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Leslie Knope has several great loves in her life – Ann, Ben, Hillary, Li'l Sebastian – but one of the most important or vital is her relationship with boss and cautious BFF Ron Swanson. We learn early on in Parks and Recreation that Ron hired Leslie reluctantly, at once impressed and put off by her impenetrable enthusiasm. Virtually everything about their relationship is dictated by her optimism battling valiantly against his nihilism. Ron is Leslie's opposite in practically every way. He's grumpy, antisocial, and perhaps worst of all, he hates the government. But, over the course of seven glorious seasons, it becomes increasingly apparent that their similarities far outweigh their differences. Plus, they both love breakfast food and believe in eating it at all hours – the purest bedrock for friendship.
The show took a massive shot by kicking off its seventh, and final, season with Leslie and Ron at odds. The subsequent revelation that their disagreement happened as a result of Ron being unintentionally stood up by Leslie while looking for a job from her is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting because it proves once and for all that he needs her just as much as she needs him. Maybe he even misses her sitting across the office from him, too, always running in to announce some grand plan he'll dismiss out of hand before ultimately coming around to her way of thinking.
Leslie spends much of Parks and Rec running herself ragged trying to prove that her voice matters, that she has something vital to say. Being cut down at every turn never dulls her spirit, but it's Ron's approval and acceptance she craves most of all. Sure, in reality, Nick Offerman is just a year older than Amy Poehler, but the father-daughter vibe is there in their rapport – crucially, on both sides of the equation. Ron's allowing a girl to take part in his hardcore scouting group is hardly an accident. She represents Leslie, forcing her way in and then making herself completely indispensable. Ron walking Leslie down the aisle is also a given. Who else would be given the honor? Lest we forget, she counters his sweet speech on the day with "okay, weirdo," just in case he was getting too comfortable.
There are numerous moments throughout the series when Leslie, wracked by self-doubt, is calmed by Ron telling her some variation of "you've got this." Or, in one particularly wonderful case, "you're Leslie fucking Knope." He's the only one she truly believes, his guidance more valuable than anybody else in her life. And, although nobody says nope to Knope, Swanson has a particular weakness for her, finding it near impossible to cut out his subordinate even if it requires barricading himself in his office.
As closed off as Ron seemingly is both metaphorically and literally, Leslie proves she knows him better than anybody with the ideal birthday celebration. After torturing him with all the horribly cheerful things she might be planning, Leslie finally reveals that the real celebration is Swanson alone with a big steak, a glass of Scotch, and The Bridge over the River Kwai on the TV. Likewise, Ron proves how well he knows her when Leslie runs away to the empty city council chambers to mourn her loss and he's the only person able to locate her. Even when the two came to blows over their competing scout troops - although Leslie emerged victorious - she made sure Ron didn't end up feeling like a loser.
It's difficult to do justice to a relationship as complex as Ron and Leslie's. Consider how Leslie helps Ron escape the clutches of the Tammys time and again, how she celebrates him finally finding real love and settling down, and champions him to be true to himself while also growing as a person. Offerman has made a career of playing irascible grumps (he could never forgive Captain Holt for throwing that wooden duck away) and Poehler can portray genial do-gooders in her sleep (she took a deaf friend to see Sheila E) but watching these two greats spark off each other is truly one of the greatest joys of Parks and Rec.