5000 Candles in the Wind: Saying Good-bye to Parks and Recreation

I admit it. I cried during Parks and Rec finale. Several times. Donna telling Joe she wanted to use her adventure fund to start the foundation, Ron and Leslie’s moment on the mall. But when Leslie walked into the Parks and Rec office to find everyone waiting for her and Ann walked out, I really lost it. It wasn’t because her appearance surprised me (I have great intuition, and also I saw “guest starring Rashida Jones” in the credits) or because she was a favorite character of mine (I’m partial to Donna), but because that’s when Leslie lost it. Because, through its mockumentary-style format and character-driven narrative, Parks and Rec makes you feel what the character feels, and this finale had a lot of feeling. (It doesn’t help that my two best friends and I live across the country from one another and recently had a strikingly similar reunion— but I digress.)

Though it had a rough first season, people who gave up on Leslie and the P&R family should give it another shot because Parks and Rec went on to become one of the most endearing and genuinely funny shows on television (or Netflix). The development of the show’s comedic voice and the transformations the characters went through over the course of P&R’s seven seasons were well thought-out, well executed, and well, really just damn enjoyable to watch unfold and be a part of. And as I said, thanks to the show’s structure, you do truly feel like you’re a part of it— Parks and Rec follows a single-camera, mockumentary format spun off that of The Office, creating intimate moments between the characters and us, the viewers. This is accomplished through the talking head segments (when characters speak directly into the camera, as if in an interview) and the frequent looks characters direct at the camera the underline some of the more deadpan jokes, inviting us into the world of Pawnee, Indiana and letting us in on the action.

The finale of Parks and Rec brought this sentiment, and the series, full circle. As Leslie speaks to the dear friends assembled around her, the camera moves through the other characters, placing us in each of their perspectives and on Leslie’s level, right in the midst of the emotional farewell. Though I can’t say it surpassed my personal favorite series finale, that of my beloved 30 Rock, the finale of Parks and Recreation really did justice to the fantastic and highly under-appreciated show (booooo network ratings).

The personal growth of each character was concisely but thoroughly demonstrated in the flashforwards and flashbacks.  Things as simple as the color of Leslie’s hair, which started off a jarringly brassy yellow and became increasingly polished as her life came together across the seasons, or Ron’s role move from father figure to actual father, guided our perceptions and our experience as viewers for seven seasons, aligning us with the characters by allowing us to grow with them and bask in their happiness and success. Lousy with references to long-running jokes— such as Gail’s unnatural beauty and Jerry’s misspelled tombstone; the cover photo on Tom’s best-seller, which has appeared in multiple episodes over the course of the series; Donna naming her foundation “Teach Yo Self;” and Leslie’s disgust at having a motherfucking library named after her— the finale paid homage to some of the shows best jokes and our best memories, wrapping up the series with a touching but not overly-sappy moment of love and friendship.

The bloopers that ran with the credits leading up to the final wrap shot of the cast hugging in the middle of the office were the icing on an unfairly perfect cake, bringing us in one last time to feel the embrace of the most loving fictional family in America.

I’m going to go watch it again now, someone pass me the Kleenex.