Despite it being the last episode of Parks and Recreation to ever air, One Last Ride felt less like a final goodbye and more like a welcoming look into the future. Episodes like Leslie and Ron and last week’s The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show were heavy on laughs in order to balance out the sorrowful undertones. One Last Ride, on the other hand, is more like a sentimental kiss on the cheek from your gran.
When it comes to sentimentality, no-one does it better than Leslie Knope. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to express her deepest love for those around her, Leslie was the helping hand that (not so) gently guided her workplace proximity associates in the right direction. Arguably her finest Hallmark moments have arisen from her interactions with Ron. As much as he may try to project himself as a staunchly stern fellow, us dedicated fans know the real Ron. Carrying on from last week’s portrayal of how much things have changed for the Pawnee residents, One Last Ride is a graceful end to a tale of transformation. When Ron once again finds himself at a personal crossroads (much to Leslie’s delight) he demonstrates just how far he’s come in the past years. Voluntarily travelling to Washington to ask for Leslie’s assistance in tracking down his next career move, future Ron is no longer afraid of the prospect of making changes in his life. His acceptance of Leslie’s help leads to him securing the most Swanson-like job that you could ever imagine: leader of the park rangers. Riding off into the sunset in his new expertly crafted canoe (aptly named Luck Boy), Ron really couldn’t be happier. And we couldn’t be happier for him.
Parks and Recreation has a true knack for knowing when to step up the humour and when to downplay it to make way for seriousness. The former choice is ever present in One Last Ride, mostly with the help of Crazy Craig. Though his time on the show has been short, Billy Eichner’s portrayal of the wacky goofball we all would secretly love to be friends with has quickly become one of the most memorable appearances in the show’s history. Whether he’s yelling about his friend who drove him to work, or letting you in on his incurable disease that leads to him caring too much, there’s never a dull moment when Craig’s around. Thankfully, the same can be said for his future. Fast forward to 2019, and Craig’s crooning the locals in Tom’s Bistro when he learns that he has an admirer. Hilariously, the admirer in question is Ron’s new bff and hair stylist, the one and only Typhoon. We don’t know about you, but this feels like a complete match made in heaven. Fast forward some more and you’ll learn that the couple not only tie the knot, but stick with it into their waning years (with a little help from Best Man Ron Swanson, we’re sure). Not even love can prevent Craig’s unpredictable outbursts though, and he can reach pretty extreme volumes for an OAP.
Then there’s the more subdued moments. April and Andy, for example, face their own personal crossroads, this time in the form of children. Unsurprisingly considering he’s the biggest kid of them all, Andy is more than disheartened by April’s reluctance for their family to grow. There’s a lovely moment between April and Leslie that could’ve been played very differently. Thankfully, the Parks and Rec team don’t disappoint. When April admits her anxieties about raising children and her fear of them being complete and utter losers, Leslie delivers this beautiful speech:
“It’s not about trying to make your life perfect. Nobody’s lives are perfect. You have kids because you and Andy are a team and you wanna bring in some new team members. I don’t know if you should have kids. I really don’t. But I do like your team.”
Once again, Leslie proves herself to be an inspiration. Exactly one year later, on Halloween nonetheless, Jack Dwyer is born into the world. Some names that almost made the cut: Demon Spawn Baby Satan Dwyer and Burt Macklin Jr.
As for the others, there are both highs and lows awaiting them in the future. Donna is an uber successful real estate agent living a life of bliss with Joe. Tom becomes an international best-seller after the shortage of beef leads him left bankrupt – but not without a little inspiration for an autobiographical book. Newly-appointed Mayor Gergich lives to the ripe old age of 100, leaving behind a distraught Gayle who still looks no older than 35. Then there’s Jean-Ralphio. After proclaiming his love to Leslie, the wannabe casanova fakes his own death for an insurance scam that goes terribly wrong. It’s nice to know that he’s still singing random phrases in a falsetto though.
Since she was a little girl, Leslie Knope has dreamed of being the Governor of Indiana. She’s had many dreams since then. Some of those dreams have been fulfilled, some haven’t. But there are also things that have happened in her life that not even she could’ve dreamed of. One of those being Ben Wyatt. These two are like ying and yang. They make each other laugh, cry, and have become valuable players in the world of politics. When a routine visit to Joe Biden’s house (!!!) opens up an opportunity for Leslie to live out that childhood dream, everything feels like it’s come full circle for our leading lady. Despite Ben being offered the same opportunity, the job had to be Leslie’s. Mainly because Ben wouldn’t let it be any other way. To top things off, a visit from Leslie’s ultimate soulmate Ann Perkins, and Chris Traeger, is literally the icing on the cake for not only Leslie but the show itself.
When most shows come to an end it is of course emotional and heartbreaking, but rarely do you feel left with a sense of purpose. Watching the characters we have come to know and love grow and evolve into better people and move on to better things is truly wonderful. This show is for all the little girls who dream of running things in a world where the odds are against them. This show is for the people who fear never finding happiness. This show is for the misfits who never felt like they fitted in. The legacy of Parks and Recreation will live on forever in the hearts of the people who created it and the fans who fell in love with it. Isn’t that something.
Words by Sophie Mace.