PARKS AND RECREATION Series Finale Recap: “One Last Ride”

     February 25, 2015

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The Wire. Six Feet Under. MASH. Breaking Bad. With this finale, Parks and Recreation takes its place among these juggernauts as having one of the greatest series finales brought to television. Each member of the cast was given ample time and their own unique farewell that felt pitch-perfect. That is quite a feat for a show that bills itself as a comedy, but throughout the years, Parks and Recreation has proven itself to have the lasting impact of some of television’s most fantastic dramas. We’ve grown to know and love these characters, and you really couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to each of their stories.

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The episode started with a good setup of the core cast needing to perform one last task in Pawnee before many of them hit the road to take new jobs in Washington, D.C. While the characters say goodbye to one another, we’re given a look into each of their futures, showing us where each cast member is heading in their lives, through their individual ups and downs. Donna moves to Seattle to be with her new husband, to become successful in the real estate market. Craig stays in Pawnee and ends up marrying Typhoon, Donna’s old hair dresser who also has Ron as his best man. April and Andy live their lives out in Washington D.C., appropriately having their first child on Halloween, arguing over particularly horrible names for him which are absolutely true to the characters. I mean, what could be better than April giving birth on Halloween in zombie makeup with Monster Mash playing in the background?

The two endings that I enjoyed the most from the night took shape in the form of both Jean Ralphio and Garry Girgich. Jean Ralphio’s was hands down the funniest moment of the evening, with the scene beginning at his apparent funeral with a song by Lil Jon cranked up to maximum volume. From behind a tree nearby, Ralphio and his horrible sister watch in glee as another of their insurance schemes is clearly in full swing — or it would have been, had the priest presiding over the funeral not immediately seen both of them, causing them to run away in a mad dash. This got the biggest belly laugh of the night from me as it was just so right for the character, and summed up his insanity in a two minute scene.

Garry, on the other hand, was the most emotional ending, with him being elected to be Pawnee’s mayor not just once, but multiple times, starting from write-in ballots. The running joke of course being that Garry, who is picked on and made fun of in the office, has the perfect life. The Gergich family bearing witness to Garry’s 100th birthday, with the added hilarity of Garry’s wife looking exactly the same as her previous appearances, made me tear up just a little bit if I’m being honest. What would be Garry’s life, though, if something wasn’t screwed up along the way? Ben and Leslie humorously take note of the fact that on his decadent tombstone during his funeral, with a picture of his loving family, his name is misspelled. This funeral scene also gives us the hint that Leslie has in fact managed to achieve her dream of becoming president of the United States, though I’m happy they left this to the viewer’s imagination.

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I would be remiss to not dedicate a section of this review to Ron Swanson. Of all the characters on Parks and Recreation, Ron who has permeated American subculture the most. EVERYONE knows who Ron Swanson is, even if you haven’t watched the show. Nick Offerman gives a fantastic farewell to the character, achieving all of his dreams and goals early on in his section, as is usually the case with most of the things Ron does. With everything accomplished, Ron turns to Leslie for help, looking for meaning in his life. The relationship between Ron and Leslie has always been one of the most sentimental and touching aspects of the show, and the finale continues that streak. Leslie appoints Ron as director of his own park, granting him the opportunity to be outside all day, every day. We say goodbye to Ron as he appropriately “paddles his own canoe.”

Tom’s ending finds him floundering with his restaurant business, but writing an extremely successful book series, using his old friends as “templates for success,” with Garry appropriately being “the failure” in his eyes. This also leads to another of the funniest scenes of the night wherein Ben informs Tom that he was a “Tom” on his test, causing Tom to practically fly into hysterics. While on the other side of the coin, we were given final appearances from Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe as they made one last visit to their friends in Pawnee before moving. Ann and Chris were so integral to the cast for so long that the finale would have really been missing something without them poking their heads in at least for one last hurrah.

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With the rest of the cast handled, we’re given a look into the futures of the “stars” of our show, Ben and Leslie. As both ascend the ranks of politics in Washington, a challenge is presented to them when both are offered the opportunity to run for governor of Indiana. While the two discuss who should run, Leslie suggests they leave it to chance and decide based on the flip of a coin. Right before the coin flip however, Ben announces that Leslie will be the one running to their friends, and one of the best couples in comedy television history continues to own their title. Down the road, we’re shown Leslie giving a speech at Indiana University to the graduating class, and she is told that a library will be named after her. Again, in one of the funniest scenes of the night, Leslie responds to this news with, “Aww f***! A library?” The show then ends with the gang taking a picture together and a fade to the credits, where we’re shown bloopers of the cast throughout the years.

Parks and Recreation will go down as a show unlike any other. It had a perfect combination of comedy, optimism, and character to pull itself above a wide margin of television that had come before it. It made us laugh and it made us cry, and nearly every season finale could almost be seen as a perfect series finale for any other show. I’ll miss Parks and Recreation, but I look forward to seeing where each of the cast members go from here. They’ve all become stars in their own right. Congratulations to the cast and crew.

Episode Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent

Parks and Miscellanea:

– Well I suppose they couldn’t cover EVERYTHING that the show had to offer with its almost infinite supply of characters and one-offs, though I was a bit remiss to not see brief mentions of Councilman Jam, either of the Tammys, and particularly Ron’s wife. I heard there may have been a scheduling conflict for Lucy Lawless, but her absence was definitely noted.

– RIP Harris Wittels. I know this really hit folks hard, so I was glad to see some time given to memorialize him.

– Ben’s amazing line regarding the Cones of Dunshire being the ninth highest selling multiplayer game is one for the history books.

– Brandi Maxx becoming President of the City Council, yet STILL mentioning her extensive resume in pornography was hysterical.

– Ron owning a part of the whiskey distillery was also another perfect endnote to the character.

– Leslie: “Yes, I’m ready.”

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