The results are in, and Leslie Knope is out.
Despite Leslie's eternal optimism and undying dedication to the city and people of Pawnee, Indiana, the definitely-off-their-rockers, Paunch Burger-loving citizens of Parks and Recreation's fictional Midwestern hamlet have recalled Leslie from her spot on the City Council. Talk about a major blow.
During a recent Q&A with press, executive producer Michael Schur and star Amy Poehler addressed the decision to recall Leslie, what's next for the character, and why it made perfect sense for her to have her dreams dashed.
On making the decision to recall Leslie:
"We didn't specifically have a plan to have her win," Schur said when asked if they'd always intended to recall Leslie. "The writers spent the 10 weeks leading up to shooting talking about the options, and [recalling her] just seemed like the best, juiciest option."
"If she wins the recall vote, then she's just back where she was before, and the more exciting and interesting thing seemed to be to boot her out," he continued.
Well that's all fine and dandy, but poor Leslie, right? She worked so hard, she achieved her dream of being elected to City Council, and then the people of Pawnee just hit the reset button and we're supposed to accept that? Leslie's just supposed to accept that?
Well, to be fair, the choice wasn't made on a whim. Poehler and Schur said they discussed the long-term story of Leslie Knope and what her role was supposed to be in this wonderful, messed-up little town, and the decision came down to Leslie's greater purpose of fighting the tide of cynicism that permeates our culture. Both Schur and Poehler believed it was impossible to tell that story if everything was constantly going great for Leslie.
"If nothing challenging happens in her life, if her best friend doesn't leave town, or if she gets elected to office and everything she wants to accomplish, she's very easily able to accomplish, then you can't really tell a story of how to stem the tide of cynicism," Schur said.
Poehler added that since the beginning of the series, she and Schur have talked about her character's journey in terms of Leslie being one person with very little power, but believing she could make a difference anyway. And now that Parks and Rec is in its sixth season, they're exploring what happens when she tries to make changes that people aren't always so fond of.
"Just because Leslie's getting stuff done doesn't mean people like what she's doing," Poehler explained. And now the series will attempt to address the problems that arise from the recall. "How do you fight the cynicism and disappointment that come along with that?" asked Poehler. "How do you make anything different ... when change does happen, they kick you out?"
On what's next for both Leslie and the show:
Leslie was completely devastated about losing the recall vote, and while we laughed at her concession speech ("Eat my shorts, jabronies. Knope out"), we also cried alongside her (and cringed when she and Ben tried to get tattoos to prove to themselves they hadn't peaked). But Leslie will bounce back very quickly. Ann aptly compared Leslie to a toddler who'd just woken up from a nap, but what exactly does that mean?
"She's going to do what she always does," Schur said. "She actively seeks out a bunch of different possibilities for her life ... she just never stops moving ... and eventually she's going to figure out the path that makes sense to her."
Schur and Poehler said that we won't be seeing much of the election for her Leslie's vacant City Council seat because it happens offscreen, but the show's next few episodes will focus on Leslie's attempts to cap off her career as an elected official during her last 30 days in office. The upcoming 100th episode, which airs January 9, will cover Leslie's final hours as a councilwoman, and then the series will move away from the topic of City Council altogether.
And speaking of the 100th episode, the cast recently celebrated the occasion with a party and a J.J.'s Diner-themed cake. I suggest perusing the photos below and pretending you were there as a means of coping with your vicarious sadness for Leslie.
Were you surprised by the outcome of the recall vote?
AIRED ON 2/17/2015
Season 7 : Episode 11