Parks and Recreation is determined to come up with a season long arc, and so far, Leslie's (Amy Poehler) idea for a merger with rival town Eagleton is proving to be a good one. This week, the department took on their Eagleton counterparts in order to learn the lay of the land. Ultimately, the episode feels a little light because no matter how much we may want to see more of the Eagleton Parks Department, there was no way the cast was going to double in size, but the conceit was funny enough that it doesn't matter whatsoever.
April (Aubrey Plaza) is back to full agent-of-chaos mode, first rebranding Jerry (whose actual name is Gary) as "Larry Gengrich," and then torturing her doppleganger, Tynnyfer (June Diane Raphael) by mimicing her vapid cluelessness and tricking her into quitting her job and breaking into Dwayne Wade's house in Miami. Ron (Nick Offerman) slowly realizes that his counterpart, played by Sam Elliott and also named Ron, might be another mustachioed man of few words with a love of the outdoors, but while Ron is a libertarian suvivalist and meat-lover, Eagleton Ron is a vegan enviornmental crusader and nut nut ("They make wonderful milks"). They go from instant friends to instant enemies, and it's nice to see the slow build of things our Ron hates coming out of an increasingly gleeful Alterna-Ron's mouth. The only downside to so many great day players was that aside from Leslie's attempts to figure out who to fire, we didn't get to see any of our usual inter-character chemisty. Tom (Aziz Ansari), in particular, was stranded alone in his struggle to conceal that his doppleganger was a super-efficient computer program called E.R.I.C by constructing a fictional drug-dealing, racist, messy jerk identity for Eric who does, indeed, get fired.
And despite all these machinations, Leslie would have never fired someone from the main cast tonight, not just because they are under contract for the rest of the season, but because after recieving the news that Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ann (Rashida Jones) are planning to move out of Pawnee, she becomes hyper loyal, panicking about the loss of a friend by hanging on desperately to her employees, even attempting to get them to sign a Loyalty Agreement that binds them to the town for 50 years. Though Ann tries to soften the bad news with a plate of waffles and a picture of a shirtless Joe Biden riding a horse, Leslie still feels betrayed.
If only things were as easy as they are for Chris and Ben (Adam Scott), who have become close again over the last few episodes but dealt with the news in a mature and kind way. But Leslie's panic is understandable and totally in character. Additionally, Ann is pretty much nowhere to be found in what should have been a much bigger episode for her. Even as Leslie constantly reminds us how they are best friends who love working together, she spends far more time seeking advice from Ron and working with the rest of the department. If there was ever a time to show their friendship and its tightness, it was here. And with Pawnee becoming extreme in its unhealthiness (Chris orders a "salad" filled with gummy worms, cheese, a gumball, and toffee) and this merger giving her a natural break in her job, it's hard to tell exactly how she feels about leaving or about starting a new life with Chris. While it does seem best for the show to lose Ann as Ben becomes a more logical anchor in Leslie's life, that doesn't mean Ann should be unceremoniously shipped off. And the abrupt ending of the episode, which cuts to black just as Ann and Leslie sit down to talk, felt confusing, as the audience doesn't really know the answers to what they're talking about. Hopefully, next week we'll get a chance to hang out with both characters as they think about how to say goodbye.
Questions, Comments, Concerns:This week's stray observations will be used as a shrine to Craig, Donna's doppleganger, who was played by Billy Eichner, was the only Eagleton member left on the "maybe" side of returning vs. being fired, and was by far the most quotable. Case in point:"Donna? That is the perfect name for you. I love it, don't ever change it.""I wanted to be a Spanish man named Terrance, but that didn't happen." "I carried the Eagleton Department on my back and I loved every second of it, you don't even know!" (You have to imagine that this is at a shrill, manic pitch capable of waking the dead.)"You want me to put Bermuda grass in a continental climate that's a six on the Beauford scale in a park with zero drainage? I want Kentucky Bluegrass, I want a 10 percent discount, and I want you to apologize to my best friend Donna!" "I have a medical condition all right. It's called caring too much... and it's incurable! Also I have excema." "I'm halfway through designing a bamboo gazebo as a tribute to the founders of Motown.""My DVR is pregnant with 13 months' worth of Scandal."
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.