Parks and Recreation's seven season finales have each been met with high praise and anticipation. The popular comedy mockumentary had a knack for topping off every set of episodes with a conclusion that tied up aging plot points, introduced new dilemmas, and kept viewers wanting more.
We're here to evaluate all the season finales of Parks and Rec and determine which ones are good and which ones are great.
Get read to cruise back to Pawnee, Indiana; Here is a ranking of every Parks and Rec season finale.
8 “Freddy Spaghetti” (S2 E24)
"Freddy Spaghetti" has Ron making government cuts alongside state auditors during a government shutdown. On the other hand, Leslie is adamant about saving a kid’s concert that stars the popular musician Freddy Spaghetti. Andy and April become an item, and Ann tries to get over her resurfacing feelings for him.
The episode marked Paul Schneider’s final appearance as a regular cast member. It was also the second to feature Adam Scott and Rob Lowe as Ben and Chris respectively.
The finale received generally positive reviews, with many praising the full-circle way Leslie and Mark’s relationship is brought to a close. It also set up many other romantic interests that would push the story forward in the future.
7 “Moving Up” (S6 E21/22)
The Season 6 finale has Leslie, Ben, and Andy visiting the National Parks Conference in San Fransisco. With a little help from Michelle Obama, Ben convinces Leslie to take a job in Chicago. However, a three-year jump forward at the conclusion of the episode shows the couple dealing with the stress of raising triplets and balancing work.
The cameo game was strong, with bands including The Decemberists and Letter to Cleo appearing in addition to Mrs. Obama. The setup for the following season was also solid, and the time jump encouraged fresh content to follow.
6 “Rock Show” (S1 E6)
The Season 1 finale sees Andy finally getting his casts removed, Ann considering whether or not her relationship with Andy is a beneficial one, and Leslie figuring out her own feelings toward Mark while he is drunk.
Many cited this episode as being the one that helped guide Parks and Rec in its own direction. Co-creator Michael Schur, in fact, said that Season 1 was treated like a six-episode pilot — and this last one was what helped tie it all together.
April notably tells Andy that she understands him when he describes to her his style of music during one scene in the episode. Improvised by Aubrey Plaza, this line helped the writers move the characters’ relationship in a more romantic direction when they realized the unlikely connection between the two.
5 “Are You Better Off?” (S5 E22)
Leslie and the rest of the Parks staff go camping in the woods. What they leave behind is a positive pregnancy test, and after Andy discovers it, he takes on his role as Burt Macklin, FBI to determine which of the five women staying at the cabin got pregnant. Meanwhile, Leslie hosts a Founder’s Week public form to commemorate her first year as a Pawnee councilwoman and Tom’s Rent-A-Swag business is met with a potential buyer.
It all ends with Ron’s girlfriends, Diane, showing up to tell him the news Andy had been trying to dig up since the beginning of the episode.
Many praised “Are You Better Off?” for heightening the stakes and preparing itself for a new chapter.
4 “Win, Lose, Or Draw” (S4 E22)
The final episode of Season 4 sees Leslie patiently awaiting the outcome of the city council election, in which she closely competed against Bobby Newport. Though the road there is rocky, she is eventually declared the winner after a recount. Ann and Tom also get back together through accidental means, and April tells Andy that he should join the police department after they joke about getting new identities.
The episode led Michael Schur to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing or a Comedy Series. Though it didn’t win, it still received highly favorable reviews.
3 “One Last Ride” (S7 E12/13)
This double season finale of Parks and Recreation ties up all the show's loose ends into one masterpiece. Though it begins in 2017 where the previous shows left off, it soon jumps through the future to show what happens all the way through 2048.
Donna is happily married to Joe and sets up a non-profit called Teach Yo Self, April and Andy give birth to a son, Tom becomes a motivational speaker and publishes a book, Ron takes a new job as a superintendent, and Leslie becomes Governor of the State of Indiana (and potentially more). There are further things to dive into, but let's not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
2 “Li’l Sebastian” (S3 E16)
“Li’l Sebastian” had Pawnee preparing for the funeral of their favorite miniature horse of the same name. Leslie and Ben also do their best to keep their feelings for each other secret due to how it being a conflict of interest in the workplace.
“Li’l Sebastian” received a heaping of praise from critics who found that the episode highlighted the best of every character through humorous circumstances, holistic jokes, and high-stakes. In other words, the actors and writers reached their peak.
Pawnee also got the spotlight it deserved in the episode, with the setup proving how critical the setting was to the show as a whole. Could the death of a horse have had the same impact anywhere else? Heck, no.
1 The Series Finale
We're back to "One Last Ride," but this time, we're looking at it from a different angle. While it was an excellent season finale, it was an even greater series finale.
“One Last Ride” is highly regarded for ending the series on a positive note in a unique way. Flipping through the years left no room for a future season, letting the series come to a natural conclusion.
It’s satisfying to see Leslie and Ben’s political rise as well as the rest of the gang’s happy endings. Well, most of the gang has a happy ending. Garry’s final moment is an exception, but we'll let that slide.