Parks & Rec is a fantastic comedy and it achieves that through characters, clever one-liners, and emotional turmoil. Though it never gets as dark as your standard TV drama, in order to keep you engaged in the content, there needs to be conflict between the characters and their situations. And when that conflict comes to a boil, we’re all left feeling a little less than stellar.
At least we have the next Andy Dwyer-ism to get us through the roughest of times.
Here are 10 times Parks & Rec broke our hearts.
10 When Li’l Sebastian Died
Maybe you didn’t shed a tear (you heartless monster), but you can’t help but feel a little sad over the death of a fictional mini horse with an honorary degree from Notre Dame. In-universe, this mini horse meant a lot to a national audience, like Oreo the Raccoon, but bigger. Watching everyone come together to create a big memorial - plus the hilariously heartfelt song “5,000 Candles in the Wind” - leaves some kind of emotional impact.
If you’re feeling bummed out about the death of Li’l Sebastian, you can sleep easy knowing that the animal actor who portrayed him, Gideon, is still alive and well. He even popped up in Season 2 of The Good Place! Thanks, Mike Schur.
9 When Ben Resigned
Job security isn’t a joke, Jim! Millions of Americans suffer every year!
So when both Leslie and Ben are brought into question due to work policies and ethics, nobody was getting away unscathed. Both of them could have lost their jobs, but Ben steps up during his hearing. He loves Leslie that much. You can’t help but feel bad for Ben, but wow, is it funny hearing the transcript read back. Nothing says love quite like an official government record.
8 When Ben And Leslie Tried to Break Up
The most frustrating thing is when you see two people who obviously like each other and belong together NOT get together. Seriously. Kiss already.
Due to workplace conflicts, Ben and Leslie try to break up to both save their jobs and not have to lie to everyone around them. And for a few minutes, it looks like they’re going to go through with it. Ben doesn’t have to stay in Pawnee and Leslie loves her parks job. But they quickly realize they can’t just split ways and suddenly, you’re crying because they’re gonna do the thing with some huge consequences.
7 When Andy And April Adulted
The trick to pushing character development is to do it in a way that doesn’t feel out of character. April and Andy never lost their sense of fun, but by the end of the show’s run, they were definitely being responsible adults.
While it was sad seeing April lament over doing the boring adult stuff, Andy gave her some great perspective: just because you buy the dishrack doesn’t mean you can't shoot someone in the face with marshmallows too.
6 When Ann’s House Was Demolished
We all hate saying goodbye or watching as everything changes around you. Ann’s house being demolished was a huge emotional point for Leslie. As long as the house was still there, she didn’t really have to say a final goodbye to Ann or fully accept that that chapter of her life was over. And it was the place where it all started.
Knowing it as the beginning of the story, it’s hard for us to watch it go too. But it led to a nice reveal about the fight between Leslie and Ron and ultimately led to them making up.
5 When Leslie Won The City Council Election
Did anyone else forget that Paul Rudd played Bobby Newport Jr.? How do we not have more Ant-Man/Parks & Rec memes?
Despite having a national level campaign manager, Bobby Newport ultimately lost the City Council election to Leslie Knope. The entire episode manages to get us super anxious for the results because this is a huge goal Leslie and the rest of the ensemble have worked all season for. Just try not to cry when Ann gives Leslie a hug or Ben admits he never wrote a concession speech.
4 When Ann And Chris Left
Ok, so not as traumatizing as when Michael Scott left The Office, but this ranks up there on tear-jerking moments from NBC comedies. With Leslie and Ben as central characters, saying goodbye to their platonic soulmates was so hard to do. These were characters we came to know and love since close to the beginning.
The biggest concern was losing momentum with the rest of the ensemble with two core characters leaving. But the heartfelt goodbyes, April being nice to Ann for once, and knowing that the rest of the cast was staying helped get us through the worst of it. And both Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe popped up for a cameo in the series finale, so not all was lost.
3 When Leslie Got Recalled
The election results made you feel a lot of things, but ultimately happy. Like, you were crying with joy. Now? Yeah, just try to stop the tears as Leslie’s dreams crawl into a hole and die.
Nothing about the event is fair, but ultimately, it emboldens her character and helps her shoot for higher and higher goals. If she’d been on the City Council for another five years, would she have landed the Regional Director of National Parks Service Midwest Region position?
2 When Leslie Stood Up Ron
The worst part about this is how relatable it is. There are times in life where sometimes, we aren’t good friends. Life gets in the way and you can lose sight of what’s important. That image of Ron, sitting alone in Jay Jay’s Diner, is so heartbreaking and real. Seeing Leslie’s realization of that moment adds to the hurt because she is truly sorry that she did that to such a good friend. It’s a good lesson for all of us. Yes, that includes the fact that singing nonsense lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” all night long repairs friendships. Never underestimate the power of Billy Joel.
1 When The Finale Aired
Ok Parks & Rec, even with the slightly unnecessary time skipping, this was a solid ending. Most complaints about the end mostly boil down to the fact that everyone got what they wanted. While it’s a fair criticism, for the most part, every character’s ending was done in a way that either promoted their growth or paid off the work they accomplished in previous seasons. And honestly, not all shows need a downer ending, especially one as optimistic as Parks & Rec.
Probably the standout line is when Ben announces Leslie’s candidacy as the governor of Indiana. He does it for her, knowing that her dream is within reach. It’s such a sweet gesture and sums up their relationship.
Outside of the fictional world of Pawnee, the episode aired a few days after the death of Harris Wittels, a writer and executive producer on the show. The team included an image reading, “We love you, Harris,” in memorial.