron & Tammy: Part Two”
February 10th, 2011
The most basic approach to a sequel is to make everything bigger: by taking everything one step further, you therefore make everything one step better.
However, I don’t know if this principle works for Tammy Swanson. I love Megan Mullally in this role, and I even enjoy this character and its impact on Ron Swanson, but the execution in “Ron & Tammy: Part Two” just didn’t connect like I think the show thought it did. It’s funny enough, I guess, but it feels like a trope: like one of those sequels where they just repeat what worked before and add a few bells and whistles (or, in this case, some cornrows and a genital piercing).
I actually thought the rest of the episode worked pretty well, and the show is still in good shape, but it felt a bit regressive if I’m truly being honest. The show is better when it’s subtle, at least for me, and the balance of this episode seems to have been a bit out of whack.
But just a bit.
There are some lovely runners in this episode. Jerry showing up for a reception, and then being revealed to be in attendance at Tammy’s bridal shower? Great. Ben’s love for Calzones, and the endless ribbing which results? Wonderful. Chris’ interactions with April? Continued strong work from Rob Lowe. I also felt that the central storyline regarding the Harvest Festival got some good mileage out of what was a pretty rudimentary storyline, with a nice beat about Leslie’s use of favors to help people, a reference back to Louis C.K.’s Dave, and that fun little scene where the different cops break down the dispute between Ron and Tammy.
And I even liked a whole lot of small moments in the Ron and Tammy storyline. I enjoy the idea that “Dancing on the Ceiling” is their song. I’m always a sucker for a good intervention. And the circumstances surrounding Wendy’s exit were very well handled, allowing for nice scenes for Ron and then Tom as we reach the end of the episode where the two characters get back on the same page. It’s not as though the show and its characters suddenly stop working when something else is introduced: Ron Swanson having recorded a message for himself in the instance of having reconciled with Tammy is going to be funny no matter what surrounds it.
I just didn’t think that the Tammy stuff worked this time around. Her absolute violence just seemed way too broad, especially her attack on Tom in the library during the climax. The over-the-top sexualized nature of those scenes had its moments, like Ron doing that thing that bulls do when they’re about to charge, so it’s not like I wasn’t entertained. I just thought that the show went there a few too many times, delivering so much “ridiculousness” that it overwhelmed everything else. Tammy was always out of control, but I think she crossed a line into sociopath territory which may have just been too much for the show to handle.
Perhaps it’s just that the “Part Two” moniker so clearly makes it seem like this is something we should be excited about. I don’t like this idea of guest star returns becoming a point of hype, especially not the central point of hype for an entire episode. This episode had plenty of other charms, elements which were to my mind more successful, but they seem to exist in the shadow of that larger story. This is a small complaint: they’re not erased by the Tammy Swanson material, and I think there’s some over-the-top appeal that holds its own sort of value. However, I do think that this is the most uneven of the six episodes screened, and would say that it might be time to find a new angle on Tammy Swanson for “Part Three.”
Or, really, just forgo “Part Three” entirely.
- Ron carrying Tom out of the library was a fun image, regardless of my feelings about that scene.
- That final Leslie/Ben exchange was just delightful, and a fine example of Scott and Poehler’s chemistry. It’s been on display a few times this season, don’t get me wrong, but this was the most blatant (especially given it was right after his extreme interest in her relationship with Dave).
- This is the first episode where my knowledge of previous episodes has impacted my attempt to review it the day it airs: as one might expect, there’ll be some movement on the Ann/Chris and April/Andy fronts in the weeks ahead, so look out for that.