The Finale’s Flashforwards Are Fake Theory Explained

Parks & Recreation gave viewers a glimpse into the future of its main characters, but a fan theory suggests this was all in Leslie’s head.

Parks & Recreation’s final episode is one of the best TV series finales in recent years, but a fan theory suggests the most exciting part of it wasn’t real, and it was all happening in Leslie Knope’s head. Created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, Parks & Recreation made its debut on NBC in 2009, and while the writers initially struggled to find the right tone for the series and its characters, the show lived on for six more seasons, coming to an end in 2015.

Parks & Recreation followed the daily lives of eternal optimist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her friends and coworkers from the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana, with whom she was very close, to the point where they were basically family to her. Characters like April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) became big fan-favorites, and the writers decided to treat Parks & Recreation fans with glimpses of their futures in the series finale. The final episode included various flashforwards, through which viewers learned what the main characters’ lives will be like, and while this was very well-received by fans, there are some who believe those flashforwards were too good to be true.

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Related: All Of Parks & Rec’s Future Timelines Explained

Like most TV shows, Parks & Recreation hasn’t been safe from fan theories – some fun, others a bit ridiculous, and others can be quite depressing, such as one about what the series finale’s flashforwards truly are. In January 2020, Michael Schur talked about the Parks & Recreation finale in The Last Laugh podcast, where host Matt Wilstein pointed out an important detail that makes way for a very different interpretation of the flashforwards: these scenes set in the future happen every time Leslie touches someone, meaning that the audience isn’t watching these characters’ real futures, but instead these are what Leslie imagines for her friends. That way, April and Andy didn’t have kids, Tom never became a best-selling author, and Ron didn’t get his dream job, just to name a few examples.

Parks and Recreation Leslie Ben finale

Schur didn’t help much to clear this up, saying they “didn’t really explicitly say one, one or the other”, and admitted they left some stuff deliberately ambiguous, such as whether Leslie became President of the United States or not. This theory isn’t far-fetched as Leslie had big dreams for her friends, to the point where she was always willing to help them achieve them, even if sometimes she crossed the line and became too controlling. The theory can be supported by how each character ends up exactly where they should according to their skills and personalities (except, maybe, April, but more on that later), such as Tom becoming a best-selling author after so many failed businesses, and Ron getting his ideal job where he has to spend hours alone in the woods. April’s future might be the biggest clue that holds this theory, as throughout the series April made comments that pointed at her not interested in becoming a mother, not even after she married Andy. In fact, Andy’s decision to become parents seemed to happen too suddenly (though in his case, it’s not out of character), and April agreeing to have not one but two kids seemed too out of character to many viewers. This is all because Leslie envisioned April as a successful career woman and a mother, as she knew she’s capable of many, many things.

Ultimately, the Parks & Recreation series finale was intended to be slightly open to interpretation, so viewers will choose the ending that suits their perception of the characters best: either the flashforwards were part of Leslie’s coping mechanism and thus a product of her always loving imagination, a real look into the future, or even a combination of both.

Next: Why Parks & Rec Ended With Season 7 (Was It Canceled?)

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Updated: November 14, 2020 — 4:45 pm

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