SPOILER ALERT: This post contains massive spoilers for the season finale that aired last night.
This episode starts off similarly to Leslie's other trips (to DC and London). Andy confidently stating a fact that is the opposite of true. Leslie being a dork about parks. Leslie freaking. out. when she meets the political guest start that the show has managed to attract. Meanwhile, back in the former Eagleton section of Pawnee, Tom's Bistro is nearing completion.
I fucking loved this episode. In fact, if this had been the series finale, I would have been completely satisfied. I think this would've made an excellent series finale, time jump included. When I first saw the time jump, I was like- 'WHAAAAA???? NOOOO!!!' in my best Mona Lisa Saperstein voice. But then I waited 20 minutes, rewatched the end (I had it on DVR), and changed my mind. It was excellent. I trust the writers and showrunners of this show to do anything, basically, because they have made such a quality product up until now. There is no reason to think that jumping three years into the future will change the character of the show drastically.
Here are my top reasons for loving the season finale:
1) Michelle Obama: Leslie's reaction to Michelle Obama (trying to speak normally to her but realizing her voice just keeps getting progressively louder until she is shouting at the first lady of the United States) is exactly what I would expect Leslie to do. In fact, if I am ever lucky enough to meet Michelle Obama or Amy Poehler (possibly Joe Biden as well), I may have a similar reaction. I am happy that Mrs. Obama's work with the National Parks Service is part of what convinced Leslie to take the job offer in Chicago. Even though I knew she could never leave Pawnee, I really wanted her to take that job.
2) The return of Cones of Dunshire: Parks & Rec knows its audience. We are young. There are few of us. But we are loyal. And I haven't seen statistics on this, but I bet that quite a few of us are gamers. Last year's bachelor party, in which Ben Wyatt announced that he is a nationally ranked player of Settlers of Catan, looked pretty damn familiar to me. Actually, when my boyfriend and I get married, I suspect his bachelor party will have the exact same "beer and board games" theme as Ben's. When Ben revealed his game, Cones of Dunshire, which he created during a week of unemployment, it was perfect. He would create an incredibly complex board game that few can master. And, of course, he would play that game at Gryzzl in order to better Pawnee.
Update: How could I forget about Ben's favorite accounting firm? He owes them big time. After he finishes up whatever he is doing in 2017, he needs to retire and work there at least part time. Come ON Ben, don't torture the good people of Tilton & Radomski (especially Ben's BFF Barney) like this!
3) The Unity Concert: We've been waiting to see Ginuwine on Parks & Rec for over two years now, since Donna announced that he is her cousin. And really, how amazing was it that he dedicated "Pony" to Lil' Sebastian (RIP)? Does this mean he's from Pawnee, or just that Donna told him about Lil' Sebastian (although if he were from Pawnee he would know that Lil' Sebastian is a MINIATURE HORSE, not a pony)? Yo La Tengo performed as "Bobby Knight Ranger," a Night Ranger cover band that dresses as famed IU basketball coach (although he finished his career at Texas Tech) Bobby Knight and apparently only plays "Sister Christian," made me crack up. I am not from Indiana, but I enjoy how the show embraces its fictional setting. Of course, the Decemberists appearance made me smile, and I know my college friends (who I have been told haven't seen it yet so don't tell them!) are going to freak out. I am going to say that in my 100% correct opinion, and as a Bostonian child of the '90s, that Letters to Cleo was the BEST, though. Ben Wyatt on the side of the stage, singing along and yelling "I love you Kay Hanley!" was the first time in the entire series that I felt like I actually needed to marry him. Sometimes Ben actually annoys me by being so nerdy cute, but this was definitely not one of those times. I was so happy for Andy when he got to reunite with Mouse Rat and sing "5,000 Candles in the Wind" (a song 5,000 times better than "Candle in the Wind") and even happier when Ron Swanson walked out on stage in his Duke Silver getup. This, coupled with him helping to set Donna up with Keegan Michael Key's character last week, really shows the character development that Ron has gone through since meeting Diane, and it is wonderful. Yes, we all love the satirical libertarian macho character that Ron was at the beginning of the series, but he's so much more human (and better for it) now. And Andy's growth over the season, from loveable but incompetent goofball to someone who still does dumb shit sometimes but has now run a successful charity in the UK and been the primary organizer of the Unity Concert, has been refreshing to watch. I was a little worried when he married April that he was just going to be a perpetual manchild, but he now seems to be able to act like an adult in at least a few areas.
4) The time jump: I am not usually the biggest fan of time jumps. I watched every episode of LOST live as it aired, but I considered ditching it when they started jumping through time. I was less bothered by BSG's jump, which P&R co-creator Mike Schur says was a major inspiration for their own jump forward. But this one was great. I was worried about how they would deal with Leslie's pregnancy (because even though the summer break was coming up she would probably still be pregnant by the time the next season starts) or if she would just show up in September with infants. And I was not excited to see Leslie and Ben deal with the babies. This move actually made me much happier with the writers' decision to make Leslie not just pregnant, but pregnant with triplets. Now that the kids are slightly older we get to see how Leslie and Ben's lives have changed, but without a constant stream of jokes about sleeplessness that may have dominated if we saw them right from birth.
I am excited to see what Leslie and the gang are up to when they come back for season 7. The writers seem reasonably confident that next season will be the last (which is bittersweet, because if they know in advance they can plan an awesome series finale, but I never want this show to end. Never), and throwing us in to a more fully unified Pawnee/Eagleton so that we can see if Tom's Bistro survives, whether Donna and Joe are still together, if Ron is trying to get his son to help him around his wood shop, and where Leslie is going next is, IMO, a good way to add more excitement to the series.
So, what do you think Ben and Leslie were headed to in the elevator? Did Mayor Gunderson finally step down after 23 years (he became Mayor in 1994 according to Pawnee: The Greatest City in America, which, yes, I do own)? Is Ben the new Mayor? Is Leslie going downstairs to announce a run for elected office (my guess is no, since I think Ben is overdressed for something like that)? Is it just a big party that is actually not too important in the scheme of things? I can't wait to find out!
Whatever happens in 2017, though, I just want Parks & Recreation to remain what it has always been: one of the happiest shows on TV. This is a show that never fails to make me happy, even when it makes me cry. The characters (including the town of Pawnee) are just so good. Even when they are doing stupid shit, a la Andy and April, or Tom and the Sapersteins, and even when they are making fun of Gary/Jerry/Larry/Terry, the show is about people who are fundamental good and kind. They will always come together to support each other and Pawnee (and even if they don't support Gary/Jerry/Larry/Terry, he's got the happiest life of them all, so I think he doesn't mind that much).