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Home > Top Ten Episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’

Top Ten Episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’

Revisit This Celebrated Series

Sitcoms are widely beloved. They can serve as a great form of escapism, but they can also work as satire. One show that pulls off both those things is Parks and Recreation (2009-2015). The series follows Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her friends working for a local government in Pawnee, Indiana, trying to help people with their problems while dealing with many roadblocks. The show was initially criticized as a clone of The Office (2005-2013), eventually becoming a hit in its own right, and is considered one of the best sitcoms in recent years. In honor of the show’s upcoming 15th anniversary, here are the ten best episodes of Parks and Recreation. Minor Spoilers Ahead! 

10. ‘The Master Plan’ (Season 2, Episode 23)

Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt and Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In the penultimate episode of season 2, Leslie is about to pitch to the City Manager her proposed budget plan to build a park outside of her best friend’s, Ann (Rashida Jones), house, but is stopped when two budget consultants, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), come in and put everything on hold. This is considered to be when the show drastically improves, and it is not hard to see why. The writing is much more robust, the characters are becoming likable, and the jokes are significantly better. Ben and Chris are welcomed editions to the show. Chris’ energetic optimism, mixed with Ben’s seriousness, helps add some balance to the show’s cast of characters. The episode also increases the stakes for the characters, with the risk of not having the money to work in the park and dealing with the possibility of getting fired. There are some minor issues, such as Mark (Paul Schneider) barely doing anything since, at this point, the character was being phased out of the show, but those are minor issues. Ultimately, ‘The Master Plan’ is the first major step in making this series what it is today. 

9. ’The Last Ride’ (Season 7, Episode 12)

Rhetta as Donna Meagle Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Aziz Ansair as Tom Haverford, and Jim O’Heir as Jerry Gergich in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In the series finale, the group performs one last job together before going their separate ways. The best way to describe this episode is emotional. So much happens here, with the episode showcasing what happens to everyone in the future. Some might criticize this as it shows what happens next instead of leaving it up to the imagination, but it doesn’t show everything, and what it does is immensely satisfying. From Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) having a kid together to Tom (Aziz Ansari) finding success is pleasant to watch. Even the side characters get something, which is nice to see. It showed just how vital the side characters were to the series and how some of their stories’ ends are pretty hilarious. Some of the best jokes of the whole show come from this episode alone. Ultimately, ‘The Last Ride’ ends the series on a high note with great resolutions to the characters, and though it is sad to see them go, the episode’s execution is spot on. 

8. ‘The Fight’ (Season 3, Episode 13)

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In this episode, Tom creates a new drink called Snake Juice while Ann and Leslie get into a fight over Ann’s dating life. There is so much here to enjoy. Watching Ann and Leslie fight is amusing, but it is also an excellent way to help strengthen their relationship. The episode highlights their friendship isn’t perfect and gives them conflict that feels real and gives it a natural resolution. It also does well for the fight not to go too far so their eventual making-up is earned. It showcases the brilliant chemistry between Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones. Other than that, there are other hilarious moments, such as everyone getting drunk, particularly Ron (Nick Offerman) dancing while wearing April’s hat. Plus, there is Jean-Raphio (Ben Schwartz), and anytime he pops up on the show, it is always a delight. All in all, ‘The Fight’ is a solid episode that furthers the friendship between Ann and Leslie while coupling it with some funny scenes. 

7. ‘The Trial of Leslie Knope’ (Season 4, Episode 9)

Rhetta as Donna Meagle, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford, Chris O’Heir as Jerry Gergich, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, and Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In this episode, after Leslie and Ben confess to Chris about their office romance, Leslie is put on trial and risks the potential of losing her job. This episode does well at adding stakes for the characters. For most of the series, Leslie always does the right thing, and to see her now having to face the conquest for doing something wrong is intriguing. It also came at a time when she was campaigning for City Council, so audiences were on the edge of their seats, wondering how this would affect her campaign. 

Although Chris serves as an antagonist in this episode, he isn’t presented as the bad guy. The writers show that he doesn’t want to punish Leslie or Ben for that matter but has to because it’s his job, and they broke a rule. Even Leslie understands this, and the ending between the two is nice as it displays that despite what they went through in this episode, they remain friends afterward. Then there is the revelation at the end that Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) real name is Garry, leading to a running gag of everyone calling him a new name instead of his real one. All in all, ‘The Trial of Leslie Knope’ is a fantastic episode with high stakes and an excellent conclusion. 

6. ‘Ann and Chris’ (Season 6, Episode 13)

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope and Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

This episode follows Ann and Chris as they say goodbye to everyone before heading to Detroit to raise their child. Like with ‘The Last Ride,’ this episode is quite emotional. Seeing one beloved character go is hard enough, but two are even sadder. What helps is seeing just how far Ann and Chris have grown as characters. Their goodbye together feels like a natural step for each of them, and although it is unfortunate to see them go, it is the right move for the couple. 

Interestingly, according to IMDb, the reason Rashida Jones left the show was to help work on the script for Toy Story 4 (2019), and yet the way this episode is written, it feels like Ann and Chris leaving was always the plan. The goodbyes they each have with the other characters are all realistic. They do a good job at making each one feel unique and highlight the kind of relationship the two had with the other characters. Some of the goodbyes that stand out, in particular, are Ben’s goodbye to Chris, as well as April, Leslie, and Ron’s goodbye to Ann. Overall, ‘Ann and Chris,’ while hard to see the two go, does well at giving the two a happy ending they each deserve.

5. ‘Flu Season’ (Season 3, Episode 2)

Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

This episode follows the gang as they have to deal with flu season. If ‘The Master Plan’ was where the series started to improve the show, then ‘Flu Season’ is where the season really found its new footing. The writing is much stronger, the jokes land more, and the stories become more engaging. Some of the series’ funniest moments come from this episode, including Chris Pratt’s infamous ad-lib line about network connectivity, which, according to IMDb, is the writers’ favorite line even though they didn’t write it. There are some terrific moments with Ann, whether it is her having to deal with April screwing with her while she is at work in the hospital or dealing with Chris freaking out over being sick. Chris’ scenes are easily the best part of this episode, as Lowe’s acting here is amazing. Then there are the scenes with Leslie that worked in being both comedic and inspiring. It highlights her determination to work despite the odds against her and helps blossom her relationship with Ben. In the end, ‘Flu Season’ is Parks and Rec. at its best and shows why this series became so popular. 

4. ‘The Debate’ (Season 4, Episode 20)

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope and Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

 In this episode, Leslie has to enter a debate with her opponent, Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd), for City Council. Even though this isn’t the finale for the season, this feels like a culmination of sorts. This whole season has shown Leslie having to deal with obstacle after obstacle to win the election for City Council, and here she now has to go against Bobby Newport, who, while presented as being quite naive, to put it nicely, still has a ton of public support due to his charm. The episode also works as a decent satire of political debates as the public responds to the nominees. The other characters have some interesting moments, too, such as Ann and Chris being Leslie’s PR spin team or Andy describing his favorite movies to a group of people. When all is said and done, ‘The Debate’ is an outstanding episode that sets everything up for the season finale. 

3. ‘Are You Better Off?’ (Season 5, Episode 22) 

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, and Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

This episode follows Leslie, who asks the citizens of Pawnee if they are better off after a year of Leslie in office as a City Council member, only to get some interesting feedback. This episode does an incredible job of showcasing the highs and lows of being in office. It confirms that despite all the good a person can do, people can still react negatively to it. The frustration of trying to help people and racing pushback is undoubtedly felt throughout this episode as it displays how Leslie has impacted her community for the better, yet her work still goes unappreciated. It demonstrates how all actions have consequences, whether good or bad. There is also a compelling subplot of Andy and Ann trying to figure out who is pregnant after Andy finds a positive pregnancy test, which leads to many hilarious moments. Overall, ‘Are You Better Off?’ is a terrific finale with many entertaining moments woven throughout. 

2. ‘Leslie and Ben’ (Season 5, Episode 14)

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, Jim O’Heir as Jerry Gergich, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, and Rhetta as Donna Meagle in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In this episode, Leslie and Ben decide to have a spontaneous wedding ahead of when they originally planned. This story does a spectacular job of demonstrating why Leslie and Ben work so well together. They play off each other sweetly, and the two actors have wonderful chemistry. The best part of this episode, though, has to be with the other characters and seeing just how far they are willing to go to help Leslie and Ben get married. It emphasizes just how much the couple two mean to everyone else. Seeing the characters finally wed after everything they must go through is extremely satisfying to watch. There are also some amusing moments. Whether it is Ron punching out Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) or Jamm himself throwing stink bombs, it is all enjoyable. Ultimately, ‘Leslie and Ben’ is a magnificent episode that celebrates two of the best characters on the show. 

1. ‘Moving Up’ (Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22) 

Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, and Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation | Universal Television

In the season six finale, the crew does everything possible to ensure that the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert is a success. This episode, much like the concert itself, feels like an event. So much happens here, and it is all balanced out, with each story getting enough room to breathe. Some are faced with big life-changing decisions, making for a compelling watch. Although this is technically a two-part story, it’s a singular arc that flows rather smoothly. Everything here is done at its absolute best. The acting, the directing, the jokes, and even the musical performance at the end were top-notch. Some have said the show could have ended here, and it certainly could have worked for them to go out on top. It is unclear if this was meant to be the finale before it was decided to do one more season, but either way, it is still entertaining. All in all, ‘Moving Up’ is an astonishing finale that demonstrates why this show has resonated with so many. 

Parks and Recreation can be streamed on Peacock.

Parks and Recreation (2009) Official Universal Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am an aspiring author living and working out of Honolulu, Hawaii. I received my bachelor's degree in Art History at Westmont College and then pursued a master's in Museum Studies at the University of Hawaii. I am currently working on a few novels, and am thankful for the opportunity to expand my creative writing voice at Dead Talk Live.