Amy Poehler told Paper last month that the sixth season finale of “Parks and Recreation” would be a fitting end to the series if that is what’s decided for the show, which is returning next week from a hiatus that started in early November. Her comment made me start chewing the idea, wondering if it was the right path for the series. So, I re-read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” in which the subject of the poem takes the road less taken.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Poehler’s idea that Parks could end this year is most upsetting if my fan boy is speaking, but I obviously don’t have a script in my hand either. Unfortunately, it’s an idea that ought to be considered; after all, Frost’s subject is better off for doing what was presumably less popular, in the above poem.
In many ways, a series finale could be suitable for the path the characters are on, including Donna and Jerry, who we assume would just continue working at Pawnee City Hall forever and ever. I’ve mentioned this in past posts, which I went into the archive to read. Note: If you are now doing this and have gone past the most recent recap, you’ve gone to far. Please turnaround.
The last new episode was a double feature, which reminds me that we’ve had three of those this season — opening night and then the two weeks before the hiatus. In my last recap, I step through the department and stop at each desk to explain what the characters are doing.
Each character has an end game, assuming this show is off air next year:
Ron: Working at Pawnee Parks and married.
April: Settling down with Andy and starting a family, thus officially becoming an adult.
Tom: Running for office and beating Councilman Jamm in the process.
Ann: In Michigan with Chris and raising a baby.
Ben: City manager for life.
Donna: Working at Pawnee Parks and probably a successful realtor.
Jerry: Working at Pawnee Parks a few times a week and vacationing in Muncie often.
Leslie: Leaving government with one of these for the security cameras…
Leslie is the key. We’ve read that her battles with Ingrid de Forest (Kristen Bell) will continue when the show returns, while the city has already been successful in recalling her from her seat on the city council. She has less than a month before she has to leave office, so I wonder if the show will do what “How I Met Your Mother” is doing; however, HIMYM’s attempt to stretch this final season to cover only a small number of hours hasn’t been popular. Parks would be stretching the final half-season to tell the story of, let’s say, 15 days or so. A decision should be made after answering this question: Is an exit from office the right way to end the show for Leslie?
How could Parks possibly end without a superhero comeback by Leslie, in which she defeats Ms. de Forest, Joan Callamezzo and any other arch-nemeses? Well, Leslie brought up a possible solution in the second episode of the season: traveling the world. She told Ben that her visit to London made her want to explore; however, it wouldn’t make sense for Ben to take a leave of absence from his city manager role, nor would it make sense for Leslie to travel without a job in Pawnee government. Her undying love for Pawnee and motivation to work in government have been the two constants in Leslie’s character and an end wouldn’t make sense without the two in place.
But while Parks’ content is important in justifying an end, NBC put itself in a situation where finishing the series now might be its only move. The network’s all-timer, “The Office,” was criticized by some for continuing for so many seasons post-Michael. They don’t want that to happen again, though I wasn’t one of those criticizing it.
This hiatus put Parks in a worse situation, if only because it sparked this conversation we’re having. Thank goodness the time off is ending, but Parks will disappear in February during the Olympics. These small pockets of new Parks episodes can’t possibly be good for the show. It’s not the way I, or anybody else, would want to watch the show. If its time slot every Thursday isn’t cemented and NBC continues to exercise its option to take it off air in an attempt to save other shows, particularly this year’s horrendous Thursday night, maybe Parks shouldn’t return.
There are plenty of examples, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” that prove shorter series have worked. NBC’s “30 Rock” had a 13-episode seventh season to finish things. 30 Rock ended with praise and a Rolling Stone cover story, making it the model Parks should follow.
NBC has introduced Craig (Billy Eichner) and Ingrid de Forest as new characters this season, possibly in an attempt to extend the series with new story lines but it hasn’t worked, pending a restart of this season when Leslie and Ingrid go head-to-head. I don’t particularly expect Craig to stick around.
Next Thursday’s episode, called “Second Chunce,” involves Leslie devising a last-second plan to get back onto the city council. As long as there is still time for Leslie, there will be time for Parks. We know Amy Poehler considers what’s best for the series and if she thinks the season finale would be a fitting end, we have to trust her.