When Parks and Recreation ended its sixth season, it was such a perfect wrap-up for all the characters, that I really didn't think it needed an extra seventh to close things out. But funnily enough, I guess I was wrong, because this final year served as an elongated epilogue for the whole crew, and ended up being the best thirteen episode run since its third season. It was a smashing way to go out, even if NBC treated it kind of shabbily (pairing up the episodes two at a time so that the show could sputter out in just seven weeks), and the perfection of this kind of an ending helps to cement the show in the pantheon of great workplace sitcoms, even if it was always a small, underrated series with a following not large enough to qualify as "cult"- but you know what? Shows like The Office and Community may have had more hype at their peaks, but Parks and Rec remained the most consistent in quality for all six years it was on the air, and that's a run to be admired, and hopefully, remembered in the years to come.
This season jumped ahead two years to 2017, where the gang had all moved on from the Parks department to bigger and better futures. Leslie of course was serving as the head of the federal Parks department and trying to establish a national park in Pawnee, while April was still temporarily working for her and Ben still serving as city manager. The first half of the season spun a hilarious arc involving the gesticulating offscreen feud between longtime friends and ideological rivals Leslie and Ron, who was now running his own building company and battling Leslie for a bid to win the right to establish the public land for their own use. The fight between Leslie and Ron led to some of the season's best moments which of course ended in their inevitable reconciliation, but the friendship and the chemistry between Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman has been the heart of this series since the very beginning, and the show did justice to their long, complex relationship this year (their final moments together may even bring a tear to your eye).
The rest of the season was spent making sure each character got their due, showing us how they ended up in the two year time jump, and eventually how they ended up for all eternity. The series finale jumped even further ahead in time (this season was all about the time jumps) to show us how Donna, April, Andy, Tom, and Garry (finally established as his actual, real name) lived out the rest of their days, in what direction their careers went, who they ended up with, where they moved and how many kids they had- for people who can never accept that series finales are all about closure, Parks and Rec went out of its way to make sure we got an overload of happy endings for everyone. It may be kind of an abundance of sugar to ensure that literally everyone ends up happy, wealthy and married (does being married really equal being happy? Even the perpetually single Tom was hurriedly paired off for good this season), but it still warms your heart to see it, knowing this is the last time we'll see any of them after all.
We also saw the final entrances and exits of all the recurring citizens of Pawnee over the years and where they ended up (at least some of those guys are allowed to not end up so happily). We said final good-byes to the Douche, Jean-Ralphio (my favorite), crazy Tammy, Perd Hapley, Shauna Malwae, and Chris and Ann, who showed up for one last cameo appearance in the epilogue to the epilogue. And the final season was also jam packed, as Parks does and has always done so well, with topical references, inside jokes and dead on political satire that rips current news headlines/characters to morph itself into the political issues affecting the city of Pawnee as a microcosm of society at large (this year when Ben decides to run for Congress, Leslie is targeted by protesters as a woman driven by her own career and accused of wanting to "have it all" instead of standing by her man. You can guess what Poehler's response was to that). More senators and congressman came by the show for the last time, as Leslie and Ben both made their way up the political ladder, and with The Colbert Report gone, Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show, and now Parks and Rec signing off, it feels like all my political catharsis shows are leaving me, one by one.
The show ended with a hint of big things in sight for one of either Leslie or Ben (I think we can all assume that Leslie was the one who finally made it into the Oval Office, right?), and a note of perfect happiness for all of the Parks family, as well as the audience who came along for the ride. They did it on their own terms, and maintained a remarkable run in quality, consistency, and frankly, political ideology in the ultimate message that endorsed collective action for the public good, even as you work with stubborn individualists (Ron Swanson will forever be the nicest, most soft at heart prickly conservative I'd actually want to talk to). It was a run for the ages, a perfect show for the Obama era, and will live on in syndication as a symbol of its time for years to come.