Is this the best season finale ever? Probably not. But it’s exactly the finale that Parks needed to show that this series still has some great stories left to tell.
Let’s break it down…
It definitely feels like the series has had a bit of an identity crisis in the weeks after Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben’s (Adam Scott) wedding and winning Lot 48. Most of the stories have been one-off issues like saving the Pawnee VideoDome from shutting down and saving the animal control department from itself. These kinds of episodes can be fun, but this series is much more engaging when there’s a bigger arc pushing the story forward. Moreover, the storylines that have carried over between episodes haven’t been all that compelling. Rent A Swag’s success has been pretty quick and unhindered, and isn’t as good a source of comedy or tension as it could be. And Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ann’s (Rashida Jones) relationship is just plain awkward. But with this episode, it’s clear that the writers have a vision for the future, and that future is going to bring some much needed tension back into these characters’ lives.
Leslie is usually in the minority when it comes to making changes that Pawnee needs but usually doesn’t want, so the Leslie v. Pawnee struggle isn’t novel. At first, I worried that her fight against the recall election would simply be a retread of the fourth season election arc with Leslie trying to win over voters. While her can-do attitude at the end of this episode is always appreciated, and we all love Step Up and Honey jokes, it isn’t anything we haven’t seen from her before.
But the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that this is a different beast altogether. Leslie isn’t the idealistic outsider promising change, and she’s no longer a fresh face to the citizens. She’s a bit more cynical about the power of politics, and many of the citizens of Pawnee feel burned by her (I would call the voters cynical, too, but that would require a level of thought and reflection that isn’t likely to be found in most Pawneeans). More than ever, Leslie is going to have to get her hands a little dirtier than she might like, and that is a great new angle for the series to explore.
The same applies to Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) decision not to sell Rent A Swag. Aside from hiring Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate), Tom’s business has been fairly smooth. So for him to finally have a direct competitor will make his storylines much more interesting. Even more intriguing is that the writers choose to withhold the identity of the competitor. If Ben Schwartz didn’t already have a full-time gig on House of Lies, my guess would have been Jean Ralphio. Who do you think is trying to steal Tom’s game (other than Jay-Z and Diddy, of course)?
Lastly, the finale’s biggest reveal – and the most exciting set-up for next season – is that Ron (Nick Offerman) is about to become a daddy to Diane’s (Lucy Lawless) baby. Some of my favorite moments of the season have come courtesy of Ron’s relationship with Diane and her two young monsters daughters. Not only does this plot point mean that we get to watch more of Ron and Diane’s great chemistry, but we get to see more of the hilarity that is Ron interacting with children. It also means that Mona Lisa isn’t the pregnant one, which is a frightening prospect. Tom really isn’t exaggerating when he says, “Oh God. What have I done? Like to humanity!”
- Andy (Chris Pratt) is such a great character, and he really makes this episode all the more special. First, he revives his FBI agent Bert Macklin for the case of the positive pregnancy test (this alone guarantees a hilarious episode). But he also shows what a great husband he is, as he’s so supportive of April’s (Aubrey Plaza) dream to go to veterinary school (even though he only learns about her dream when she tells him in this episode)
- Chris really hasn’t gotten the most substantial plotlines this year, but Rob Lowe still manages to make the character lovable and funny. His “Oh no” after discovering why the Prettiest Pig Beauty Pageant was replaced by the Pork Rib Barbecue Competition after a tragic accident is simply priceless
- The whole town meeting this episode is consistently funny. From Andy busting in waving the pregnancy test to Brandi Maxxxx discussing her roles in both Argo and its porn parody Our Goo, the scene is jam packed with as many cameos and inside jokes as fans could hope for
- My guess before the episode aired was that April was the one who was pregnant. But after learning that her dream was to wait until she’s 50 to adopt a set of creepy adult twins from Romania, I am so happy to be wrong
Well, fellow Pawneeans, that’s a wrap on this season of Parks and Recreation! What did you think of the finale? Are you excited for Ron Swanson to buy a minivan and take the girls to soccer games? Is Leslie about to get kicked out of office? And how much pain do you think Tom is in after having sex with Mona Lisa in a tree? Sound off in the comments below!
Parks and Recreation has yet to be renewed, but all signs indicate that it’s likely to come back. So stop dawdling NBC and make the right choice!