Written by Megan LaBruna
Parks and Recreation: The Finale
After 7 seasons, the story has ended for the former Parks department in Pawnee, Indiana. I am going to miss Parks and Recreation terribly. This was one of the few shows left that have that blink and you’ll miss it style of comedy. Obviously there were many over the top moments, but I always appreciated their quiet subtle pop culture references and witty comments hidden among the grand gestures. The characters themselves have gone through major transformations from when we first met them. There have been failed relationships, marriages, kids, a second Cones of Dunshire game, career changes and friendships lost and found. Audiences have laughed and cried with these characters and last night they said their goodbyes.
With this final season already taking place in the future, 2017 to be exact, I’m glad the writers found a clever way to continue each character’s story. In 2017 they came together to fix a swing one last time before everyone gets ready to head in their separate directions, but along the way, we slingshot through the years to see how each of their lives have progressed since that day. There’s a saying that’s been thrown around over the years “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been”… or something to that extent. The point is, over a long period of time the changes were subtle, but these characters have grown so much since we first saw them in Season 1. I wonder how much of their story arcs were already envisioned by the writers and what changes occurred organically over the course of each season. Although, unlike Leslie Knope, I do not have a scrapbook on hand to help detail every change each major character has faced, I will attempt to look back at where they started and where they ended up.
Donna Meagle (Retta)- She started the show as much more of a secondary character, however much like the cast of The Office did over the course of their show, she became a prominent character by the end. She has always been straightforward, tech savvy, and had an eye for fashion trends, but we didn’t always see how much she truly cared about her co-workers until the later seasons. Especially with this last season, we saw moments between her and Garry that expressed her softer side. Maybe it was result of her marital bliss, but I enjoyed seeing it. What does the future hold for Donna? We see that she has become a successful realtor in Seattle and that her husband Joe is having a tough time with budget cuts at the school. They’ve cut math…MATH. While I would have thoroughly enjoyed not having math a child, it is still a subject that is truly needed. Donna decides to take the commission money she uses towards her “Treat yo self” vacation to instead create a non-profit that will help her husband and other teachers, appropriately titled “Teach yo self.”
Garry Gergich (Jim O’Heir)- Garry started out as Gerry and went on to be known by several other names before finally being called by his correct name, which only took 7 seasons. He, like Donna, started out as a secondary character, but grew to everyone’s favorite klutz. He surprisingly didn’t change all that much over the course of each season. He always had a chipper optimistic attitude despite things constantly going wrong for him. I think instead, it’s easier to see how the characters interactions with him changed. By the last season some of the parks people even have a genuine friendship with him. They even elect him to be mayor for the time being until they find a permanent one. As Garry’s future shows, he ends up being the permanent mayor until he dies…at the age of 100, still in love with his surprisingly beautifully ageless wife. He is honored at his funeral with a Notary’s highest honor: a 21 Stamp Salute. This storyline shows exactly what I mean about the blink and you’ll miss it type of writing. Did you see that Leslie and Ben were surrounded by secret service men at the funeral?? This leads me to think that one of them ends up becoming President of the United States. Unfortunately my theory is not confirmed in their future story, since we only see up to 2025 in their timeline.
April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)- April began as an emotionless intern hell-bent on not ever caring about anyone or anything ever. Through each season however, it was clear that she did start giving a damn about the employees in the parks department and eventually she blossomed into a full grown adult who, despite, not wanting to admit it, cared about finding the right job and making a difference in the lives of others. Andy may have had the biggest transformation of all, seeing as in the first season he had a hard time letting go of Anne and lived in the pit behind her house, surviving on vegetables he scavenged from the community garden. A few seasons later, he’s married to April and at one point gets a job working in England. By the end, he has managed to make use of his child-like wonder by creating an almost dare I say, impressive children’s show: Johnny Karate. So what does the future hold in store for these crazy kids who refuse to grow up? Well they grow up, but on their terms. April’s job is a success and they end up having a child born on Halloween. She appropriately dresses for the “event” by putting on zombie makeup before delivering. Although we don’t get to see it, I’m sure they’re incredibly fun parents.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)- Tom has always been selfish and he will always be selfish. No amount of time changes that. But, in the first season he’s selfish without recognizing others at all. He has big dreams and a careless attitude. By the last few seasons, he’s become more responsible with his dreams and attitude by investing in Tom’s Bistro and settling down with Lucy. The future shows that even the best laid plans can be ruined. After going nearly broke from making what he thought would be a smart business move in expanding Tom’s Bistro, he’s all but given up on life. We see that Lucy is still there reminding him that he is always coming up with great ideas, and that he is capable of coming up with another good one. He does. Enter Failure: An American Success Story, Tom’s new bestselling book which classifies people into 7 different groups. The 7 different groups happen to be the names of all his friends from the Parks and Rec department. Of course there is an eighth type of person, the one no one ever wants to be: The Garry (they couldn’t resist one last jab).
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)- Ron has always been private and paranoid when it comes to technology. As our world has become increasingly more dependent on technology over the past few years, his attempts to thwart off technology have become more extreme. He has maintained his handy man, can-do attitude although he has slowly learned to rely, if ever so slightly, on his workplace proximity acquaintances. By the last few seasons he even cracks a few smiles and lets Leslie in on some of the more personal details of his life. This is very apparent within his future story. He’s gotten to the point where he’s decided to retire and has no clue what to do with the rest of his life now that his kids are becoming more independent. Luckily he’s friends with Leslie Knope who has the uncanny ability to be able to steer people in the right direction of fulfilling their goals. She offers him the job of overseeing the national parks and the forest rangers, or more accurately she accepts the job for him by forging his signature. Regardless, it’s a job Ron is happy to take.
Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott)- Ben Wyatt wasn’t there from the beginning, but he has come a long way since we first met him towards the end of season 2. He went from being the type of person who follows every rule to the letter and a man who was still haunted by his past as the failed mayor of Ice-town. To the fun, moderately rule breaking, confident congressman that committed to a life of trying to keep up with Leslie Knope. By this final season, he has resolved the failures of his younger days and is looking to move forward with his career and his family. We see how much he truly loves his wife (not that we ever doubted it) and understands compromise when after being offered to run for Governor of Indiana the same time his wife is offered the opportunity, he announces Leslie will run for the position.
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)- Overbearing? Check. Overzealous? Yes. Overachiever? Always. Trying to keep up with Leslie Knope since season 1 has been tiring and crazy and amazing. I have learned so much from her, both good and bad. She cares too much for her friends, family and community, but in some ways it helps make up for those that don’t care enough. She started out being intense and over prepared and not much has changed since then, except for our growing infatuation with her quirks and newfound appreciation for waffles. She has taught viewers to fight for things both big and small. As she matured on the show, she realized that while she loves to try to control everything, she can’t always be in control. I like to think she’s realized just how much of her good qualities have rubbed off on April and Andy and Ann and the others. She has also learned a thing or two from each of them over the course of 7 seasons. Her future includes running for Governor of Indiana, a goal she’s had since Kindergarten, a friendship (sort of) with Joe Biden and possibly the presidency. But before all that, she gets her wish: to be in the same place with the people she loves and I mean everyone…including that “opalescent tree shark”: Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger!!!
Clearly our friends have come a long way from the small Pawnee Parks Department they started with. Although I will miss Parks and Rec greatly, I can say I have learned a thing or two over the years and I’m sure you have too. If you can’t remember it all, just call Leslie’s binder maker to put together a comprehensive collection full of the best and brightest Leslie quotes. I’m almost positive she has one on retainer in a town near you. On that note, I think it best to leave you with the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt as expressed by Leslie last night in the final minutes: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Rating: 9 out of 10