Every great party, every great team and every great TV show must come to an end, and alas, tonight we say goodbye to Parks and Recreation. In a one-hour series finale (an even longer, "producer's cut" version is available online), Leslie pulls the team together to celebrate, do some civic good and to wrap up loose ties. The double-length finale, filled with flash-forwards and looks back, was written by Executive Producer Michael Schur and Amy Poehler and directed by Schur. Here's how it all ends:
Sensing that her team is moving upward and onward, Leslie calls the gang together at 8 a.m. on Friday to celebrate and say goodbye. In typical Leslie fashion, it involves a walk down memory lane - a passionate if painfully detailed recounting of their shared milestones. Ron, April and others try to shorten the presentation. Just as Leslie and Garry are about to recreate their song about the debate over a new coffeemaker, a Pawnee citizen arrives, looking for someone to fix a swing set in his local park. Ron and Donna explain that none of them work at the Parks and Rec office anymore; he'll need to come back when the office is officially open. But Leslie senses an opportunity, a final task for the team: get that swing set fixed. She's giddy as the team rallies.
We flash forward to Seattle in 2023, where Donna and Joe have built a comfortable life. Donna's real estate business is booming ("...all that coffee and legal marijuana, but it's got people wanting to buy a house quickly and irrationally.") and Joe loves his teaching job, though his school is facing serious budget cuts. Donna, sensing another big real estate commission, tells Joe she's planning to take them to the Amazon. But after thinking about it, Donna has a change of heart. She calls April, who's still at the American Service Foundation, for advice on setting up a schools-focused charity. They cook up a plan to help out Joe's school: Teach Yo' Self.
Back in 2017, Leslie bids goodbye to Craig and wishes him well with stewardship of the Parks department, then we get a look into Craig's future, two years hence. We see Craig crooning a pop standard at Tom's Bistro. Tom approaches him and notes that a handsome gentleman has sent over a glass of wine for him. It's Typhoon! We snap forward to their wedding (Ron is Typhoon's best man) and then even further ahead as the two of them, now an old married couple, fly off to celebrate their anniversary. Grizzled and gray, Craig is as feisty as ever.
We get a glimpse of April and Andy's future next. We see April all glammed up as Janet Snakehole, role-playing with Andy as Burt Macklin. It's about to get hot and heavy when the doorbell rings. It's Halloween and Andy's only too happy to hand out candy. In fact, the sight of the children has him telling April that he wants to "put a babe in you babe." April's response? Ewwww. They head over to Ben and Leslie's house for a Halloween party and a round of Ben's newest gaming creation, a sequel to his game, Cones of Dunshire, called The Winds of Tremorrah. Ben's dressed as a character from the game (The Lamplighter), while Leslie mashes up a Supreme Court Justice and a '50s pop star, calling herself Sandra Dee O'Connor. Andy and April separately get a little counseling on the joys and challenges of parenthood. Sure enough we flash forward to April in a delivery room.
Dr. Saperstein's on hand to deliver the baby; April's in full vampire makeup, listening to Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" and praying the baby comes on Halloween and not the next day. The child is born on November 1st, but Andy convinces Dr. Saperstein to backdate the birth certificate. The baby boy's name? Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack O'Lantern, otherwise known as Jack for short.
Back at City Hall in 2017, Leslie and Tom bump into Jean-Ralphio, who makes his usual play for Leslie, this time standing up out of his wheelchair to give her an impassioned goodbye. We see him and Mona Lisa five years later, faking Jean-Ralphio's death so they can cash out his life insurance policy to go start a casino overseas.
We peer into Tom's future next. We see him meeting with Ben and Ron at the Bistro, pondering a massive expansion opportunity for the restaurant. Tom's gung ho of course. Looking ahead, it's clearly been a disaster, a failure of epic proportions due to a down economy. We see him, swaggerless, wallowing in pity at home in a bathrobe; Lucy tries to console him. And what does our favorite serial entrepreneur do with that? Reinvents himself as a hyper-successful motivational speaker and author ("Failure: An American Success Story"). He's modeled his recipe for success on his former co-workers (excepting Garry, of course).
We return to 2017, where Leslie and Tom pay a visit to Garry, the interim mayor of Pawnee. He's only got a couple of weeks left in his appointment to the job, but he's clearly taken to it. He's happy to pull a string and help with the swing set repair. We then flash ahead to scenes of Garry's write-in election to a bona fide first term. Then we learn he's elected over and over. Finally, in 2048, we see Garry's doting wife, Gayle, looking eternally young, with Garry and their family celebrating Garry's 100th birthday. As it turns out, Garry dies later that day. We see a wizened Ben and Leslie at the funeral. Garry receives a notary's highest honor: a 21-stamp salute.
And now, on to Mr. Ron Swanson. In 2022, we watch a meeting of Very Good Building and Development Company's Board of Directors. Ron is resigning. His brothers on the board wish him luck. Apparently Ron is at a personal crossroads: his children are growing, he's unexcited by his work and looking for fulfillment. He heads to Washington, D.C. to seek out Leslie's counsel. At a bench on the Great Mall, he confesses to Leslie that he cannot fathom a role that would make him feel useful. Leslie takes the challenge under advisement and later summons Ron to the Pawnee national park. There, on the shores of the park's lake, she offers Ron the job of running the park. Ron scoffs at the idea of being a federal employee. Leslie shoots him down, telling him the role is to walk the park and make sure it's not destroyed. Ron's in - and eternally grateful. He gives a typically sparse speech to his staff of park rangers and then heads out on his canoe. All will be right with Ron.
And next, we learn the story of Leslie and Ben. We find them in 2025 at an elegant dinner party hosted by Joe and Jill Biden. At the party, Janet, a representative of the Democratic National Committee, approaches Leslie. Janet's curious whether Leslie would be interested in running for governor of Indiana; rumor is, the current governor is not running for re-election. Leslie's response? "Somebody's been reading my kindergarten dream journal!"
At almost the same time, Jen Barkley corners Ben to tell him that she thinks he should run for governor. It makes for an interesting car ride home. And we watch as Ben and Leslie dissect, debate and deconstruct the pros and cons of which of them should run. It's a hopeless tie. They agree to defer the decision until they return to Pawnee in two weeks.
Back in Pawnee, Ben suggests he and Leslie stop by the Parks department to see how things have changed. Inside, Ben's assembled the entire gang one last time, even Ann and Chris. Leslie's overcome with emotion. The gang catches up with each other one more time. Donna shows off her diamond-encrusted watch to Tom, who's fresh off his latest book "Failure 2.0: Failure to Fail," Ann and Leslie talk hair products, April insults Ann, and Chris shows Leslie his latest health monitoring gadget.
Ben and Leslie step into the hallway briefly to renew the discussion as to who should run for governor. Leslie actually suggests that they flip a coin. Fate has brought them to this place, she reasons, so why not let fate decide? They agree and head back into the office to tell the gang their decision and have them be part of the coin flip. But before Leslie can tell everyone the plan, Ben announces that Leslie is running for governor. Leslie's shocked, but then rolls with it. Ben will run her campaign and they'll work as closely together as they ever have.
Leslie proposes a toast. "We fought, scratched and clawed to make people's live a little bit better," she begins. She goes on to say that serving together is the greatest honor and calling in life - and that getting to work with the people you love is even greater still.
We flash forward one more time, to a commencement at Indiana University in 2035. Leslie, a two-term governor, is being conferred an honorary doctorate degree - and having the school library named after her. In her speech, she paraphrases Teddy Roosevelt's notion of work worth doing, thanking her old co-workers and and encouraging the graduates to "go find your team."
We return to 2017 where the evening's episode comes to an end. The gang assembles at the playground and announces that the swing set is fixed. The citizen who asked for he repair thanks them and then wanders off, leaving the lot of them to wonder what's next. Garry insists that they get a group picture. As the timer counts down to the snap, Ben asks Leslie if she's ready - and indeed she is. As the strains of The Traveling Wilburys' "End of the Line" roll in, the final credits roll up. And so we leave behind Leslie and Ben and the curious, quirky team of public servants who became as close to each other as they became to us.