One of the saddest days in sitcoms has arrived. After seven impeccable seasons, the members of the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks Department took their last ride on Tuesday night.
The episode opened with the gang nostalgically gathered in the old offices of the Parks Department, which they haven’t worked in all together since the show jumped ahead in time to 2017 at the beginning of Season 7. The episode was fittingly titled “One Last Ride,” although the one-hour finale was anything but.
When a Pawnee citizen came in requesting that a swing be fixed at a park near his house, Leslie rallied the troops together to commit one last act of civil service on behalf of the Pawnee Parks Department. As Leslie says goodbye to each of her friends one-by-one, the episode took a surprising turn and continued the season’s theme of jumping in time.
Fans got a chance to see each character grow for several more years. The episode gave every character (yes, including Jean Ralphio) a proper storied send-off. Below are where we leave each character on “Parks and Recreation” for good.
The first person whose future was brought to life was Donna Meagle (Retta). After marrying her husband, played by Keegan-Michael Key, the happy couple moved to Seattle. We pick up with them in 2023 where, thanks to a blossoming coffee and legal marijuana business in the state, Donna has made a killing in the real estate market. After spending the entire series being enamored with the finer things in life, Donna can afford to travel the world in style, which she does from 2017-2023. By the time we catch up with her, she’s ready to settle down.
When her husband gets upset with the current school system, Donna surprises him by taking their vacation money and starting a foundation for teachers, affectionately titled “Teach Yo’ Self.” When we fast-forward to 2025, the foundation is going well and she’s able to afford an incredibly nice watch … So it’s a happy and ritzy ending for the Parks Department’s most enigmatic figure.
Although he hasn’t been around a while, Craig (Billy Eichner) won the hearts of “Parks and Recreation” fans with his manic personality and biting screaming tirades. We fast-forward to 2019 where he is crooning at Tom’s Bistro. When his song is over, Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) informs him that a gentleman at the bar bought him a glass of wine and gave him his business card. The person ends up being none other than his on-again-off-again flirt, Donna’s hairdresser Typhoon (Rodney To).
After reluctantly agreeing to go talk to him, the two fast-forward in time again to a wedding day. Most surprising about Craig’s final story is simply the fact that, after allowing him to cut his hair for the first time in 2017, Ron has risen in Typhoon’s social circle to be his best man. Craig’s send-off sees him through one last loud outburst in public as a happy old married man.
April And Andy
This season spent a lot of time making the two most immature characters on the show grow up into fine, successful adults (while they kicked and screamed to remain children the whole time). Well, what better way to send off two adult children than by giving them children of their own?
After fast-forwarding to the year 2022, April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) have a beautiful home in Washington, D.C., where presumably April still works for the vocational foundation Leslie set her up with a few episodes back. It’s Halloween and they’re still doing the classic Burt Macklin bit. It’s really comforting to know that that doesn’t stop for the couple.
Seeing a group of trick-or-treaters makes Andy yearn for a child, but April isn’t quite ready yet. She consults her best friend, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), for advice. Leslie, who is living a comfortable life with her husband and three children in D.C., where she’s moved to work at the Department of the Interior, tells her that children won’t necessarily ruin the perfect life that April and Andy have built for themselves -- instead, they’ll just add a few new members to the team.
With that, one year later, we cut to April and Andy in a delivery room on Halloween 2023. April is wearing zombie makeup, which she applied after going into labor, and their baby Jack is welcomed into the world. Funny enough, the couple happened to be in Pawnee at the time, making Jack an official resident. Who would have thought the guy that started his run on the series by falling into a ditch and being homeless for the better part of a year would now be a dad?
He must have been a good father because in 2025, April announces she’s got a second baby on the way.
Jean Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) has been one of the best recurring characters on the show. That’s why it was only fitting to see what happens to this top-to-bottom crazy character in the years after the show ends. We jump to the year 2022 where, sadly, people are attending Jean Ralphio’s funeral. No so sadly, the man himself is alive and well hiding behind a tree with his sister Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate). The dynamic duo reveal that they’re working on some kind of insurance scam and plan to disappear to Turkestan (or at least that’s what it sounded like through his high pitched singing) to open a casino. So, the series ends for Jean Ralphio out there in the world, surviving despite having no sense of self-awareness.
Admittedly, this story is kind of a bummer. After a failed entertainment business, a failed clothing business and several other failed business ventures – Tom finally found his stride in the restaurant industry in 2014. We jump ahead to 2019 where, on the same night he handed Craig Typhoon’s number, Tom sits down with his business consultants Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Congressman Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). That’s right, it’s revealed that Ben’s bid for Congress paid off and he’s now helping run the country.
The trio are gathered to discuss the idea of Tom franchising his restaurant into a chain. He decides to do it and we fast forward once again to that idea having failed. Turns out it’s not his fault. Apparently the United States has a stock market crash, credit trying up and its supply of beef running out to worry about between now and 2025. All of these factors lead to Tom losing all of his money.
Luckily, his wife Lucy is still by his side. She supports him and gives him the confidence to get back out there and find another great business idea like he always does. We fast-forward once again into the future and find Tom as a best-selling author of the book “Failure: An American Success Story.” It’s a clever little book that breaks people’s personalities down into seven different types of successful people, all based on his friends from the Parks Department. By the time we finally catch up with him in 2025, he’s become the mogul he was always destined to be.
Alright fine. After being elected the Mayor of Pawnee, it felt like the character (formerly known as Larry, Terry and Jerry) couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. His interim status finishes but, thanks to a write-in campaign ended up getting elected the full-term mayor of Pawnee Indiana. We fast-forward several times into the future to learn that Gary eventually continues to get re-elected by the citizens of the town for ten terms. He lives to be more than 100 years old, finally passing away in 2048. The gang attends his funeral where, surprise surprise, Gale still looks great. Just as an old Leslie and Ben begin to leave, we learn that the secret service looking people standing behind them are there for them. Holy cow, what in the world are they doing now?
Ron Swanson is a man of simple pleasures. He likes to work with his hands, drink whiskey and enjoy his solitude. We find him in the year 2022 where his three children have all grown into successful young adults. After getting his life just where he wants it, Ron visits Leslie and Ben in D.C. to get her advice as to how he should spend his days now that being a father and business man are over. She uses her pull in government (whatever that is at this point) to make him the leader of a park in Pawnee. At first he protests, wondering if he’s even qualified for this, but Leslie reminds him what the fans have already known since the first season.
“As far as your qualifications, you’re Ron Swanson,” she says. With that, Ron spends the rest of his days patrolling his very own slice of America as a reluctant but appreciative civil servant.
Leslie And Ben
With just 20 minutes left of the final episode, “Parks and Rec” managed to squeeze one more farce into the show. While at a party hosted by, at this time, former vice president Joe “Freaking” Biden, Leslie and Ben are each individually offered a chance to run for the governor of Indiana. Leslie is still at the Department of the Interior and Ben is enjoying his stint as a Congressmen. After confessing to her husband in 2017 that all she wanted was for the gang to be together in Pawnee forever, he assured her that they would be again, but only after a whole lot of other stuff happened.
In 2025, the two take a trip to Pawnee and Ben surprises his wife with a gathering of the entire cast in the old Parks Department office, including … Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). That’s right, after exiting the series in Season 6, the two reprised their roles for the finale. They’re still the same. Ann is Leslie’s beautiful best friend and Chris is still woefully obsessed with his own good health.
The gang’s reunion gave a chance for everyone to work on their old dynamic, which apparently didn’t get stale in eight years as April is still off putting to Ann and Andy still can’t remember Chris’ name. Meanwhile, the ever-present children looming in the background of this finale finally got their moment as one of Leslie’s kids and Ann’s son started to develop a tiny little childhood romance. Anyone else hoping for a spinoff in 2030?
So, here’s the big question. How does it all end? What happens and where do we leave Leslie Knope? Well, after she agrees to let the race for governor be decided by a coin flip; Ben demonstrates one last act of incredible love for his wife by announcing for her that she’ll be running for governor of Indiana. With the full support of her friends behind her, we fast-forward to the future one last time where Leslie is giving a commencement speech at a university where she is introduced as the two-time governor.
Finally, we reground ourselves for the last shot of “Parks and Recreation,” which saw the Parks crew pose for a photo op in 2017. Before it clicks, Ben asks Leslie if she’s ready.
“I am,” she says with a smile. Well, frankly Mrs. Knope, we’re not ready to say goodbye.