'Parks and Recreation' Has Lessons About the Art of Losing

This article is from the archive of our partner .

In the second episode of last night's double whammy of Parks and Recreation, events were not kind to our heroine Leslie Knope, as she lost her recall election for Pawnee City Council. But that disappointment sets us up well for the departures set to hit the show later in the season.

After being bumped off the NBC schedule for a couple of weeks, Parks returned with a pair of episodes that were all about disappointment for Amy Poehler's Leslie. In the first, she's Wendy Davis on roller skates (literal roller skates), filibustering a bill that would prevent residents of the neighboring and recently absorbed Eagleton from voting in the recall election, only to learn that the residents of Eagleton wouldn't actually vote in her favor. In the second half-hour, she loses that election. 

Of course, there were other things going on. Chris Pratt's Andy returned home from filming Guardians of the Galaxy — er, excuse us, from "London." Tom (Aziz Ansari) flirted with Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany. Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson got obsessed with a hunting video game, and in the next episode had his chairs endorsed by a lifestyle blog. There were '90s references and costumes (these episodes were originally supposed to air before Halloween).

Recommended Reading

But Leslie's disappointment was sadly real. Though the recall plot had occupied much of the season so far, there was no big lead-up to the reveal that Leslie lost, and not even in a close race. It was just an announcement from Perd Hapley, the show's regular, overly literal newsman. Leslie then fell into a downward spiral. She ate Paunch Burger and wore Uggs and got really drunk with her husband, Ben (Adam Scott), dressed as Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride (Parks and Rec does drunk really well).

But what was lovely about it was the heartbreak; the hurt that Leslie was feeling was just so real. We've all gotten disappointing news, and it usually doesn't come with much fanfare. It's quick and brutal. And Leslie had to lose. The people of Pawnee have never appreciated the work that she did, and this time the opposition was just too fierce. Leslie's best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) even forced her to admit toward the end of the episode that she had to have known there was a chance the election would have a bad outcome.

Leslie's going to face another disappointment later in the season when the show says goodbye to Jones and, in turn, Ann (as well as Rob Lowe's unsettlingly cheerful Chris Traeger). Though the show has sometimes struggled with what exactly to do with Ann, she served a vital purpose in the second episode of the night. She was there to rescue Leslie and Ben when they decided to get very sketchy tattoos, and to make Leslie realize that she still has time to improve Pawnee. "Ann, you poetic, noble land mermaid," Leslie said. The loss of Ann (Jones and Lowe's final episode is being filmed this week) means we'll lose one more female friendship on TV, who are already in short supply, as Melissa Maerz bemoaned in a column on Entertainment Weekly. For the character of Leslie Knope, it will be a real blow. She'll pick up, though, and move on, and continue fighting in that pugnacious, awesome Leslie way. As will the show. We'll all be okay. 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.