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'Parks and Recreations' Offers ‘One Last Ride’ in Series Finale

by Photo of Sean Driscoll

We say farewell to Pawnee after seven awesome seasons.

'Parks and Recreations' Offers ‘One Last Ride’ in Series Finale

In this article…

The opening shot of the season finale of Parks and Recreations promised a walk down memory lane, as Leslie starts to delve into the extremely detailed history she has kept of the time spent with her workplace proximity associates. What the finale actually delivered was a delightful and memorable stroll through the futures of Pawnee's most devoted civil servants. 

As Jerry bursts into a choreographed song wearing a coffee pot outfit, delivering himself as the enthusiastic punchline once again, it was a sure sign that this finale was going to contain only the purest, most hilarious and perfect moments for these characters. The show took the time jump concept that has worked so well to deliver an interesting season, and pushed it forward to deliver an extremely satisfying conclusion to these beloved characters. 

For Donna, we see her step away from her wild and materialistic adventures, and towards the non-profit sector to help support her husband Joe. She takes her “Treat yo’ self” money and starts a “Teach yo’ self” program, highlighting Donna’s desire for a shared adventure, one with shared community benefits. While Keegan-Michael Key has only embodied the character of Joe for two seasons, it is clear how perfect Donna and him are for each other, giving Donna the happiness she deserves. This relationship serves as another example of how well crafted the universe of Pawnee is.

For April and Andy, or Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole, the future holds the prospect of kids, a choice they are divided on. Andy, the perpetual child himself, sees only the possibility of fellow playmates, while April, having taken so many steps towards adulthood, is rebelling against the final leap. It is inevitably Leslie’s words, or rather her idea of  “building a team”,  that help them reach their conclusion. As we see a year later on Halloween, April is ready for delivery, having donned her ghoulish makeup after she went into labor, with Andy there to start up “Monster Mash” for her. With that, we get introduced to their first child, Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-Lantern Dwyer, or Jack for short, and see how far a Parks internship and a shoe shine job can get you in Pawnee. 

Even Craig and Jean-Ralphio get their well deserved moment (well, maybe not Jean-Ralphio). Craig’s crooning at Tom’s Bistro helps him to finally find a lifetime love with Typhoon, but not without his usual list of regrets. It seemed for a moment that Jean-Ralphio had met his untimely demise, as the show jumps forward and lands on his gravestone in 2022. But his highly coiffed hair is seen sticking out from behind a tree at his funeral. He was seen celebrating his latest insurance scam with his sister Mona Lisa so they can open a casino in Tajikistan. In a cleverly hidden easter egg, we see that he was at least successful enough to start his own champagne line, as Craig and Typhoon sip on some as old men together.  

The most powerful man in Pawnee, Mayor Garry Gergich, gets a fine and deserving sendoff as a long serving mayor with the most beautiful family, a large penis, and a respectable legacy. Dying in his sleep on his 100th birthday, his funeral see’s the Parks crew together again in 2048, paying respects to the man they rarely respected and whose own name got misspelled on his tombstone. 

When Ron Swanson, the hard-headed, meat loving libertarian who has served as a mentor, adviser and occasional opponent to the relentless optimism of Leslie Knope, found himself in a vulnerable crisis, he knew exactly where to look for his answers. As the tragic rift between Ron and Leslie, which served as a major plot point early this season, was caused by him not receiving the advice he desperately needed from Leslie, he knew not to make that mistake again. What he received in return was the ultimate reward for his growth (both as a person and work colleague): the opportunity to run Pawnee National Park. 

Thomas M. Haverford, mini mogul and responsible tycoon, faced many professional setbacks since he began his work with the Parks department. There was the spectacular failure of Entertainment 720 and the business defeat of Rent-A-Swag. That is why it was unsurprising to see Tom’s Bistro go bust after an attempted expansion, even after playing it safe. That being said, Tom is never without his next idea. That is what keeps him motivated, and his ability to reflect on those failures provides the platform for his next success. It was fitting for Tom to unveil a self help book based on the positive attributes of his coworkers, as long as everyone remembers not to be a Garry. 

Leslie and Ben have been the emotional core of the show for the past four seasons, portraying one of the strongest marriages on television, which makes their continuing and devoted support so fitting as we watch their political careers soar. They're invited to Joe Biden’s house for dinner (and charades), and both are approached separately to run for Governor of Indiana. The mutual appreciation and love they share leads both to realize they can't choose, so Leslie suggest a they leave the decision of who should run to a coin flip. Ben won't let it get that far, and tells the whole group that Leslie is running for Governor. It's a selfless act that Leslie would have reciprocated if Ben hadn't first, and it was a wonderful moment to watch.      

While Leslie’s story only takes us as far as 2035, where she is giving a commencement speech for Indiana University, the real scope of Ben and Leslie’s political careers is only hinted at. During Garry’s funeral in 2048, we see a small secret service detail behind the couple, one stepping forward to let them know it is time to go. With the ambiguity of the scene, the viewer is left to decide which one (or possibly both) become President of the United States. 

For Parks and Recreations, this series finale managed to be emotionally rich and ludicrously cheerful, two of the finer points the series have always managed to deliver over the past seven seasons. While the show was originally based around Leslie Knope, a radically optimistic civil servant who wants to make the biggest outcome possible, the ensemble eventually became the biggest star. The show managed to create a weird and epic world in the City of Pawnee, one filled with raccoon infestations, famous mini horse’s, and Literally the greatest waffles in the world. Going out on a high note is a particularly difficult feat, but in doing so, Parks and Recreations has made a spot for itself on the list of the greatest sitcoms, a fitting end for one of the most ambitious and heartfelt shows ever. Pawnee Forever. 

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