They weren’t as sure, however, about playing it out in such a concentrated way, where the last five episodes of the fall (“End of the World” through “Citizen Knope”) focused heavily on their relationship.
“We knew we had this big Ben-Leslie arc to do, which is them breaking up at the beginning of the year and then getting back together,” Schur tells Zap2it. “We had a debate about whether we should parse those episodes out slowly over the course of the season.”
The show obviously went the opposite direction, but Schur admits he was nervous about the decision. “It was several stories in a row that kept dealing with a similar theme, but I just kept coming back to the idea that once that arc started, it was going to be very hard to slow it down,” he says.
“I’ve been wondering whether I would feel like it was the right move, and I feel like it was now.”
Of course, the fact that Ben and Leslie finally went public cost Ben his job and Leslie her city council campaign, but you can’t keep a good Knope down. As we saw in “Citizen Knope,” her friends are rallying around her to re-launch her campaign, and Thursday’s (Jan. 12) episode is called “The Comeback Kid.”
And now that Ben is no longer a government employee, is there any way he doesn’t become Leslie’s campaign manager?
“Without wanting to be too spoilery about it, that’s the main issue of the first episode back,” Schur says. “We were originally going to deal with it in the Christmas episode, but there was so much going on already. … We wanted to keep the issue of Ben and his potential role in the campaign out of it. He had his own little journey he was on, so we just wanted to keep it away.
“We also knew it was an obvious question, so the first episode back deals with that exact question.”
The second half of the season will have Leslie’s underdog campaign as a running thread, and it will also play to one of Poehler’s strengths as Leslie stretches herself thin both running for office and doing her regular job.
“We’re having her stay in her full-time job at the parks department for a long time, probably a lot longer than she should, and also campaign,” Schur says. “So she’s sleeping even less than usual … and it will begin to wear her down.”
When we talked to Schur in December, “Parks and Rec” had just wrapped shooting the episode in which Louis C.K. makes a return appearance as Leslie’s old boyfriend Dave, who left midway through Season 2. He comes back to Pawnee for the police chief’s (Eric Pierpoint) retirement party (the episode is likely to air in February), and Ben and Leslie run into him.
“Part of the fun of it is Ben — this has already been established on the show — is not super-comfortable around police officers,” Schur says. “So you can imagine when he’s around a police officer who’s also Leslie’s ex-boyfriend, it doesn’t go super smoothly.”
“Parks and Rec” returns at 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.