February 24th, 2015, 10:00 PM, NBC
Before going their separate ways permanently, the gang teams up to help a citizen of Pawnee fix a broken swing in one of Leslie’s parks. As they say goodbyes to each other, we get a flashforward to 2019 and beyond, where the gang continues to be intertwined together though time in different but important ways. Their varied, wide-reaching and disparate futures aren’t alike – and they involve moving great distances apart and eventually losing touch with one another – but for each former Pawneean growing up, moving away from home and finding themselves means forming new romances, making major plans for the future, engaging about conflicts about parenthood, dealing with business booms and busts, confronting your own mortality, wrangling with professional successes, joys and losses, learning how to deal with retirement and learning how to be friends with your personal hero without peeing yourself in their presence.
There’s a lot that’s charming and sweet about the Parks’ gang’s final ride. The futures the show serves up for them (which I’ve outlined below in full spoilers, for those who want them), are in-character and sentimental without being gag-inducing, if again perhaps a little bit too grand for the show’s simple heart. Highlights include Andy and April’s decision about parenthood, a flash-forward through Jerry’s life as Mayor, Ron’s adventure into post-retirement life, a visit by two missing friends, and the sight of Leslie standing on her own two feet in a park she helped create. If you want to see where Leslie ends up, you won’t be disappointed, but you’ll definitely be touched.
Still, for all of the sweet moments we get, the episode has its flaws. Due to the time skip the show undertook this season, it’s hard to keep track of which time period we’re skipping to even if the show makes it blatantly obvious with kyrons and gravestones for it barely bothers physically aging the characters until it’s plain that they’re in their dotage. For some reason, Craig gets a flashforward, even though there are dozens of characters who deserve one more than him (perhaps Tammy Two?). Also the show’s Jerry/Garry bashing is not and will never be funny, even when they try to lampshade it. The conclusion is more about fluff and moving its audience than making a comedic impact, though several great jokes do rise up from the episode (My favorite involves Leslie giving a commencement speech at Pawnee State). And if you thought last season’s finale’s sudden wave of baby fever was oddly handled, tilt your head as in its last hour Parks and Rec catches Babies Ever After syndrome really bad – all fine and well, but it feels a little pointless in the narrative. There’s even the implication that Leslie and Ann will become mothers-in-law, which is adorable but would perhaps work better as a joke if the children in question weren’t roughly twelve, and if Ben and Leslie actually spent any time with their children instead of showing them to us as a flock of ravening, loud, manic birds. The triplets remain such a weird afterthought that Ben and Leslie’s third triplet remains unnamed on-screen (a trip to IMDB suggests the show’s dubbed him ‘Wesley’ but we all know how reliable IMDB is).
The limitus test of your fondness for this episode is simple: in its beginning, we see a man come into the parks department looking to have a swing fixed so his daughter can use the equipment. That man’s played by the same guy who portrayed the bum whom Leslie shoos off a slide in the show’s pilot. Do you tear up at this notion? Laugh or cry? If it doesn’t tug on your heartstrings, maybe it’s best for you to skip this episode.
For sadly this episode won’t stand out as the all time best series finale in television history. This is no M*A*S*H, no Mary Tyler Moore Show. But for people who’ve followed Leslie Knope from her first appearance at Pawnee’s City Hall, this will provide a decent sentimental punch, a sense of closure with lots of hope for the future. Now find your team and get to work!
- ”Five points for Hufflepuff!”
- And here, for the lazy, is what happens to Leslie and the whole gang by the end of the episode. THERE ARE BIG SPOILERS UNDERNEATH THIS ITEM DON’T KEEP SCROLLING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SURPRISED.
- Donna stays in Seattle. She has a huge real-estate empire there and ends up going into partnership with Joe and April to create an after-school nonprofit program to benefit teachers who have difficulty finding work due to changes in the educational system, but is still rich enough to have a solid gold watch.
- Craig ends up singing in Tom’s bistro and romantically involved with Donna’s hairdresser and Ron’s barber Typhoon. Ron’s the best man at their wedding, and years later they’re still together.
- After some conflict over embracing parenthood, Andy and April end up producing a child on Halloween, whom they name Jack. They have at least one child.
- Jean Ralphio Saperstein fakes his death in 2022 with the help of his sister Mona Lisa, and they sneak off with the insurance money to start a casino.
- Ben eventually publishes a sequel to the Cones of Dunshire. Gameplay Magazine calls it “Punishingly Intricate”. He also wins the race for the empty Indiana Congressional seat, and is offered the Governor’s seat but cedes the campaign to Leslie.
- At some point in the future the country runs out of beef.
- Tom ends up writing a nationwide best-selling self-help manual based on his friends after he tries to franchise his Tom’s Bistro worldwide and it fails. He and Lucy end up married.
- Garry actually gets voted in as Mayor of Pawnee ten times, has a long, successful life filled with joy, tranquility and happiness. He dies on his 100th birthday holding his wife’s hand…and has the final indignity of having his name spelled incorrectly on his tombstone.
- Brandi Maxxx ends up a councilwoman of Pawnee.
- Ron diversifies his portfolio, buying land in Europe, on Ben’s advice. Resigning from his own company at the peak of its success, he’s left with nothing to do. Leslie helps him get a job working as a forest ranger and custodian of the park she established at the edge of Pawnee with the land they got from Gryzzl, and Ron takes it.
- Leslie is elected as Pawnee’s Governor twice in a row. She ends up with an honorary degree from Indiana State University – and the library there named after her. It’s loosely implied that she also ends up the president of the country by the 2030s.
- Thank you for following me on this wild and wonderful ride through the land of Pawnee. Be sure to check out my other reviews for the site, and may you always have all of the bacon and waffles you need.
< li>Ann and Chris make their triumphant return in this episode; they have more children and they move back to Pawnee in 2025.
A big-hearted, beautifully shot conclusion with some flaws.