Parks and Recreation is my favorite show on television. I love that it’s a show about fundamentally good people who do nice things for each other. I love it for its optimism, its warmth, and its belief in wearing its heart firmly on its sleeve. And I love that it consistently manages to make me cry happy tears.
As Leslie Knope is so fond of saying, “No one achieves anything alone.” That’s the theme at the center of Parks and Rec, and it’s been reflected time and again in scenes where all of the characters pitch in to help one of their own. The most affecting of these scenes comes at the end of Season Four’s Christmas episode, “Citizen Knope.”
Because apparently this scene is too perfect for the Internet to handle, I have no video clip of it for you, but here are two sets of GIFs from Tumblr which should give you a taste of why it’s is so beautiful:
This is one of those scenes where, as it was unfolding, all I could do was stand with my hand over my mouth, smiling and crying at the same time. As each person offered Leslie their help with such perfectly in-character responses (Andy offering his duties at “javelin…if need be,” Donna offering up her Benz, Tom volunteering as “Swagger Coach,” Jerry having no idea about the plan), I found myself getting more and more emotional—until Ron completely stole my heart with his offer to do any other damn thing Leslie might need.
Parks and Rec is a show about love: the love between a woman and her city and between that same woman and the wonderful people she surrounds herself with every day. This scene captures that perhaps better than any other so far (except, of course, Leslie and Ben’s wedding). Ron’s right, Leslie is always there for her friends, but the beautiful thing about her is she never expects them to do anything in return. That’s what makes it so special when they turn around and give back to her the support and love she gives them every day.
Amy Poehler’s reaction at the end of this scene shows what makes her such a damn good actress and such a perfect Leslie. There’s a beat when her eyes fill with tears and her voice breaks when she says, “I don’t know what to say.” That reaction is so honest. I admire and adore Poehler for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is her fearlessness when it comes to playing a scene not for laughs but for happy tears. It takes a special kind of actor to make you cry for their character because you’re so happy for them, but Poehler does it again and again with Leslie. This scene is so emotional because the gesture feels earned; we truly believe Leslie deserves this act of kindness.
I love when Parks and Rec puts us in Leslie’s shoes, letting us be surprised by the wonderful moments in her life right along with her. That sense of surprise has been the driving force behind some of the show’s most memorably emotional moments, and it’s certainly a big part of why this scene is so affecting. It was the perfect Christmas gift for Leslie, and it was also a great Christmas gift for fans of Parks and Rec—a show that is never afraid to aim for the audience’s heart in the best possible way.