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Parks and Rec: Unity Concert


NBC’s narrative voiceover, after the ending credits of Parks and Recreation‘s “Moving Up,” calmed me down a wee bit when the network’s voice of God promised the show would return in the fall. Parks‘ sixth season finale tricks you into thinking it’s a series ender — with a three-year time jump and all the fixins — while being a loaded season finale that’s having oodles of fun.

“Moving Up” is a two parter, based first around Leslie, Ben and Andy’s trip to San Francisco, where Leslie is speaking at a National Parks convention (a clever incentive toward taking the job in Chicago), while Ben and Andy pitched Pawnee, Indiana, as an excellent place for free wifi. The episode’s second part surrounds the Unity Concert that this season built up to and it’s loaded with one hell of a surprising lineup — The Decemberists, Ginuwine, Kay Hanley, Bobby Knight Rider (a cover band), reunions of Mouse Rat and Land Ho, and even a hologram Lil’ Sebastian!

Parks added a three-year time leap at the end of the episode that made it look a lot like a series finale, ending with Leslie (new haircut) and Ben (tuxedo) in the elevator to closing doors. Basically, Leslie takes the Chicago job, but makes Ron’s refurbished Pawnee City Hall third floor the headquarters. Jerry, then Larry, now Terry, works there, but Jon Hamm makes a studly appearance as a younger version of JLT (I made that up. It’s awful). Hamm’s just there to get fired, so the Parks writers can prove that Leslie has a ton more power — so much power, in fact, that she can fire Don Draper.

Don Draper!

But what is the three-year jump doing there? The finale had a perfect ending already — Leslie hanging up a group picture of the Parks Department in her new office. (Cut!) I rewound my DVR midway through the jump, just to see if I was imagining it. Bad news. The writers stripped us of so much in three years. Exhibit A: the birth of the triplets, or even just the grueling pregnancy and all of the precious Leslie/Ben moments that come with it. The writers scrapping that story line makes it seem even sillier than last week. Also, I didn’t really like Leslie’s hair. Is that weird?

I never actually bought the idea that Leslie and Ben would move to Chicago, not even after she was promised that she could hire two people to come with her (I was begging for April and Andy). I knew she would figure out a way to stay, especially after that statue dedication. It was perfectly fitting that she drafted a plan to stay in Pawnee, since her million-page report afforded her the opportunity in the first place, but the ending also felt like a spot where the writers didn’t know if the show was going to be canceled or not. The direction of the ending could’ve been different. My point: Leslie and Ben actually move to Chicago if the show is canceled, paralleling them nicely with their best friends Ann and Chris, who also moved on this season. Since there will be a seventh season, Leslie and Ben had to stay because not only was there no right answer to the “You can hire whoever you want” bit, but there was no sensible way to separate the group. This way, April and Andy can still babysit the triplets — except on nights and weekends — even though they need one of their own, soon.

Parks lives to see a seventh season and we’re all the better for it because season six was spectacular every single week. This finale was no different. San Francisco and the Unity Concert were pinned together nicely to make a great season ender.

Cones of Dunshire is back! Much to Ben’s surprise, it’s living a life on the west coast with a bunch of hipsters running an internet and music sharing company. And it’s awesome. This is Ben’s greatest moment this season when he hustles the CEO (?). Of course, Andy thinks they were playing for the rights to the corporation, but Ben won to get Pawnee’s foot in the door. He’s the architect and, better yet, the good ole’ Pawnee accounting firm copyrighted the game for him. Question: Is that why Ben’s dressed up at the end of the finale, to celebrate Cones’ lucrative, financial success? Leslie mentions, “This day is all about you.”

Oh, yeah. Michelle Obama was there, too. We’re one step away from Barack, you guys! Joe Biden, Michelle, DON DRAPER, Barack? Season seven, please?

The Unity Concert was even more perfect than promised. Diane finally returned, as did Tammy Two. Plus, there was the awesome, aforementioned, festival lineup, which included Duke Silver! Let me see Leslie’s face when Duke Silver steps on stage. One more time, please. Her reaction, confronting Ron on the third floor, was so funny, as it was finally realized one of the only things Leslie didn’t know about her close friend and confidant Ron.

Also, the early-series nugget that Donna is close with Ginuwine came full circle. I’m happy.

Parks also filled the second half of the episode with the opening of Tom’s Bistro, which, might I say, is quite impressive. Tom’s evolution has turned into one of the most fulfilled story arcs the writers have played with and Tom’s Bistro is the peak. He finally has business sense figured out. Sure, he still needs motivational advice from Ron and the the support of his friends, April and Donna, but Tom isn’t Tom if he isn’t threatening to give up, losing investors, and deciding to open the bistro doors before Ron’s even remotely close to finishing the chairs. Even so, the grand opening was phenomenal, snatching the celebrity-laden Unity Concert crowd. He has the Indianapolis Star review to prove it. And more. Wanna see?

For being an episode featuring the concert build up, “Moving Up” draws nice parallels to season three’s “Harvest Festival” episode. Both were excellent. This finale did everything it needed to and more, even including a decisive decision to flash the story forward three years, becoming a featured success of the consistently outstanding sixth season of Parks. It doesn’t leave without questions. When will April and Andy have a baby? What’s Ben celebrating? Does Ron’s son have a mustache yet? Where are we at with Donna and Joe? Is Tom’s Bistro bigger than McDonald’s? There’s one question we already know the answer to. Like NBC’s voice of God said, Parks is coming back for a seventh season. I couldn’t be more excited.


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