Season five of Parks and Recreation ends today with a season finale that may also be the end of the series. NBC has yet to announce if the show will be renewed for a sixth season, but this season has provided such an emphasis on optimism, cooperation, and goodwill that if this is the show’s final day, it will be going out at a high point. Hopefully, it stays forever though so we can stay in Pawnee a bit longer.
When we last checked in at the beginning of this season of Parks and Rec, we wrote about the true love that overcomes all in the television paradise that is Pawnee. And this was before Ben and Leslie even got engaged! Sometimes it’s hard to predict what will happen in a given show, but Parks and Rec executed an excellent season of TV without any huge twists or turns, and it lived up to our expectations of the show as a sort of Utopia of friendship and happiness in a town overrun by huge sodas, candy, and a strange corrupt city council overpowered by a pushy dentist antagonist.
Here is a review of what happened this season and why Parks and Recreation is number one in our hearts.
Leslie and Ben got married.
Not unlike fellow strong female protagonist Liz Lemon (played by Amy Poehler’s IRL comedy buddy Tina Fey), Leslie Knope got married this season. The catch is that Ben and Leslie’s relationship didn’t change much at all once they got married. It’s not boring to watch them now that they’ve solidified their relationship in matrimony, because ever since they overcame the limits of workplace romance and Leslie’s campaign for city council, their relationship hasn’t relied on a will-they won’t-they caveat. Also of note is the fact that the show didn’t play up the wedding as the crux of the entire season — the ceremony took place on a whim and only involved the show’s core characters.
April and Andy both grew in their careers and supported each other. Tom too.
At the end of Parks and Rec‘s fourth season, April took notice of Andy’s dedication to being pretend FBI agent Bert Macklin and suggested he follow his dreams by applying to the police force. And though in a twist of irony the enthusiastic but dumb Andy aced his written test and failed the personality one, Andy finds success elsewhere, in helping Ben find a music-related charity to support at his new job. April continues to develop into a Leslie Knope protege with the projects she is most passionate about like saving animals (because she likes them more than people), a huge change from her start as an emo girl office assistant.
Meanwhile, Tom Haverford established a real grown-up business after his failed Entertainment 720 expedition with Jean-Ralphio. Tom’s renting out his tiny suits to young Pawnee boys is really cute, and his responsibility is endearing. It’s so nice to see him grown up in small ways, even as he retains the naiveté that comes with his character.
Ron Swanson found love and fatherhood.
Ever since it was announced before last season that Ron would be dating Xena: Warrior Princess, it’s been clear that this is the relationship that will outlast Ron’s experience with the Tammys. Ron has finally found love and a place to direct his libertarian hard-knocks sense of fatherhood that he has always exhibited especially with Leslie, Andy, April, and Tom. That he has learned to make sacrifices and change his mind about things — in particular trying bananas for the first time and playing glitter and makeup with little girls — is a testament to his warm feelings for his girlfriend Diane.
Jerry retired, and Donna sang.
Though Jerry and Donna have often remained in the background of Parks and Rec, they’ve always been celebrated as two remarkably awesome characters, with even the tiniest asides about them being the most complimentary, like Jerry having a gorgeous family and Donna always having a piece of man candy waiting in her car. This season continued to show how great even the minor characters in the parks department are, mainly through the observed absence of a scapegoat when Jerry retires and Tom has to get made fun of, and also through Retta operatically singing at Ben and Leslie’s wedding which is hands down one of the most surprising and lovely moments this season (see also: Ann, April, and Donna belting “Time After Time”).
Ann decided to have a baby, with Chris maybe!
Ann has often been the most difficult character in Parks and Rec, because though she is a beautiful tropical fish, she can’t decide what to do with her life and has previously let her relationships to men define her as a person, making her character stagnant whenever she suffers a breakup, and therefore not always fun to watch. This season was about Ann discovering herself outside of relationships, and her self-actualization made her realize she wanted a baby. Ann’s decision to search for a sperm donor led her back to one of the men who had caused her to take a break from dating, Chris Traeger, LIT-rully the most optimistic human. Since they ended their relationship, Chris has undergone counseling and Ann has has her mini-epiphany, and now they are ready to have a baby together! Or maybe a relationship.
Either way, if this is the most major turmoil in the season, it is some pretty sweet and gooey turmoil. The strong and admirable characters, though, and the excellent humor keep this sweetness from being overpowering. Parks and Rec has in this season managed to put a lid on the drama and show characters who really enjoy one another’s company, creating the kind of funny paradise that you don’t ever want to leave, because it’s just so nice.