In Defense Of The Worst Character On 'Parks and Recreation'
The early seasons of Parks And Recreation go through a little bit of an evolution. The first season is mired in kind of a miserable mediocrity, more of "The Office but about local government" than a series with its own identity. And the second season, while funny, still struggles a bit in nailing the dynamics of its central cast. But by the third season, the cocoon breaks open, and Parks & Rec emerges as the butterfly it was always meant to be. However, one casualty of this metamorphosis is that of Mark Brendanawicz, the city planner who abruptly leaves the series at the end of season 2, never to return. With the way his exit is handled, his car and all of his belongings may as well have been hit by an 18-wheeler as he left the parking lot. When that dude goes, he leaves nothing behind and is never referenced by anyone in the series again.
Now, Mark isn't exactly most people's favorite character. Among the rest of the Parks & Rec gang, he sticks out like a sore thumb because in comparison to their outsized personalities, Mark is relatively dry. It doesn't help that the writers gave him about half an episode's worth of jokes and then left his character to ration those out over the course of 30 installments. It also doesn't help that, about halfway through the second season, the show kind of forgets that he exists. He's around, but not really in any major capacity, as if they were writing it, then saw him on the NBC/Universal lot and thought, "Oh shit. You know who we forgot?"
That said, I have a certain wistful fondness for Mark, and not just because I actually kinda liked Parks & Rec more when it was about a sad building full of sad people, and no one was a "hero" character. In the same way, I liked The Office more in the first few seasons when everyone in that room was unfriendly to one another. He's not a great dude by any means, but he's also not a total jerk. In fact, his worst quality is probably that he doesn't seem too amused by any of his co-workers, but let's be honest: Very few people in America were enthusiastic about the core characters of Parks & Rec in its freshman year.
His penchant for sleeping around is often treated with confusion, but at least he seems to have a healthy approach to relationships. He may not be the most outgoing guy there, but when people need help, he's around. Like when Tom needs help moving away from his old place when he's getting divorced, Mark brings his truck despite the fact that Tom is needy, emotionally clingy, and (Jean-Ralphio voice) the wooooorst. And when Andy gets dumped by Anne, he at least keeps his cool around the dude, despite the fact that Andy pitching a tent in a pit beside Anne's house to stay near her is restraining order territory.
He doesn't treat Jerry with disdain, which is kind of refreshing since the rest of the department treats Jerry like he's a homicidal fart. When he accidentally reveals to Jerry that Jerry was adopted, he apologizes without hesitation. The rest of the cast has to basically be tortured into acknowledging that Jerry is a human.
He doesn't seem to like his job very much, but neither does Ron, April, and Tom. He never wants to pry into others' business, unlike the rest of the cast who pinball against one another's lives until they can group hug at the end. And to be clear, this isn't a case that Mark is somehow leaps and bounds better than the other people who appear in the show's opening credits. The dude has less energy than a stapler sometimes. But he's not a blemish on the history of Parks & Rec either.
So good for Mark. Despite what Leslie said, the dude didn't "Brendana-quit." He escaped.
Daniel is a writer for the internet. You can find him on Twitter!
Top Image: NBCUniversal