“Flu Season 2.0” was a big, strange episode that spent a lot of time circling around the fact that Leslie is pregnant. In a show that has had plenty of big moments in this season alone, this comes as pretty much the biggest, and along the way it also wipes clean a lot of the problems Parks has had since losing Ann and Chris. Since then, the biggest things going on in Pawnee have been the merger and the big unity concert that’s set to end the season. But neither of these have felt important in the wake of so much else, as their effect on the characters themselves is minimal, whereas Leslie’s pregnancy is huge and exciting, and it’s also complicated her plans to leave Pawnee.
Back to the episode itself, though: despite the title’s little bait-and-switch, it’s obvious very early on that Leslie’s pregnant, as she has all the tell-tale signs of television pregnancy (in other words, she throws up a bunch). It’s so obvious that when Andy offers Leslie some helpful advice much later in the episode, for a few seconds it actually looks like he’s picked up on this, though the much more logical explanation that he thought she was going to adopt a dog was a great joke. What I liked about this story, too, was that the pregnancy got out of the way early, so it became an interesting subtext for everything else Leslie did in the episode. Her conversations with Jeff Tweedy wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting, even though their dialogue would barely need to be tweaked, and Amy Poehler did a great job of depicting Leslie soldiering on through this personal crisis, determined not to let it affect her even when there’s no way it can’t.
At the same time, Ben and Ron go on a very silly bonding session after drinking a great deal of blueberry wine. Ben can’t hold his liquor, and is soon extremely drunk, but there’s also interesting pathos here. Parks’ was a tad heavy-handed in making Ben quite so emotional about his family selling away its vacation home, but Adam Scott is a strong enough actor to pull this off. Yes, it’s overly perfect that he comes home and immediately wants to talk about having children just when Leslie’s found out she’s pregnant, but it’s still a beautiful fantasy. There’s also something to be said for the way Parks didn’t make all of this into a big drama, turning it into a plot arc where Leslie hides her pregnancy like in so many other shows. Instead, it’s simply that they love each other and are happy for this accident. There may have been too much plotting here, but at least the sentiments were wonderful and can’t be faulted much.
Meanwhile, Tom and the others are tasting wine in a search for a sommelier to work at his restaurant. The main purpose for this is to offer up an entertaining way to get Craig more integrated with the cast and really give him a real role on the show. Since Billy Eichner first showed up, it’s been obvious that he’s a natural fit for Parks and Recreation, as he’s both aggressive and sweet at the same time. He scares everyone, but it’s always that he cares too much and not that he’s being mean. Both this story and Ben getting wasted were great ways of adding levity to what could have been a more serious episode. In contrast to what we saw last week, Tom’s sommelier search was a great example of how funny the show can be when its cast works together to get something done. I’m also glad the show’s found a better reason to have Craig around, and it seems likely he’ll join the permanent cast next season.
This was obviously a huge change for Parks, a 10-ton announcement that was impossible to see coming. It’s also, though, exactly what the show needed to return its focus back to the characters. It’s remarkable that for Parks, the characters growing up and having children feels natural, a perfect fit for both its themes and how it tells stories, whereas most other sitcoms balk at this sort of thing and will happily keep their characters in perpetual stasis. It’s also a sign of what makes Parks so special. Plus, who doesn’t imagine Ron’s infant soon playing with Leslie and Ben’s future child?