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Tear Jerker / Parks and Recreation

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Parks and Recreation is a notoriously happy show, but that just makes the dark moments all the more devastating.

Season 2

  • "Galentine's Day": For a generally funny Valentine's Day Episode, it ends on a bit of a sad note - Leslie realizes Justin is not a good long-term partner because he's an emotional tourist and breaks up with him, April gets into an argument with Derek and Ben and breaks up with them, Tom finally gives up on starting a real relationship with his ex-wife Wendy, and Marlene refused to reconnect with her ex-flame Frank (who is a total wreck, to say the least).
  • "The Master Plan"
    • Leslie's angry heartbreak upon learning that Ben is going to shut down the Parks and Rec department.
    • Ben's backstory, while Played for Laughs, is pretty sad. He was voted as his hometown's mayor when he was just 18, and though he meant well, he made a series of bad policy decisions that culminated in the whole town going bankrupt and him being impeached and branded a laughingstock. His serious and icy demeanor is an obvious shield he's put up to not just avoid that pain again, but to also show that he can be serious and has learned from his mistakes.

Season 3

  • "Andy and April's Fancy Party":
    • Andy and April's impromptu wedding is a happy tearjerker for some. Something about unusual people finding unusual love...
    • "April Come She Will" by Simon & Garfunkel playing as as April walks down the aisle.
  • Anything relating to Ben's past as an impeached teen mayor.
    • "Media Blitz" painfully shows how Ice Town is still wrecking Ben's life 17 years later when he falls apart at the mere mention of the topic and various Pawnee media personalities rip him apart and paranoid citizens claiming he'll bankrupt Pawnee as well.
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    • In "Harvest Festival", despite normally being the most logical character on the show, Ben steps back from the Harvest Festival because he believes he's "cursed" and is going to drag the event down. Given he and Leslie had poured their hearts and souls into the event and it was his attempt to build something and feel at home, it's horribly sad to see him just give up.
  • It’s played for laughs, but Leslie’s lengthy list of bad breakups in “Indianapolis.”
  • "Lil Sebastian": Lil Sebastian's death, which also serves as the kicker to Chris' issues with his own mortality.

Season 4

  • Leslie and Ben break-up so they don't risk their careers or Leslie's campaign for city council. Regardless, they're absolutely miserable without each other. Tom and Donna try to cheer Ben up by bringing him along for "Treat Yo' Self" Day, and it ends with him crying in a Batman costume because he's still not over how much he misses Leslie.
    Donna (dead serious): Uh oh, Batman's crying.
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  • In "Bus Tour", Bobby Newport's father dies. When Leslie tries to comfort him, she tells him that her mother was a great athlete and to get her love, she joined the track team. She hated it and came in last in the final race. Leslie thought she failed, but her mother was proud anyway. Bobby uses this story as an anecdote about his dad, even changing the ending to claim he won the last race. Leslie thinks it's just ripping off her story but it turns out that Bobby used it because her story was better than anything his father has ever done for him.
  • In "Win, Lose, or Draw" when the election results show that Leslie didn't win. While there was a recount that had much better results, seeing Leslie this distraught is just devastating.
    • Even before then, when Leslie breaks down at the voting booth.

Season 5

  • "Leslie and Ben" is a happy tearjerker with Ben and Leslie's wedding, especially their vows to each other.
    Ben: In my time working for the state government, my job sent me to 46 cities in 11 years. I lived in villages with 8 people, rural farming communities, college towns, I was sent to every corner in Indiana. And then I came here and I realized that this whole time, I was just wandering around everywhere, just looking for you.
    Leslie: The things that you have done for me, to help me, support me, surprise me, to make me happy, go above and beyond what any person deserves. You're all I need. And I love you and like you.
  • In "Partridge", Ben's eponymous hometown invite him back to reconcile years after the Ice Town collapse, but it's actually a set up to humiliate him and all the residents still hate him. Thankfully Leslie is there to provide him support so he doesn't have to face it alone, but his bitter realization of the fact that his hometown still sees him as a failure despite everything he's done to fix his mistakes is painful to watch.
    Ben: It was a set up wasn't it? They were going to make fun of me... They'll never get over it. I don't know why I got my hopes up.
    Leslie: It's so unfair, you've worked so hard, you've done so many great things and for your hometown to treat you this way is just... (She trails off at Ben's expression.)
  • "Are You Better Off?" reveals that many of the people that Leslie had tried to help through the whole season ended up hating her for it, and want her to be recalled.

Season 6

  • "London": A big aspect of the series was that no matter how much they get on her nerves, Leslie will always love Pawnee and its citizens. So seeing her actually get fed up with the town that she's supposed to love so much is pretty sad.
  • "Recall Vote": Leslie loses the recall election and is distraught for almost the entire episode.
  • The ending to "Ann and Chris" when Ann and Chris say their goodbyes.
  • The performance of "5,000 Candles In The Wind" during the Unity Concert is a happy tearjerker, as it's one of the major factors that prompts Leslie to stay in Pawnee.

Season 7

  • In the season seven premiere, seeing that Leslie and Ron have become enemies in between the three-year time skip. Also, April and Andy's growing insecurities.
  • "Leslie and Ron":
    • The Reveal of what "Morningstar" is. It was an apartment complex Ron's construction company was contracted to build next to the Pawnee Commons that required the tearing down of a number of houses at the location, including the house Ann lived in before she moved away. That's why Leslie was angry with Ron - that he didn't warn her beforehand. Leslie could only have one last look at it from behind a chainlink fence.
    "Ann lived there, Ron. That's Ann's old house. That's my best friend's old house. That was the house where I put on my wedding dress the night I got married. That is the house where April and Andy met for the first time. That is the house where Ann gave me my first ever smokey eye look!"
    • To add to the kick in the teeth, the apartment complex is built right next to the park that was built on the lot that brought Leslie and Ann together in the first place, thus rendering their accomplishment meaningless.
      • Ron, of course, sees things differently than Leslie, citing that her work in improving the neighborhood and building such a wonderful park is what drove people to want to live there, to make an upscale apartment complex possible. It almost turns the Tearjerker moment into a Heartwarming moment, but Leslie doesn't like how much has changed in Pawnee from when she started, even if it might be for the better.
    • Ron's explanation for why he is no longer friends with Leslie. You can actually hear his voice crack.
    • The flashback to Ron looking out from his office and realizing he no longer recognizes anyone working in the Parks Department. He then goes upstairs and is actually ready to do the unthinkable and ask Leslie for a job in the federal government just to be close to his friends again. Then he is inadvertently stood up for lunch the next day at J.J's Diner by a busy Leslie.
  • "Two Funerals":
    • The two deaths featured:
      • Ethel Beavers revealing she had a long Secret Relationship with Mayor Gunderson (he was in an open marriage) and sadly saying she never got to really tell him how she loved him.
      • Ron's sadness over the death of his barber, one of three people a man needs in his life other than a lover and a butcher. He's already dealing with the changes in his personal life (April/Andy, Leslie/Ben, and Donna/Joe moving out) and he said Salvatore, the barber was a constant in his life.
    • Also, Garry gets his biggest Throw the Dog a Bone moment: he's named the intermediary mayor of Pawnee and Leslie throws him an elaborate inauguration ceremony. The biggest Butt-Monkey on the show getting such a warm and loving ascension to mayor was one of the most heartwarming moments of the show.
  • "One Last Ride"
    • The flash forward to Garry's funeral in 2048. Yes, he lived a long and full life, adored by his family and loved by the people of Pawnee (to the point where he was voted mayor of the town for the rest of his life!), but it doesn't help to lessen the blow much. Seeing Gayle weep there is just the icing on top.
    • "I'm ready."


  • The untimely death of Parks and Rec producer/writer Harris Wittels from a suspected drug overdose just days before the finale. He was only 30. There's a dedication at the very end after the credits that simply states "We love you Harris".

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