Thursday Comedy Roundup: Parks and Recreation 5.06

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Parks and Recreation, Season 5, Episode 6, “Ben’s Parents”
Written by Greg Levine
Directed by Dean Holland
Airs Thursdays at 9:30pm ET on NBC

In the wake of the first half of Breaking Bad’s fifth season, it’s hard to imagine anything more cathartic than Mike Ehrmantraut staring Ron Swanson down over the last piece of bacon-wrapped shrimp. Of course, he’s no longer Mike Ehrmantraut. He’s Steven Wyatt, Ben’s dad, but that doesn’t mean Jonathan Banks isn’t drawing his performance from the same well. You get the sense that nobody would be surprised to find out Steven Wyatt had committed Mike Ehrmantraut’s crimes.

Ben’s mom is no less unlike him. Jealousy over Steven’s new, and much younger, girlfriend (portrayed by Children’s Hospital’s Kulap Vilaysack)  drives her seemingly kind soul to commit desperate acts.  There’s no other excuse for destroying Leslie’s painstakingly crafted unity quilt. The discrepancies between the personalities of Ben’s parents and his own provide much of the comedy in this episode, but they also deliver some insight into Ben’s character as well. His desire to run for office at such a young age could’ve been a means of escape or an attempt to impress what seem to be two habitually dissatisfied parents.

This episode also continues to develop Chris’s depression, which has hopefully reached its nadir. To continue much further down this path could border on the unbearable, but it’s good that Chris is recognizing that change is necessary. Tom seems to realize the same thing as he attempts to get Rent-a-Swag off the ground. He finally sees Jean Ralphio not as an inspiration but as the buffoon he is, dragging Tom’s ideas down before they have a chance to grow. This sign of maturity inspires Ron to invest some of his stockpiled gold bullion into Tom’s venture, so an episode surrounding Rent-a-Swag is likely in our future.

This is a pretty comfortable episode of Parks. It develops a lot of arcs that have been brewing over the course of the season while providing some moments of growth and insight for several characters. It’s not a marquee episode, but it possesses the cohesiveness that was lacking in the engagement episode and suggests a way forward for what’s been a rather tentative fifth season.

Justin Wier

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