Even though Parks and Recreation had already been renewed for next season, the overt resolutions unfolding at the very tail end of April 24’s sixth season finale were starting to make the episode feel like a series finale.
Leslie was leaving Pawnee’s Parks Department (but not the town itself) for the job of her dreams, Ben’s board game was a cult hit, Ron chose pleasure (Diane) over pain (Tammy Two), Tom’s restaurant was a massive success, Andy and April were so in love they’re getting a divorce so they can get married again, and Donna… well, Donna’s always money.
Then, in the closing minutes of “Moving Up,” as Leslie was decorating her new office on the third floor of City Hall, the camera zoomed in on a photo of the gang before pulling out to reveal a three-year time jump!
Leslie, in mid Sorkin-esque walk and talk, was juggling a million things (perfectly, of course) while flaunting new bangs when a tuxedo-clad Ben arrived with mention of his “big night.” Larry, who is now being called Terry, remains terrible at his job, while April and Andy show up with Ben and Leslie’s triplets (now 3 years old, and totally adorable) — it should be noted that April seemed to like these children, even smiling in their presence! So what does it all mean?
The writers won’t officially start mapping out Season 7 for another few weeks, but Parks and Rec executive producer Mike Schur did tell 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. We may go back and see a couple of things here and there of what happened in the interim, but we’re not faking you out. This is a real shift for the show in terms of when it takes place.”
While we’re all for this exhilarating shift, there are a few major lessons Schur & Co. could learn from the shows who’ve dabbled in time travel before!
3. Do: Plant clues about the missing time.
Parks and Rec smartly skipped over nine months of “Being Pregnant With Triplets Is Crazy” storylines for Leslie, but many questions remain about what happened in that three-year period. For example, what is Ben’s fancy new job — and how did he get it?
Here’s hoping the show takes a cue from Lost and turns learning those answers into a TV treasure hunt. Although unlike Lost, I pray Parks and Rec actually knows where the map leads.
4. Don’t: Ruin what people love about the show.
While Alias continued to solve globe-hopping mysteries after the two-year time jump that took place at the end of Season 2, during her absence, Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), the boyfriend of super-spy Sydney (Jennifer Garner), moved on and got married, breaking the hearts of every viewer. The show never quite recovered; even after Vaughn’s wife, Lauren Reed (Melissa George), was revealed to be a double agent and killed.
Thankfully last night’s Parks and Rec time jump revealed Ben and Leslie to be happier than ever, but there are dozens of other relationships on the show — i.e., Leslie and Ron — that need to remain intact.
5. Do: Fundamentally change characters.
While most of the characters underwent tiny changes (a new baby, cancer remission) when Desperate Housewives jumped five years into the future in the fifth season, Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longria) basically became an entirely new person: frumpy mother of two.
This shift set up up an entire world of story possibilities for the formerly superficial trophy wife and made her a brand new character in many ways.
From the sounds of things, Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) will experience a similar status shift when Season 7 picks up. “When we were discussing who should be in that scene, Tom was pretty quickly ruled out,” Schur said of the finale’s tag. “For various reasons, we thought we should not see Tom in that scene.” (Next step for Tom: successful restaurateur?)
6. Don’t: Replicate the exact same world.
While Parks and Rec will still take place in Pawnee next season, it has the potential to seem like an entirely new town, given everyone’s new endeavors.
As proven in One Tree Hill’s Season 5 time jump episode, “4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days,” it’s possible to be physically in the same place, but lightyears away psychologically and emotionally.
7. Do: Introduce new characters.
When Fringe jumped to the year 2036 in Season 5, fans were introduced to Etta (Georgina Haig), the adult daughter of Peter (Josh Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv).
A whole new world requires a whole new set of characters, and as Jon Hamm’s brilliant Parks and Rec cameo proved, there is limitless potential, given how far the cast’s real-world reach extends.
8. Don’t: Make characters hilariously fat.
For obvious reasons…
9. Parks and Recreation will return next season on NBC.
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