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After seven years of following the lives of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation team, the journey has ended. This past month the entire final season aired on NBC and with every passing week I found myself sobbing as the credits rolled “I’m not ready!” But the Parks and Recreation finale played on, despite my protests, and left me full of hope, unlike some of it’s comedic predecessors. Pawnee Forever!
(WARNING: SPOILERS FOR FINALE AHEAD!)
Why the Parks and Recreation Finale made television history.
Jumped into the Future, but Didn’t Fall Flat
Many shows have tried to jump into the future during their finales, failing miserably as fans have been left wondering, “what?” Somehow, the Parks and Recreation finale, which spent the entire final season in the not-so-distant future of 2017, managed to escape this train-wreck by staying true to it’s roots. In the finale, though we jump to the future of each main character, the main plot point is structured the the way almost every previous episode has been: this great group of people coming together to solve a public service crisis.
Happy Endings can be Realistic
Each character gets their own happy ending, but not without the struggle it took to get them there. Tom has his bankruptcy and then turn-around career as an author, Ron working for the government again, but on terms that fit him like the perfect glove from Food and Stuff. Each story feels right, the characters come back together for more than just bad news or tricks to make up. Lessons that have been learned throughout the years have brought this group closer together even as they’ve moved apart. Unlike How I Met Your Mother’s finale, the Parks and Recreation finale proved that life will pull us apart, but we have the the distance of our relationships.
Ridiculousness is Always Welcome
Like every comedy, there are aspects of Parks and Recreation that have always been extra silly, and the finale did a wonderful job of incorporating those facets: from Cones of Dunshire: The Sequel, Leslie’s obsession with scrap-booking, Brandi Marxx (now Councilwoman), Joe Biden Love, Ron’s love of steak and whiskey, to Crazy Donna stories, April’s Halloween birth, and Jean Ralphio’s consistent stunt pulling in order to become FLUUUUSHHHHHHEDDDD WITH CAAAAAaaaaAASSSSHHHHHHHHHH. There are almost too many to mention.
Leslie Knope: Governor, Friend, Ultimate Cure for Bad Finales
Ultimately the real savior of the Parks and Recreation finale, and the reason the show has changed so many lives, is Leslie Knope. Throughout the seasons, Leslie has done nothing but stay positive, work hard, and proven to the world the importance of public service.
Leslie proves that dreams come true if you work for them and surround yourself with people who, not only want to see you succeed, but that encourage you in your endeavors. The most beautiful aspect of the Parks and Recreation finale, to me, was that every story was told through a goodbye touch from Leslie — she has not only been the leader of this group of misfits, but ours as the audience, as well. Leslie has taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe, for never giving up, on anything, ever, and that sometimes there are forks in our lives that we need to take.
Seeing Leslie get her happy ending, knowing that she’s not only changed my life, but many others, helped me breathe a contented sigh through my tears.
Even though I didn’t think I would be, Leslie’s final words, “I’m ready.” rang true.
Goodbye, Pawnee. You’ve taught me so much, and I can only hope that your lessons will continue in the future — whether it be in 2017, 2025, or later.