This season of Parks and Rec opened in London, paused in Paris, and has been contemplating Chicago for a while now, but when Ben takes Leslie to look out over San Francisco, he still asks her to turn away from the postcard view of the Golden Gate Bridge and look at a name on a sign. This show will never stop being about the people who do the work. Leslie’s met Michelle Obama, and that’s something you never come back from, but she can’t commit to her new job until she sees that map of America’s national parks. Leslie isn’t in this for the flashy connections. She wants to put her name to something that lasts.
She’s already done that in Pawnee. The town is basically brand new after the merger, so Leslie’s friends surprise her by adding her name to the Founder’s Day statue (“Leslie, don’t cry, it’s not that great. It doesn’t even look like you”). Leslie has already done good work here, and as much as she wants to see it through, she doesn’t have to sit around for the next decade to make sure everything works out. She’s got her team for that.
Leslie delegates like a pro now, trusting Andy to lead the Unity Concert committee like it’s nothing. They’ve really outdone themselves this time: That concert is the best event, fictional or otherwise, that I’ve attended in a while. It’s bigger than the Harvest Festival. Ginuwine dedicates “My Pony” to Li’l Sebastian! I never imagined such a big stage or such great crowds for this event, but of course it’s Go Big or Go Home for these people. Never forget that our mini horse only got where he was by following his dreams.
I can’t go to a big event on a warm summer night without feeling a push and pull between loving where I am and wanting something bigger. It’s just that feeling that comes from standing in a crowd, surrounded by friends but watching people onstage who took risks to do what they wanted to do with their lives. It’s the tension between home and adventure. Andy feels it. He loves being Johnny Karate, and I love that he loves being Johnny Karate, but performing onstage makes him miss rock ‘n roll. “They never tell you when you go solo that it’s just gonna be you up there.” If that isn’t the story of Leslie’s life.
But sometimes you can have both, and sometimes it’s not just you up there. April orchestrates a big MouseRat reunion for the closing act of the concert, and Andy gets his band back. He also gets his greatest wish for Ron: Duke Silver comes out of hiding. Inspired by sweet jazz, his love of Li’l Sebastian, and the desire to stick it to Tammy 2, Ron reveals his alter ego to the world. He’s a different person now, and I’m so proud of him. That was one fine rendition of “Bye Bye Li’l Sebastian,” no matter what Ben thinks.
Pawnee is about to blast those other joined communities out of the water, because in one night, they’ve collected 4,000 signatures in support of the merger. This is a brand new town, with bigger and better resources and a wider reach—the kind of town that makes an excellent home to the Midwest region of the National Parks Service. Leslie gets to stay in her hometown, and it’s all because she looked beyond hometown lines and lent Eagleton a hand. Ron’s expert craftsmanship on the third floor didn’t hurt either.
Leslie is committed to the new job long before she realizes that she can stay in Pawnee, and her willingness to take that leap makes her big victory feel all the more earned. She’s not staying because it’s comfortable or easy—she just genuinely loves this town and can see that it’s on the verge of something great. Her argument makes sense, and for the first time in far too long, Leslie wins. She gets Pawnee and her big promotion. I want to believe that life works like this sometimes. In a show so insistent that nobody achieves anything alone, it’s fitting to think that success doesn’t always have to be lonely. If people will fight for us, sometimes we get one more night onstage with our band. Or in this case, three years.
THREE YEARS. Time jumps usually leave me feeling left out, but I love every second of this one, and not just because we’ve all been spared sitcom baby chaos. We’ve been spared new office chaos, too. We’ve bypassed the struggles that come with opening a new branch of government and leapt right into a world that Leslie absolutely owns. She and her power bangs and her power husband are taking names and canceling flights and firing Jon Hamm like it’s just another day. Leslie and Ben are happy. They’re successful. I’ll take any time jump if it means that.
Next season has a lot of questions to answer. Andy and April didn’t follow through on their “get divorced so we can get remarried” thing and then hit some sort of snag, right? What’s Ron up to? Tom? Donna? Is Ben’s big night all thanks to Cones of Dunshire, and what’s happening in Leslie’s life that could pull them both away from that? How on earth will the eventual series finale top this? And why am I pretty sure that half of the tears I’ve shed at this finale have been at the thought of ever having to say goodbye to this show?
Third Floor Snaps:
“From now on everyone call me Kristen, because I am Wiig-ing out right now!”
“They’re not even done painting that sign, it says ‘Tom’s Bi’—actually no, that’s good. We’re ready!”
“Please, Ron? I’ve never asked you for anything today.”
“YOU ARE FROM CHICAGO SO YOU LIKE IT.”
“I agree with you on all things throughout history and ‘til the end of time forever.”
“And after they give us the free WiFi, we tell them that the treasure was love all along.”
“Are they playing any games I invented? Are they throwing dirt into a fan?”
“I don’t know who I am anymore! A man without a palate isn’t a man! I love you Donna!”
Ben playing Cones of Dunshire is more Iron Throne-y than Ben ON THE IRON THRONE.
“People are playing with my cones, babe!”
“But anyway, I love you. No.”
“I like your energy hombre. What do you say you and I ride go-karts later?” “I wanna go horseback riding!” “…deal.”
“I was picturing bigger hats.”
“Medium drink of water.”
“Thanks, babe. You’re so good at reminding me where pizza is.”
“No way, The Closer?! Foof.”
The Joan: a tumbler of gin with crushed aspirin around the rim
“He’s not good enough for her, and vice versa.”
RON: It’s time for you to move up in the world. Your ambition was bound to take you away from the town you love sooner or later, and you can’t have everything you want.
LESLIE: Oh my God. I can have everything I want! Thank you.
RON: I feel like you’re not listening to me.
“Sometimes you have to make the hardest climb to see the most beautiful sunrise. I read that once on an old lady’s decorative pillow, but it is really how I feel today. I’ve climbed a very weird and rocky mountain, and it was a pain in the ass, and my legs are tired, and I’m starving. But the sun is rising over a sea of love and waffles and possibility, so I’m just gonna relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy this view for as long as I possibly can.”
It’s going to be a long hiatus, but I’m so glad we’ve got more of this show coming. With any luck, the next season will bring a bigger world, lots of success for our team, and plenty of Jon Hamm flashbacks. What are your hopes for season seven? Share them in the comments!