By Josh Axelrod
It’s not a “Parks and Recreation” GIF, but this is how every fan of the series should be feeling after watching that finale:
I still can’t believe it’s over. I binged the first six seasons last spring, and now I’m kicking myself for not having more time with what quickly became my favorite TV comedy. Thank Li’l Sebastian this show is immortalized on Netflix. I don’t want to live in a world where I go a week without seeing Ron Swanson’s mustache or April Ludgate’s scowl.
“Parks and Rec” has this way of seeping into your life without you even know it’s happening. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself saying “literally” so I could change it to “litrally.” Or how often I’ve used #treatyoself as a justification for spending lavishly. Or the amusement I always get from the Knope Compliments generator. Oh Ann, you gorgeous, simple house cat.
“One Last Ride” was everything you want in a series finale. It gave the gang a final chance to make Pawnee a little bit better, showed us a glimpse into every major characters’ future, and it reminded us how this group of Indiana weirdos became a family over the course of seven seasons. Oh, and Leslie’s daughter fell in love with Ann’s son (yes, a “Parks” finale couldn’t have happened without an appearance from Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger). Leslie is probably still hugging her bestie.
Season 7 had set every character up on a new journey. Leslie and Ben were moving to D.C. because they knew Ben was destined to become a congressman. Andy and April were also moving to the district for April’s new job. Tom and Lucy were engaged, and Tom’s Bistro was thriving. Donna and Joe were set to move to Seattle. Garry was the interim mayor and had yet to do anything stupid. And Ron was going to stay in Pawnee with his family and Very Good Building and Development Company.
The episode was framed around the gang fixing a park swing set, one last task for the Knope squad to complete together. The other clever framing device came in the form of Leslie saying her goodbyes to everyone. Every time she touched someone, we would get a glimpse of what their futures held. And for the most part, everything made perfect sense.
Donna’s vignette was probably the weakest. She and Joe stuck together, adventuring all over the world with their home base in Seattle. Donna eventually settled down though, giving Joe money from their adventure fund to help keep a math program alive at his school and started an NGO with April’s help (appropriately called Teach Yo Self). It was all just so tame for Donna Meagle. Even Tom was disappointed in Regal Meagle’s path, minus the diamond watch. At least we’ll always have April making Ginuwine cry at her wedding.
Every other time jump was more or less perfect though. April and Andy brought back Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole for Halloween before going to Leslie and Ben to decide if having children was in their future. It turned out they would end up having two kids because their love is forever and I’M GOING TO MISS ANDY AND APRIL SO MUCH IT HURTS. Sorry, composure regained.
Let’s see, what else? Garry was elected Pawnee’s mayor 10 times before dying peacefully (of course, his last name was misspelled on his tombstone). Jean Ralfio faked his death and ran off with Mona Lisa to start a casino in Tajikistan. Craig married Typhoon and had thousands of regrets, because Craig is psychotic.
Tom tried to expand his business, which failed miserably and forced him into a new career as a motivational speaker and best-selling author of “Failure: An American Success Story.” Tom’s life was always about looking sharp and talking a big game, so making his ability to craft a pitch the focal point of his success felt right. Considering all his failed businesses, it was also fitting that failure played into his eventual calling in life. Of course, his own success is still probably the second most baller thing Tom has ever seen.
Ron never went anywhere, but he eventually left his company to pursue something that felt more fulfilling (including buying a 51 percent stake in Lagavulin). Of course, that meant going to Leslie for help. She pulled some government strings to make Ron the head ranger at the national park built on the Newport land outside of Pawnee. Sure, he’d be working for the federal government, but he he’ll get to be alone in nature all day every day. Ron and Leslie’s friendship has always been the lynchpin of this show, and this moment was just as sweet as when they made up earlier this season.
And of course, that left Ben and Leslie. A few years from now, Pawnee’s most successful couple faced a big dilemma when they were both tapped to run for governor of Indiana. Of course Ben, being the perfect husband he is, let Leslie run. And of course she won and even had a library named after her at Indiana University. The way Amy Poehler delivered the line “a f****** library?” as everyone around her applauded should earn her an Emmy.
The final shot of the series was the gang, back in 2017, gathering around for a group photo. The camera zoomed into Leslie, who when Ben asked if she was ready, answered with a fast, self-assured, “Yes. I’m ready.” All the tears.
Admittedly, the finale didn’t leave me an emotional mess like the end of “The Office” did. Then again, that was a “Toy Story 3”-level tearjerker. The “Parks” finale was more interested in sincerity than anything else, which is what made the show such a joy to watch in the first place. I’ve always said that “Parks” is like “The Office” if the employees of Dunder Mifflin actually liked each other. Watching the “Parks” gang work together one last time to solve a problem while Leslie complimented everyone (even Jean Ralfio) was the only way to send off a show about workplace proximity acquaintances who genuinely loved each other.
We’ll miss you “Parks and Rec,” and the endless hours of hilarity you brought to our lives. Take us home Mouserat: