I'll never be ready for this to be over.

I’ll never be ready for this to be over.

There are spoilers for the entire season in this review. You have been warned.

It took me a long time to start this. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows through to their finale. There are some shows that I was just like END ALREADY. Even if I loved them once upon a time, they just started to stretch on too long. There are some finales that made me angry (hello How I Met Your Mother, I still hate you), and some that made me cry in front of strangers (LOST, I don’t care if no one else liked you), and some that stay with me emotionally to today (Daria, Buffy, Korra, all my favorites basically). But I wasn’t ready for Parks and Recreation to be over. I am so glad they ended it on a high note. They wanted to end it, they knew how to do it, and it was extremely satisfying and emotional. Maybe it was too nice and perfect, but I loved these characters so I wanted them to be happy. I usually hate saccharine, but I’m a big fan of Earn Your Happy Endings, and there’s no denying the Pawnee Parks Department earned theirs. The last few episodes I got more and more anxious that it was the end, and the ending of the show was exactly what the it was about. Hard work, friendship, found family, positivity, hope. And comedy above all things, it was always so funny. I will never see anything new from these beloved characters, but I am satisfied about where their future was. This review will be about the finale, but about the journey that gets there. And it will be completely sentimental and long, so bear with me. My gifs will tell the story of my pain.

I didn’t like Parks & Rec the first time I saw it. I saw the first season and I thought it was boring, just a The Office rip-off. I hate politics, so I went naw it’s not for me and quit after four episodes. Then I kept hearing from people how good it was, and they said “just get through season one, I swear it’ll get better.” So I said fine, it was on Netflix, I got through season one. And when season two started I started to warm to everyone. Leslie stopped being just a caricature and started to feel like a real person. She was Michael Scott-like in season one, but Amy Poehler seemed to say screw it and put more of her own heart and humor into the role. I think the first episode that from beginning to end made me laugh out loud was “Ron and Tammy” from season two. It helped that I loved Megan Mullally, but I was iffy on Ron Swanson until I saw this. It’s especially funny that the couple are married IRL. And then then “Hunting Trip” happened and Leslie had her first hardcore feminist storyline. This clip of her saying what she thought a sexist ranger wanted to hear, making fun of him and all sexists at the same time, is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I was never a fan of Mark, so I was pleased as punch when he left. He just didn’t really fit in with the show as the only sane man, and it seemed like the actor/the show agreed with that. At first Pawnee’s weirdness put me off, but it grew on me. Andy and April’s romance shocked me, and quickly became one of my favorite things. They just worked, and this is their marriage summed up well.

The show really started to hit its stride in the third season, I think. That’s when Ben and Chris became main characters, and it was fantastic plotting for those two. Ben’s was something of a mystery at first, since he seemed cold and he and Leslie didn’t get along well. But it was clear early on they were leading in a direction. Ben’s best storyline didn’t unravel until season three episode “Media Blitz” when he proved you should never put him on camera. It led to some of the funniest weird and awkwardness they had on the show. The development of Ben and Leslie’s relationship was charming, but I’m glad that the show also always had Leslie’s personal ambition and career objectives as the forefront. Yes, all their friendships and loves were important, but it was also about a bunch of coworkers who grew and changed together. Leslie’s hardcore personality about being in city government and climbing the ranks was admirable. Not a lot of people are passionate about their work the way she is. The rise and fall of her time as City Councilor, and then the aftermath of her building up again to eventual success, was so rewarding to watch. The show did an amazing job at having an overall arc that went from season one to season through season seven.

I started to write a blurb about each character, but it got too long so I’m going to do a top ten list.  That’s how complicated and intricate these characters are. The thing is, they’re people you can laugh at, and they all have little quirks that make them ridiculous and fit in with their ridiculous little city. At the same time, they all had realistic struggles and growth. Leslie learned how to be less awkward and more confident, but she learned how to compromise and occasionally not be a bulldozer when it mattered to her friends. Ben came out of his shell and found people who appreciated him for the nerd he was. Andy learned how to be an adult but never lose the childishness that made him beloved. Ann learned how to be secure in who she was and chose a life she wanted for herself, even if it was outside of Pawnee. April grew up with her husband and learned how to let people in while still keeping her independent spirit. Ron ended up having a happy home life and the perfect career, even if it was with the government. Chris kept his positive spirit (literally!) but knew that everything was not always okay and that was okay. Tom matured into taking his business seriously and taking his life seriously too, but didn’t lose sight of his inner swag. Donna was perfect the way she was, so whatever. And Jerry finally found the perfect job for him where everyone loved him the way he deserved! It was a perfect ending. And I hate everything because I’m not going to see these wonderful people every year anymore.

At the end of the day, I think what surprised me the most about Parks & Rec was how sincere it was. Like I said above, I typically find saccharine TV annoying, and I like dark and twisty storylines. This is the opposite of that. This show was full of love and laughter. It believed in the best of humanity, even while displaying some of the worst in the odd townspeople of Pawnee. There was cynicism at times, especially when it came to politics and Pawnee, but the overwhelming dedication of Leslie and her team meant that it was optimistic too. It was full of fantastic continuity gags (Lil’ Sebastian, Perd, everyone hating the library and salad, Leslie’s obsession with Joe Biden and waffles) and amazing guest stars (Paul Rudd, Megan Mullally, Michelle freaking Obama, Joe Biden, and surprise Bill Murray). Not many shows have this kind of perfect closure, because they might nod toward happy endings, but we don’t get to witness them. We saw what the future was like for every character we loved, and it fit in so perfectly well with their overall arc. It was always surprising to me that this show wasn’t more popular. Maybe it passed people by, or they didn’t want to watch anything to do with politics. Maybe it seemed too strange for them or they saw a random episode and went “what is wrong with these people.” It took me a gradual time to warm to it, and by the end it was one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. So if you haven’t given this show a chance, do it. Sit down with Netflix, make it past the first season, and if you don’t know all the words to Bye Bye Lil’ Sebastian within a few months, I don’t know who you are.

I honestly am not in a place when I can criticize it, outside of what I said about the first season being shaky. They were still figuring out what they wanted the show to be, and The Office in politics was not a good fit. It became something completely different and unique. One thing I’m really impressed by is that most of the characters in the start I wasn’t sure if I liked or not. They’re all bizarre and a little off-putting, but that became the best aspects of their personality. I think Parks & Rec had this particular edge of being smart and sassy, while being sweet at the same time. It does take awhile to grow on you, but once it does, you’ll find yourself at the end of the finale wondering how something so bittersweet can be so gratifying. And then just do the smart thing and restart the show on Netflix. If you can keep rewatching, you never have to be done with it.


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