The hour-long series finale of “Parks and Recreation” aired on Tuesday night after seven seasons of municipal government shenanigans.
Series finales are tricky, but “Parks and Recreation” really nailed it. The writers of “How I Met Your Mother” should take note: cheesy, happy endings are the way to go for comedy.
If this season was the epilogue to the series, the finale was the epilogue’s epilogue.
If nothing else, it reassured viewers that the characters we have grown to love were happy and successful to the very last minute of the show.
The finale itself took an interesting (and frankly, corny) approach, as Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, and the gang go on one last mission before leaving Pawnee: to fix a broken swing on a playground. As they run all over City Hall, and later, the town, taking all the familiar bureaucratic steps to get the swing fixed, viewers get to peer into the distant futures of each person Leslie touched.
Yes, it’s a gimmicky metaphor for all of the lives Leslie actually affected during her tenure in the Parks Department, but it was a satisfying conclusion, because it was thorough.
Ann Perkins, played by Rashida Jones, and Chris Traeger, played by Rob Lowe, both made appearances, and announced that they would be moving back to Pawnee with their two children.
The only character missing was Mark Brendanawicz, played by Paul Schneider, and to be honest his absence was a plus.
The latest season was unique from its other counterparts in that it only ran for seven weeks, but often aired two episodes on one night.
For that reason, the audience was playing catch-up for a lot of this season. Because it took place in 2017, it allowed writers to get creative with technology and pop culture references, but it meant re-developing characters.
All of the characters, with the exception of crazy Craig Middlebrooks, played by Billy Eichner, had moved on from the Parks Department and were, for the most part, thriving in their respective livelihoods. However, the season was not without conflict.
The issues we witnessed this season were big ones; something we haven’t seen much from “Parks and Rec,” which usually focused on character relationships.
We followed April Ludgate’s, played by Aubrey Plaza, existential crisis (something college students can definitely sympathize with), Tom Haverford’s, played by Aziz Ansari, longing for companionship and Ben Wyatt, played by Adam Scott, overcoming old fears (IceTown, anyone?) to run for Congress.
However, perhaps the most interesting story arc this season was the fight and subsequent showdown between Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, and Leslie, which eventually strengthened their friendship.
Leslie, in a commencement speech she gave in the series finale, talked about the good work of public service. She called it “small, incremental change.”
From getting a pit filled in to fixing a broken swing, incremental change has always been the backdrop for “Parks and Rec.”
Maybe that’s why this show has been as successful as it is: The small plot advancements did not dwarf the strong character development. In fact, they reinforced it.
What began as a spin-off of “The Office” grew into a series focused on tenacity and fierce friendship. It gave us a diverse cast of main characters who were more than stereotypes, and even turned stereotyping on its head, often addressing racism and sexism in a poignant and funny way.
“Parks and Recreation” has ended, but it has paved a legacy for television shows and raised the standard higher.
The final season’s overwhelming theme has been moving forward, and that’s what we will do in the wake of the finale. As Leslie once said, “Yes, I’m ready.” So am I.