Last year, after the How I Met Your Mother finale that disappointed a large percentage of fans, I wrote a column about how a series finale can never satisfy everyone. While I wasn’t as disappointed with the HIMYM finale as some, there were definitely some flaws in their execution.
Last week I read a recap of the Two and a Half Men series finale, and though I’m not a fan of that show even I could tell that finale plot sounded ridiculous. I would take the HIMYM finale over that one any day.
Last night I watched the series finale of what has become one of my favorite shows ever, Parks & Recreation and I must say I think the writers did a wonderful job of saying farewell to those characters while staying true to the show itself. In last year’s column I quoted Psych creator who had told E! Online, ““I didn’t realize just how challenging writing a finale was going to be … I started watching other shows’ finales to see how they did it, and I realized I didn’t really like any of them. They felt different from the show I remember … and I wanted it to feel like a regular episode. I wanted it to feel like these characters were going to live on, they were going to be having adventures and doing things, and we were just not seeing them for the time being.” I feel like Parks & Rec did that.
Under normal circumstances, I’m not a huge fan of time travelling finales. I don’t want to know how every little thing works out in the characters’ lives. I want the show to end on a happy, hopefully note. I want to be able to imagine what the characters will be doing next, when I can no longer watch their adventures. This was one of the things that the Psych finale did perfectly – it set up a whole new series of adventures for Shawn and Gus.
Parks & Rec managed to find a happy medium. They showed us glimpses of each character’s future, but didn’t tell us too much. We may never know why Tom’s restaurant business failed, if Anne and Leslie’s kids really do fall in love, or who actually became President of the United States (it’s totally Leslie) but we saw enough to know that they’re all happy, and still friends. I enjoyed the flash-forwards they showed us, and I liked that they left just enough ambiguity for us to still be able to imagine for ourselves how things work out.
I think the structure helped make the time traveling aspects of the finale work as well. We didn’t just jump around through time in too-short segments which made your head spin (like the HIMYM finale). Each flash-forward was focused and specific, and anchored by the framing of the episode – the team working together for one last Parks project.
Overall, I think the Parks and Rec team gave fans a terrific farewell and it’s only been about 12 hours since I said goodbye, but I already miss Pawnee.