So it really happened. Ann and Chris left, Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” playing in the background as they drove away from Pawnee.
Ann and Chris leaving – Rashida and Rob moving on to other things, to be specific- isn’t that surprising. But even though it was far weirder, Community’s explanation for Troy’s departure still felt like it made more sense than Ann hooking up with Chris again for the sake of them having a baby and moving to be with family.
Ann drives off into the sunrise with Chris, who… Well look. Chris has been alright. Mildly funny with his health stuff, and very funny with his dancing. But all in all, is he the man to whisk Ann away from Leslie and her home? Personally, I don’t buy it.
But that’s not what’s important here. What is important is how Leslie and Ben feel about their friends going away. Leslie’s lost her job and now her best friend, too? Mike Schur told us – and Leslie – of Rashida and Rob’s departure early so as Leslie would have time to deal with the news. But to be honest, we’ve barely seen any of that promised catharsis since she found out.
But in “Ann and Chris” Leslie spends the episode desperately endeavoring to fulfill her first promise to Ann: the pinky promise of a park that led to their friendship. A friendship that was, undoubtedly, Leslie’s most important. “Ann and Chris” redeemed a lot of the inaction that Leslie and Ann have been taking regarding Ann’s leaving. As soon as they put on their fixed “kickass” hardhats (formerly “kick” and “ass” back when the park was still a pit), I lost it. Screw Chris’s memory-friendship boxes that he made for all of the boys, and that Ben then had Ron make for Chris and Ann’s baby, because Ann and Leslie have five years between them; five years underneath their feet and at that park, written on their hardhats in fixed, joined-together lettering. And although it’s not ending, Leslie and Ann’s friendship is moving off-screen. Ben and Chris have a history too, but we never saw that the way that we saw Ann and Leslie, and their constant and enduring love for each other. Female friendships have been a most under-appreciated thing in the media, and so to see two of the best examples of it say goodbye to each other… It was both terribly sad and yet wonderfully real, both at the same time.
Ann’s a character who the writers have always seemed a little… Uninspired by, but Leslie never had that problem. And so when she sits on that bench, the same one that she said goodbye to Mark on back in season two, well…
You never really want the scene to end for the two of them.
But it does, and Ann Perkins: nurse, mother to be, girlfriend and best friend of Leslie Knope, leaves Pawnee. Chris and Ann are gone, but Pawnee, the parks department and Leslie Knope will all carry on. And so will Ann and Chris, away in Michigan. With a cast this big and famous, it is surprising that this hasn’t happened before now, really, but just goes to show us how lucky we were to see Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger on our screens for as long as we did.
There’s never a good time to say goodbye-someone’s always left wanting more, or realizing that this should have happened earlier- but Ann and Chris’s leaving was pretty alright. Necessary and disappointing, yes, but also full of heart and packed with nostalgia.
Five years, even in fiction, means a lot. So when Leslie told Ann that she loved her, clinging onto the side of her car, it felt incredibly poignant. And one day, when we’re the ones having to say goodbye to Leslie Knope, I’m sure that it’ll feel pretty damn important too.
Goodbye, Ann and Chris.
- Leslie’s goodbye party for Ann (pre-breaking ground at the park) is actually all of the parties that they’ll miss sharing together: “There ain’t no party like a Leslie Knope party, ‘cause a Leslie Knope party is thirty parties.” And yes, Leslie sounds perfectly Liz Lemon-like when she says that.
- Andy’s goodbye to Ann includes laughing about that time that they dated each other- “We lived together for two years,”- and telling her to have fun in Mexico. April’s the one who gets all choked up, mumbling to Ann that yes, ok, she does love her.
- Rob Lowe puts on a JFK mask at one point in the party, a cute nod to his recent performance as the former President in Killing Kennedy.
- “All right, I got my park, that’s all I wanted from you, friendship over.”
- “Chris, I just want you to know that I thought that there was no man on earth good enough for Ann Perkins. …And I still think that.”