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The 10 best ‘Parks and Recreation’ episodes, ranked

Treat yo'self by finding out our picks for the show's finest hours.

'Parks and Recreation' cast
Image via NBC

Has any TV show reached such heights after an underwhelming start as Parks and Recreation? After kicking off as little more than a takeoff of The Office — it was created by Office vets Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, after all — the NBC sitcom managed to break out of its initial mold to become one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, with some loyal Pawneeians even arguing that it’s better than its spiritual sister series.

Parks and Recreation is gifted with one of the finest ensembles on TV, including Chris Pratt as the loveably dim-witted Andy Dwyer, Aubrey Plaza as misanthropic intern April Ludgate, and Nick Offerman as the one and only Ron Swanson. At its center is Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, the big-hearted Parks Department employee with lofty aspirations as she attempts to make her town a better place to live. Thanks to Leslie’s indefatigable spirit, P&R is blessed with an optimistic tone and some inspiring themes.

Let’s not overlook the fact that it’s also hella funny, with every episode delivering 22 minutes of near-constant laughs. What are P&R‘s absolute finest episodes? With commiserations to the season two finale, “Freddy Spaghetti,” season five’s “Halloween Surprise,” and season six two-part opener, “London,” let’s countdown the 10 best Parks and Rec episodes ever.

10. “End of the World” (season four, episode six)

This one doesn’t often come up in rankings of Parks‘ best episodes, which is a shame as it’s a wonderful showcase of the series’ strengths. When Pawnee’s resident doomsday cult predicts the end of the world, the Parks department decides to treat the day as if it’s their last. It leads Andy and April to tick everything off his bucket list while Leslie comes to a major realization over her feelings for Ben. The extended edition, which can be found on the home release and on Amazon, is even better.

9. “Flu Season” (season three, episode two)

After finally finding its feet at the end of season two, Parks was firing on all cylinders by this superlative second episode of season three, in which our heroes are felled by the flu. Highlights include Leslie giving an important speech while hallucinating, April making life hell for Ann while she’s laid up in hospital, and, of course, the world’s healthiest man, Chris Traeger, losing it over getting sick (yes, this is where the legendary “Stop. Pooping!” moment comes from).

8. “The Comeback Kid” (season four, episode 11)

“The Comeback Kid” might not be as emotionally satisfying as season four’s finale, in which Leslie triumphs over Paul Rudd’s Bobby Newport in the council election, but this mid-season episode has the advantage thanks to two of Parks‘ all-time funniest scenes: 1.) Leslie and co. struggling to stay upright while “Get On Your Feet” plays after they mistakenly book an ice-rink for her campaign rally, and 2.) Ben’s legendary stop-motion animation, “Requiem for a Tuesday.”

7. “Ann and Chris” (season six, episode 13)

Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe exited the series in season six, and, in classic Parks style, the duo’s farewell was mined for as much emotion and mirth as possible. The episode is essentially a series of goodbyes between Ann and Chris and the rest of the cast — the best has to be April finally admitting that she loves Ann — but anyone who’s ever experienced a loved one move away will be welling up by the time the gang waves the couple off in the final scene.

6. “The Fight” (season three, episode 13)

As written by Amy Poehler herself, “The Fight” is easily one of the most celebrated Parks episodes of them all. Thanks go to its unbeatable climactic sequence featuring the gang getting off their faces on Tom’s booze brand, Snake Juice, which is “basically rat poison.” Leslie and Ann’s fight does a great job of examining the characters’ flaws and their friendship. We owe it to this episode for giving us Andy and April’s alter egos, FBI agent Burt Macklin and film noir villain Janet Snakehole, a gift to cosplaying couples to this day.

5. “Moving Up” Parts One and Two (season six, episodes 21 & 22)

Season three finale “Lil Sebastian” almost ended up on this list, but “Moving Up” takes the spot as it’s essentially a superior remake of that earlier episode. The Lil Sebastian Memorial Concert was swapped for the Unity Concert, a gig much larger in scale that allows for multiple musical guest stars. Obviously the standout is another round of Mouse Rat’s immortal ballad, “5000 Candles in the Wind,” not to mention the status-quo-shattering cliffhanger, which leaps forward three years into the future.

4. “Leslie and Ben” (season five, episode 14)

Ben’s arrival alongside Chris at the tail-end of season two was the final ingredient the show needed to really soar. It’s no surprise that the episode that cemented Leslie and Ben’s beautiful love story is a stone-cold classic. The couple’s wedding ceremony, hastily assembled by their doting friends after they decide on a whim to get married that night, can’t fail to bring a tear to the eye. One of the most wholesome episodes of one of the most wholesome shows on TV.

3. “April and Andy’s Fancy Party” (season three, episode seven)

Is it controversial to put the wedding of the show’s secondary couple above Leslie and Ben’s marriage? Maybe, but hear me out. “Leslie and Ben” might be a tad more poignant than “April and Andy,” but the total surprise of the latter — the duo had only started dating a few episodes prior — means its arguably even more important to the series overall. Having these two crazy kids tie the knot so soon into their relationship felt like a mission statement: unlike most TV, this was a show where the characters were going to be allowed to be happy.

2. “Leslie and Ron” (season seven, episode four)

Season seven started off sacrilegiously, with Leslie and Ron revealed to have fallen out during the time-jump. As their friends lock them in the Parks department offices together for the night, we discover the truth behind their split. This intimate two-hander features perhaps both Poehler and Offerman’s single greatest performances as we peel back the layers on how much these two unlikely friends mean to each other. Mike Schur has stated his view that Leslie and Ron’s bond is the most important in the show, and after watching this episode, it’s hard not to agree.

1. “One Last Ride” (season seven, episode 12)

For its super-sized series finale, Parks dropped all pretense of being a mockumentary. It offered up a string of flash-forwards to different points in the characters’ futures, allowing us to see how our heroes’ lives turned out. Andy and April becoming parents; Ron finding his dream job; Leslie and/or Ben potentially becoming the President. While it makes a revival hard to accomplish, rarely has a TV show had a more complete and conclusive last episode. “I’m ready,” Leslie says in its final moments, even though fans were definitely not ready to say goodbye.

The entirety of Parks and Recreation is available to stream on Peacock.

About the author

Christian Bone

Christian Bone is a Staff Writer/Editor at We Got This Covered and has been cluttering up the internet with his thoughts on movies and TV for a full decade, ever since graduating with a Creative Writing degree from the University of Winchester. He can usually be found writing about anything Marvel or DC. And yet, if you asked him, he'd probably say his favorite superhero film is 'The Incredibles'.