As “Parks and Recreation” returned with two brand-new episodes on Thursday (Nov. 14) after a a brief hiatus, fans got the results of Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) recall election they’ve been waiting for, though not exactly the ones they’d hoped for.
That’s right, the citizens of Pawnee stood up and voted Leslie out of office, leaving the (soon-to-be former) city councilwoman left to pick up the pieces in the coming episodes. At a press conference for the big reveal, Poehler and “Parks” executive producer Mike Schur previewed Leslie’s road ahead.
”How does she move forward? I think there’s a lot of comedy coming up and we had a lot of fun with what she does as a dead man walking,” Poehler says. “A lame duck, so to speak.”
”The next few episodes are largely about Leslie with a ticking clock, like a massive ticking clock on her career,” Schur adds. “It’s largely about how she tries to finish off her career.”
“As a city councillor,” the actress quickly clarifies.
“As a city councillor, yes,” Schur says. “And then the 100th episode, which airs in January, is about literally her final hours in office.”
As for whether the disappointing outcome was always in the cards for the eternally-optimistic Leslie, Schur admits it wasn’t. “We didn’t specifically have a plan to have her win, but we got her recalled in the finale last year and then we spent, the writers spent the 10 weeks leading up to the shooting just talking about the options, and it just seemed like the best, juiciest option,” he adds. “Like, once we committed to having a recall, it was like, ‘Well, if she wins the recall vote, then she’s just back where she was before.’ And the more exciting and kind of interesting thing seemed to be to boot her out.”
Leslie’s defeat is the continuation of her character’s story as envisioned from the very beginning, as Poehler puts. it. “It’s also an interesting idea that Schur and I talked about at the very beginning of the show. The idea of, like, this long arc of one person with very little power believing they could make a difference and when you start being that person and things change, people don’t always like it,” she says. “People don’t always like the things that you change, especially when they’re really personal and small, like the size of your sodas. And it’s kind of cool to play around with the idea that just because Leslie’s getting things done doesn’t meant that people like what she’s doing. And how do you fight the cynicism and disappointment that comes along with that? Which is, like, how do you make anything different in politics? How do you change city hall without getting defeated by, when change does happen, people still want to kick you out?”
“Yeah, we talked a lot about the long-term story of the character fighting cynicism, fighting the tide of cynicism, and you kind of can’t tell that story if everything is going great,” Schur adds. “Like, if nothing challenging happens in her life, if her best friend doesn’t leave town, or if she gets elected to office and just everything she wants to accomplish is very easy to accomplish, then you can’t really tell a story about how to stem the tide of cynicism, so occasionally, we have to kind of knock her around a little bit, especially professionally. But this year it’s both, it’s professionally and personally.”
Schur says that Leslie will bounce back from the defeat and work towards finding writing her next chapter. “She’s gonna do what she always does, right?” he teases. “She’s gonna mull some stuff over and she gets a lot of advice from a lot of different people, among them Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), along the way. She actively seeks out a bunch of different possibilities for her life and certain things present themselves to her and she’s just gonna kind of — she just never stops moving. She’s a shark, and she never stops moving and eventually she’s gonna figure out a path that makes sense to her.”
One reporter asks if the park that Leslie was so determined to have built in the beginning of the series will re-enter her narrative. “There’s at least one episode in the chunk that comes after where that comes back into play,” Schur reveals.
“It’s always there. It’s very symbolic of her progress, or lack there of,” Poehler adds.
“Parks and Recreation” has just two episodes left to air in 2013, on Thursday (Nov. 21) from 8-9 p.m. The show will return in the new year for its 100th episode on Jan. 9, settling into its new time slot, 8:30 p.m.
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