“I’ve only cried twice in my life. Once, when I was hit by a bus when I was seven years old. And when Lil’ Sebastian died.” – Ron Swanson
The third season finale of Parks and Rec laid to rest Pawnee’s favorite son, the shetland pony, Lil’ Sebastian. The horse went out with a huge celebration of his life, featuring original music and poetry and ceremonial torch lighting (that burned off Ron Swanson’s facial hair) and high end production values by Worldwide 720, which is a company that is founded, and now run, by Jean Ralphio and Tom Haverford.
The passing of Lil’ Sebastian, and the hilarity that ensues, really highlights the show’s number one strength: its writing, which has somehow established Lil’ Sebastian as a pantheon of Pawnee’s culture with little more than two appearances over the course of three seasons (albeit both in season 3).
His death has really rocked this world, and its characters, and has a very distinct effect on each of their lives that really propels their stories into what I will imagine be a very highly anticipated fourth season.
But the episode also ended on several clff hangers, leaving most of the main characters in some sort of flux: Leslie could be a future mayoral candidate with a secret relationship with her co-worker, a relationship that would undoubtedly be used against her by Pawnee’s weirdly accurate depiction of local politics; Ron is facing the return of his first ex-wife – Tammy 1 – who is apparently so evil that she makes Tammy 2 scamper away in fear; Tom has left the parks department to join forces with Jean Ralphio at entertainment company Worldwide 720 (you know, because they go around the world twice); April is now managing Andy’s band, Mouse Rat, and while I’m fairly certain their relationship could survive anything (the wedding episode might have been the show’s best, and that’s saying a lot), it wil undoubtedly be tested as April serves this dual role; And Chris is suddenly faced with his own mortality, realizing he won’t live to be a 150, and instead is a 42 year old man in the second half of his life.
With all that happening, and what I didn’t realzie until I saw it a second time the other night, is that the writers managed to make most of these narrative change because of Lil’ Sebastian’s death: After a succesful Harvest Festival and now a highly succesful and touching tribute to the horse, Leslie has raised her profile locally and is now considered a viable political cadidate; having produced the tribute to Sebstian, Tom believes Worldwide 720 has enough clout and power to actually bcome worldwide (the epidsode’s tag featuring their new headquarters was absolutely perfect); Chris relates his sudden health problems (tendonitis) to his own mortality, and the death of Sebastian rocks him emotionally, forcing him rexamine his priorities; Mouse Rat now has some clout, having performed their song “5,000 Candles in the Wind” at the tribute; And while its not apparent how Ron’s future will be effected by the horse, Ron continues to evolve into the father of this group, handing out advice and wisdom that will no doubt come back to haunt him in later episodes (his advice to Tom is pure Ron Effing Swanson).
So, where does that leave us? Wanting more Parks and Rec. Honestly, I’m a little worried about upcoming seasons. I have faith in the writers and producers, don’t get me wrong. But its some of the same team that was the brain trust behind The Office, and I would argue that the third season of that show was its peak, and everything subsequent to season three has not lived up to its near perfect execution. I hope Parks and Rec doesn’t fall prey to that, and that the best season of the Pawnee crew is still somewhere out there, waiting for us to discover it.
Until then, I leave you with Lil’s Sebastian’s webpage, where you can see the Parks and Rec crew fall head over heels for the horse.
Peace Out, Lil’ Sebastian