Last night, Parks and Recreation ended its sixth season with a phenomenal hour-long season finale that not only saw the greatest concert ever assembled — in real life, or on television — but that ended with a huge change to the Parks and Recreation world. Leslie accepted a job to be the Director of the National Parks in the Midwestern Region, but instead of moving to Chicago, she found a way to move the main office to Pawnee where, presumably, she’ll continue to work with most of her existing staff. The other twist was, the timeline jumped ahead three years, where we know that Leslie is operating the National Parks office at full steam, has three healthy two year olds, and has bangs for some reason. Also, Jon Hamm played a character that worked for her in the Parks office, and he was the only guy that made Jerry/Larry/Terry look competent by comparison.
After a big shift like that in the show, I’m sure you all have many questions. I’ve taken the liberty of picking the answers to the most pressing questions from Mike Schurt’s interviews with Alan Sepinwall and Entertainment Weekly and blockquoted them below.
So, did they really jump forward three years, or is that a fake-out? From EW:
This is not a yank. We are not teasing something that we are not going to then pay off. The majority of the season is going to take place in that time period, and that is allowing for certainly the possibility of episodes that fill in certain gaps that go back in time a little bit. That, who knows, go forward in time. Now we’ve established this as a possibility. But we’re not going to see Leslie pregnant for the whole year, we’re not going to see her give birth. The whole season is not going to be about filling in those gaps — the main action of the season will take place in that slightly futurescape.
So that means, we just missed three years we could’ve spent with Jon Hamm (who made a cameo in the episode, and was immediately fired)?
When we conceived of this scene — this kind of crazy, chaotic 60-second coda to the year — I felt pretty strongly that one of the fun things would be to see someone really famous and to have them get fired immediately. I think Hamm may have actually improvised the line “It’s been a great three years.” He either improvised it or we worked it out on the floor. But it just made us laugh that you would say: “Oh my God, we just missed three years of Jon Hamm!” [Laughs] And he made the decision, which I thought was so funny, to play the entire thing with a smile on his face. It was not the way it was conceived at all, and it’s so much funnier that he’s just like, “Yup! Totally understand. Goodbye!”
Bastards! But, will everyone be back, even those that weren’t in the future scene?
Yes, everybody’s back.
OK, but will Tom’s Bistro be a success in 2017?
When we were discussing who should be in that scene, Tom was pretty quickly ruled out, I’ll say that. For various reasons, we thought we should not see Tom in that scene.
Will there be a big change for Ron next season?
Ron will always eat bacon, drink whiskey, build things, hunt, rail against the government, fight for individualism and self-reliance, hide his gold, and reluctantly provide wisdom in succinct word chunks. But now he has three kids in a blended family, and a wife he loves (and who loves him for who he is), and if that didn’t nudge him in a new direction the tiniest bit (and he really has changed very little, all things considered), I’d personally find it sad. Of all of the characters whose futures are undecided, Ron’s has been on my mind the most, I think. I have an idea of his story for season seven, and I solemnly vow that he is not going to become Eagleton Ron, in any way shape or form.
Hmmm. OK, then. Where were Ben and Amy going at the end of the episode that necessitated that Ben wear a tux?
I think it suggests two things: One is that there was some kind of formal event he was supposed to attend. Leslie says, “This is your big night,” and he says, “This is more important.” And that he makes reference, like you said, to everybody down in his office. But the National Parks Service is also now housed in City Hall, and who knows what the future holds for other businesses and organizations being housed in City Hall.
Thanks for nothing, Schur. How long has this finale been in the works, anyway?
We started planning this in many ways a long time ago, because the episode where John Middle Name Redacted Swanson is born, Ron wanders up to the third floor and discovers it’s a broken-down wasteland and begins to refurbish it. And when we conceived that storyline, that was when we were like, “Oh, this is how Leslie stays in Pawnee. Ron makes this entire third floor of this vast City Hall an inhabitable space, and Leslie will get the idea in the finale that she can maybe move the offices up there.”
Were there any other ideas tossed around for the finale? From Sepinwall:
The “BSG” move was my personal inspiration, right down to the way we shot it, which is the “Parks and Rec” version of Gaius Baltar putting his head down on his desk and picking it up one year later. I found that creatively thrilling, as a fan, so that was our template. For a while we discussed the Laverne and Shirley version, where everyone moves to Chicago, but as we discussed it, it didn’t make sense that anyone would move with them (which is why part two of the finale is Leslie excitedly asking for takers and getting none). But we felt like it wasn’t so massive so as to violate the contract we’ve made with our viewers, as long we’re still telling stories with the same characters. Except that next season four of them are Cylons.
It was an hour-long finale, but were there still things you had to cut?
There is a whole mini-plot in the finale wherein Ron and Diane concoct a way to get Jamm and Tammy, two of the most loathsome people ever showcased on television, to make out with each other, and we had to lose it for time.
For guys like me, that Unity concert was basically our ideal music festival. That is fucking Woodstock for beardo, Internet writers. Will we ever get to see the full performances?
It might just be on the Parks and Rec YouTube page, but we have full performances of all of the songs that were played. It’s a comedy show so we couldn’t linger too long in any one of the songs, but there is a full performance of Ginuwine singing “My Pony” with four backup dancers in front of a screaming crowd of 3,000 people — in front of, by the way, two gigantic little Sebastian banners. There’s a full performance of the giant finale, where everyone is singing “5000 Candles in the Wind.” My favorite part of the episode is in the verse of “5000 Candles in the Wind” where you just pop around and there’s Yo La Tengo, there’s Kay Hanley and Ginuwine, there’s Jeff Tweedy, there’s Colin Meloy, there’s the rest of the Decemberists. It’s like: What is this event? It’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen!
So, now that Parks is set three years into the future, will you be making any guestimations at what our future might look like?
Yes, we will have to be vague, obviously, though it also seems fun to do some David Foster Wallace-style projecting into the near future. That’s what I mean by “gently sci-fi” — there will be the opportunity, should we be so inclined, to make jokes and references to what we imagine the cultural and political landscape to be in 2017.
WHA? That’s amazing. OK. Another question, even though we already know the answer, because we want to hear it again. Is next year the final season?
It’s fairly likely that next year will be the last. The natural rhythm of the show and the big creative jump we take at the end of this season certainly suggests that we’re moving in that direction.