“Parks and Recreation” gave us a season finale that took turns being incredibly funny and genuinely emotional but was always true to each of its characters. “Win, Lose or Draw” was a big win.
Going into Thursday’s (May 10) episode, we could have argued the merits of Leslie winning or losing the election either way as far as shaping next season (and we’re hopeful/moderately confident there will be a next season). Then came the moment when Perd Hapley called the election for Bobby Newport, and the empty feeling pretty well put the lie to any kind of dispassion. Although when the recount took place and Leslie actually won? Well, the down moment made the victory that much sweeter.
Because what “Parks and Rec” does for us is what Leslie does for the people around us: It makes us really care about these people. The episode was given to a little more speechifying — particularly on Ron’s part — than usual, but all of them, from his thoughts on clear liquor (it’s for “rich women on diets”) to his pep talk to ben and especially his talk with Leslie in the council chambers.
Leslie and Ron’s relationship has always been at the heart of the show, and because we’ve seen so many warm moments between them — and because we know the warmth flows both ways, even if Ron is more reluctant to show it — his lines about having helped her campaign because he and everyone else cares about her rang absolutely true.
It also rang absolutely true that Ron would stumble on the word “care,” and then follow up his speech with, “You drive — I’ve had 11 whiskeys.”
Everyone else’s support system is on display in the episode too. Andy doesn’t actually know how to fix April’s file-erasing problem, but he really throws himself into setting up new lives for them. April nudges her husband toward the dream job he doesn’t quite know he wants in the Pawnee Police Department. Donna saves both of their bacon with her secret, Jerry-proof backup. Ann helps Leslie blow off steam on election night, and on and on.
Ben and Leslie continue to have one of the sweetest romances on television. Leslie giving Ben a tiny Washington Monument figurine (“I have like 50 of them”) was both a very sweet callback to the season premiere and a very selfless gesture on her part to let Ben go work on a congressional campaign in Washington.
Long-distance relationships are not easy, but they’re probably not as hard as breaking up with someone you love so she can pursue her dream and still having to see her everyday. And campaigns being what they are, it’s not necessarily a permanent thing.
And Leslie’s acceptance speech? Both the writers and Amy Poehler nailed it, putting her partly improvised remarks on a par with her closing “Debate” statement.
All that, and Jerry pulling a classic Jerry, and the brief but wonderfully douchey return of Jean-Ralphio? It’s almost too much to ask of a single half-hour.
“Parks and Rec” isn’t officially renewed for 2012-13 yet, but it feels like there’s a pretty good chance of a fifth season (of some length, anyway). But if this is the last we see of Leslie Knope and Co., it’s a heck of a way to go out.
What did you think of “Parks and Rec’s” season finale?