For all eight seasons of Parks and Rec, which finales made fans the happiest – and where does the flash-forward series finale fit in?
Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the entire gang working in the parks and recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana unexpectedly became the ensemble for one of the funniest comedies that NBC ever produced when Parks and Recreation began airing in 2009.
The simple premise of a sitcom revolving around the employees of a local government office ended up creating endless episodes of joy and hilarity as the public servants (mostly just Leslie) spent their every waking minute trying to make life better for the citizens of their beloved hometown. But while every episode produced laughter, it was the finales that always left the loyal fans craving more.
7 Rock Show, Season 1 (7.8)
The first season finale was only six episodes into the season, but that was all it took for audiences to get hooked and for NBC to bring the show back for a full-length season. During the episode, Andy finally gets his casts off and everyone in the department decides to throw a party to celebrate. Unfortunately, Ann finds out that Andy could have had the casts taken off two weeks prior and simply enjoyed being pampered by his girlfriend, causing Ann to officially dump him for good. Meanwhile, Leslie and Mark almost hook up for the second time in two years, but Leslie stops Mark because he’s drunk… and he then falls into a giant pit.
6 Are You Better Off? Season 5 (8.4)
Despite doing everything that she possibly could to make people happy, Leslie just couldn’t win over the unreasonable citizens of her town. During this finale, she decides to hold a public forum and immediately gets chastised by some of the citizens for the harm that she has caused them in the past year as a councilwoman. Later in the episode, during a parade, there’s a specific booth that is dedicated to the “Recall Knope Committee” – a group of citizens who are tired of having Leslie as their councilwoman and want her out of office.
The episode ends with Leslie refusing to give up and to keep trying to make life better for her hometown… and concludes with Diane and Ron finding out that they’re pregnant.
5 Freddy Spaghetti, Season 2 (8.7)
Season 2 introduced two characters that would end up becoming season regulars as well as fan-favorites in Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger, and the season 2 finale was only their second appearance. That said, they quickly made their presence felt in Pawnee as they were state auditors and had informed Pawnee that their funding would be slashed and the entire government would be shut down until further notice.
Despite having no money and being told to cancel all events, Leslie defies Ben/Chris’ orders and puts on a children’s concert for the kids of Pawnee. Ben and Chris show up to shut it down, but Leslie’s inspiring words about how much she loves her community convinces Ben/Chris to let the concert go on (they can’t stop the government shut down, though).
4 Li’l Sebastian, Season 3 (8.9)
A lot happened during this episode, starting off with the heartbreaking revelation that Li’l Sebastian, Pawnee’s beloved miniature horse, had passed away. The parks department sets up a memorial for the mini horse in the park, but during the set up Leslie and Ben get caught making out by a maintenance worker whom they have to bribe to keep their relationship quiet. Meanwhile, Tom decides to leave the parks department and starts his own business, Entertainment 720, with Jean-Ralphio Saperstein. After all of that, at the end of the episode Leslie is approached by two people who introduce themselves as campaign managers… and reveal that they’d like Leslie to be their candidate for City Council.
3 Win, Lose or Draw, Season 4 (9.1)
While the season 3 finale announced that Leslie would be running for City Council, the season 4 finale dealt with the actual election and followed Leslie throughout voting day. While Leslie deals with the stress of waiting to see if she got voted onto the City Council, Ben gets thrown for a loop when their competitor, Jenn Barkley, asks Ben to run a Congressional Campaign for her from Washington D.C. Halfway through the episode, Leslie is revealed to be the loser of the election, but the committee does a recount and discovers that Leslie actually won! She ends the episode with her victory speech and the entire parks department is there to celebrate with her.
2 Moving Up: Part 2, Season 6 (9.4)
Quite a bit happened during season 6 and it all managed to accumulate in the finale – Leslie had been recalled from office, but had merged the towns of Pawnee and Eagleton before doing so and was tasked with creating the Unity Concert, a 3-day event that would help bring the two towns closer together. Meanwhile, Leslie gets offered the job of running the entire mid-west branch of the National Parks Department and finally decides to take it… but it means she’ll have to move to Chicago. She tries to get anybody from the gang to move to Chicago with her and Ben, but they all turn her down. However, said rejections (and a long heart-to-heart with Ron) help her realize that she can run the National Parks Department from Pawnee instead of Chicago… which she does. The episode ends on the cliffhanger of revealing that the show would jump forward 3 years in time for the next season.
1 One Last Ride, Season 7 (9.6)
The one-hour series finale did everything it possibly could have with the time it was allotted, giving every single character in the show a proper goodbye and giving the audiences closure about what would happen to the parks and recreation gang in the future. Donna gets married and moves to Seattle with her husband, Joe; Craig marries Typhoon; Jean-Ralphio fakes his own death and starts a champagne company; Tom finds success in writing a book about his failures; Andy and April have a baby; Jerry lives to the age of 100 and becomes the longest-tenured mayor in Pawnee’s history; Ann and Chris move back to Pawnee after moving to Michigan; Ron becomes the head caretaker of the Pawnee National Forest; and Ben and Leslie go on to have illustrious careers in politics. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
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