The worst part about watching a TV show—and I watch a lot of TV shows—is the ending. First of all, there’s no guarantee that the last episode won’t completely screw up the show, a la the How I Met Your Mother finale. But it’s also difficult to become so attached to a series and its characters, and then suddenly they’re not a part of your life anymore. It’s like losing a friend.
Last Tuesday, Parks and Recreation finished its seventh and final season. Parks and Rec is my favorite sitcom of all time by far, as it was a story based on warmth, love, and the determination of one woman. Unlike many sitcoms, it wasn’t snarky or crude, but it was funny because the characters were real and human. The Parks and Rec series finale was perhaps one of the most perfect series enders that I have ever seen, giving each character his or her due, and finishing on a beautifully optimistic, hopeful note. I basically cried throughout the hour-long episode, and by the end was a sobbing wreck in front of the TV in South lounge. (Also, I’m the co-chair of Entertainment Board, and by the time this article is published we will have hosted Retta, aka Donna Meagle, for our spring comedian show. So that’s pretty awesome.)
Series finales can be disappointing. They can be horrendously, egregiously bad—once again, here’s to How I Met Your Mother. They can just be generally unsatisfying and leave too many questions, like the ending of Battlestar Galactica, which is one of my favorite shows bar none but kinda went downhill in the last season. (Some people feel this way about the Lost finale, but I am not one of those people.) Series finales can feel long overdue, like the show should have ended when it was in a blaze of glory a few seasons earlier rather than limping along into mediocrity. I believe The West Wing belongs in this category, and Gilmore Girls, both of which were two seasons too long. For a show that was cancelled too soon, show ending episodes can feel hurried, because the writers are trying to tie together two many plot points before time runs out. The ending of Dollhouse is tragically affected by this phenomenon.
I usually cry during series finales, partially because I’m a crier and I’ll weep at the Budweiser commercials with the dog and the Clydesdale during the Super Bowl. But I also cry because shows offer more than just an escape from reality. When done correctly, TV can be an opportunity to leave your comfort zone, explore new worlds and topics, and reevaluate what’s important in your life. Parks and Recreation, as sweet and goofy as it was, was definitely an inspirational show in that it encouraged viewers to find their passion and find a group of people to pursue it with. (Also, it gave the world some of the greatest one-liners of all time to quote.) It’s hard to lose such a beautiful thing, to leave behind characters which you have grown to love over the course of many seasons. When done properly, a series finale will tie up loose ends while leaving hope for the future, allowing viewers to imagine all of the amazing things that will happen next for the characters. Parks and Recreation most definitely succeeded in this mission. While it and other favorite TV shows will be missed, it’s good to know that it ended on such a positive note.
(But actually, if you still miss a TV show after it ends, you can just rewatch the whole thing. Netflix is a terrible enabler. Go on, revisit all of House of Cards in the middle of midterm season, you beautiful disaster.)