This week’s season finale of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up,” is nearly a perfect episode, and would have served extremely well as a series finale. Leslie (Amy Poehler) contemplates taking a huge job opportunity in Chicago, which would mean leaving the town of Pawnee, Indiana, which she doesn’t want to do. Meanwhile, the long-awaited Unity Concert unfolds, and the rest of the ensemble have strong development, too.
Leslie is the main character in Parks and Recreation and usually has the biggest stories. “Moving Up” is no exception. For most of the hour-long double episode, she is wavering back and forth over a life-altering choice. She’d really like the opportunity to run the National Parks Service in the Midwest, but that means abandoning the town she loves at a crucial time, as they are still reeling from the merger with Eagleton that she is instrumental in. If she does go, Councilman Jamm (Jon Glaser) will likely dismantle her accomplishments. To add insult to injury, her co-workers have added a plaque for her to the founder’s statue with a quote from her reinforcing her dedication to the place. How can she leave?
Yet, on the other hand, Leslie is a dynamic player that must keep growing. City Council didn’t work out for her, but she can’t just go back to the local Parks Department. For her to advance, she has to leave the small pond she’s been swimming in. Her husband, Ben (Adam Scott), is supportive, but also helps her to realize this, knowing she won’t be happy if she passes this up. Leslie can’t stay stagnant. She needs to step up and tackle the next challenge, and I’m not just talking about the triplets she is pregnant with. She has to accept the job, a huge promotion that she has worked hard for and deserves. Even Michelle Obama (herself) weighs in on the decision, urging Leslie to take the job.
“Moving Up” has the perfect solution when Leslie tells Grant Larson (Brady Smith) that she wants the position, but wants to move the office to Pawnee. Parks and Recreation doesn’t take the easy way out and just drop this bit and move on. Instead, in true Leslie fashion, she creates a strong argument as to why this is a good idea, complete with thick binder, and in the face of the evidence, Grant has to agree. No one can stand in the way of Leslie when she sets her mind on something, pursuing it doggedly. She gets to stay in the place she loves and perform her dream job.
The closing moments of “Moving Up” are set three years later, Leslie running a busy department and firing an inept employee (Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm). I really hope the next season of this show sticks to that new timeline, as there are hints of an event set up here that provide a dangling mystery. Though, if it starts just a little earlier, Hamm’s cameo, as funny as it is, might actually feel justified, providing an opportunity for Hamm to be a recurring player in season seven.
How else could one ask for Parks and Recreation to end? Leslie gets everything she wants and everyone is happy. This is how it should be.
The rest of “Moving On” is a love letter to the town and the people that populate it, too. The concert itself features a number of terrific musicians, many with ties to the series, and a huge tribute to Li’l Sebastian. Local celebrities, recurring characters, participate, too, and then all head to Tom’s Bistro, which Tom (Aziz Ansari) has made a success, allowing Tom to rub his accomplishment in Dr. Saperstein’s (Henry Winkler) face in front of his children (Jenny Slate and Ben Schwartz), bringing Tom’s arc full circle.
Others get their due, as well. Ron (Nick Offerman) finally defeats Tammy’s (Megan Mullally) hold over him, happy with his new family and loving it, and publicly comes out as saxophone player Duke Silver. Andy (Chris Pratt) gets to reunite with his band, whom he misses. April (Aubrey Plaza) shows new-found maturity and is totally blissful in her marriage, which her and Andy decide to dissolve so they can wed all over again. Donna (Retta) is right in the thick of things, being her awesome self. Ben earns the town free Wi-Fi and is gifted the copyright to his successful game by the accounting firm that worships him. And Larry (Jim O’Heir), formerly Jerry, is now Terry and working for Leslie.
So, all is right in the world. Parks and Recreation has been treading water a bit this season, making recent episodes less compelling, but this is resolved in a single hour. These developments not only illustrate beautifully who the characters are and how far they’ve come, but propel them forward with new, interesting stories. I don’t know if this is done because the show’s fate was in doubt (it has now been renewed), but one could not have asked for a better season finale, highlighting what this show has accomplished thus far and really stoking enthusiasm for next year.
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