With last season’s incredible, series finale-worthy ending “Moving Up,” it would be easy for showrunners Dan Goor and Michael Schur (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) to play it safe for the final season. But that’s not what makes “Parks and Recreation” one of the greatest television comedies of the last 20 years. The joy of watching “Parks and Rec” doesn’t come from the humor alone, but from seeing people who love one another help each other reach their goals. Season seven begins by taking all of that love and putting it through the grinder.

“Parks and Recreation”

A
Season 7 Premiere
NBC
Tuesdays at 8 p.m.


It has been three years since Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live”) promotion to Midwest Regional Director of the National Parks Service, and Pawnee has changed a great deal. The Newport family — antagonists throughout the series — are selling a huge plot of land, and Leslie hopes to convince them to turn it into a National Park. Unfortunately, there’s someone standing in her way whom she hates so much as to not even mention his name: Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman, “22 Jump Street”).

After an unexplained event ominously referred to as “Morningstar,” Swanson has left the Parks Department and created a new company named Very Good Building and Development. His client is tech startup company, Gryzzl, who plans on using the land to build the “Gryzzl Campus.”

Seeing the hearing where Leslie turns around to see Ron Swanson greet her with a cold, “Hello, Ms. Knope,” felt like a stab in the heart. Their different stances on government have always been a source of tension but it’s never gotten in the way of their friendship. With season seven, Goor and Schur make the viewer feel what it’s like for politics to divide a family.

The tension is amplified by the fact that we understand the principles that have led both Ron and Leslie to this point in time. For such a surprising twist, the Ron and Leslie face-off feels almost inevitable as the underlying question of the show: What is the role of government? It’s almost absurd that such a pressing question is more intelligently posed by a sitcom than journalists, Nancy Grace and politicians. However, “Parks and Recreation” isn’t a soapbox, and showrunners Goor and Schur open this final season with gusto and wit.

Guest stars Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) and Werner Herzog (“On Death Row”) make great use of their small roles and real-life personalities. Recurring characters like Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins, “MAD TV”), Tammy Two (Megan Mullally, “Will and Grace”) and Councilman Jamm (University alum Jon Glaser, “Delocated”) are also excellent, with the latter two’s new relationship taking center stage for the second episode “Ron and Jammy.” Mullally, Glaser, and Collins have provided some of the series’ most memorable laughs and it’s great seeing them get a last minute spotlight as we enter the home stretch.

“Parks and Recreation” has provided some of the funniest and most human moments of television of any genre in the last 20 years. It has made us laugh and cry — often at the same time — and it will be hard to say goodbye later this year. However, it’s also comforting to know that the beginning of the end was just as special as all that came before.

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