Thank you Parks and Rec for the small, incremental change you brought to our lives for the last seven seasons.
Arguably two of the best series finales ever come from the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Six Feet Under. If you combine those two episodes, you would get something very similar to the finale of Parks and Recreation, which ended its run Tuesday night.
As Leslie walks around Pawnee’s city hall one last time with her co-workers and friends, we see what events are in store for them on an individual basis. Spoiler: everyone is going to be okay! With each vignette, a few tears were jerked and the show stayed true to what we love about these characters. Here are the highlights:
- Donna starts the Teach Yo Self Foundation to restore math education in the Seattle school system. Don’t worry, she’s still able to buy the wristwatch with ALL the diamonds.
- Typhoon (Ron’s new hairdresser) meets Craig at Tom’s Bistro. The couple gets married a few years later, with Ron as the Best Man. The two are still happy and in love decades later.
- Janet Snakehole (April) and Bert Maklin (Andy) decide to have a baby. As luck would have it, Jack is born on Halloween.
- Jean-Ralphio pulls off one last get rich quick scheme, faking his own death and running away to Tajikistan with his sister. This is all set to the dulcet tones of Lil Jon and Tyga’s “Bend Over.”
- Tom responsibly expands the Tom’s Bistro empire, but ends up going out of business. However, he’s able to adapt his entrepreneurial misadventures into a book: Failure: An American Success Story. He breaks down successful archetypes into seven characters—Andy, April, Ben, Leslie, Ron, Donna, and Tom.1 DO NOT be a Garry.
- Garry’s interim mayorship gets extended thanks to a massive write-in campaign in the general election. He then gets re-elected ten more times. In a nod to Six Feet Under, we see Garry celebrating his 100th birthday as happy as ever. He dies that day and is honored with a 21 notary stamp salute. Semper fi, your honor.
- Ron leaves his role as chairman of Very Good, and wonders what to do with his life. Leslie has shuffled the superintendents of the national parks to create an opening in the Pawnee park. Though Ron will be working for the federal government, he gets to spend his days outside, walking around by himself and talking to bears.2
- Leslie and Ben both get offered the same opportunity after impressive tenures in Washington—potential governor of Indiana. Both want the job, both want the other to go for the job, and Leslie is willing to flip a coin to decide who gets to make the run. As they go out to a reunion of the parks department staff (plus Ann and Chris) to announce the coin flip, Ben announces that Leslie will be running for governor.3 We later learn that Leslie was elected for two terms and has a library named after her on the Indiana University campus. “A fucking library?” Oh, Knope.
So how does Mary Tyler Moore fit into all of this? First, this show, much like 30 Rock, is a modern-day interpretation of the office family format the earlier series pioneered. In the final moments, Leslie delivered a speech reminiscent of Lou Grant’s “I treasure you people” moment, talking about how the goal is to make people’s lives better through small, incremental change. “Now go find your team and get to work.” However, the biggest comparison came in the final image of the end credits, as the cast gathered in the office for a group hug, with a box of tissues prominently displayed.