Leslie’s campaign for city council hasn’t been the only thing going on in Parks and Recreation’s fourth season, and that’s certainly contributed to why “Win, Lose, or Draw” felt so big. From when Leslie was first approached for office during the end of last season, it’s been a ride that’s slowly picked up speed, pacing out her slow rise to prominence with almost perfect pacing. By allowing this to develop naturally rather than dropping everything once her campaign began, Parks and Recreation has also been slowly building tension and, happily, the conclusion to all of that buildup doesn’t disappoint.
“Win, Lose, or Draw” is itself about that tension, the waiting period that occurs after you can no longer change anything. Life is filled with those periods, but rarely are those experiences made so public as they are in running for office. Leslie’s triumph or failure is there for all to see, and while it would be theirs as well, Leslie is the only person whose dreams are truly at stake. Fittingly, the episode centers around Leslie and her anxiety, and most of the side plots are just about the feelings of everyone else affected. It features a bit too much of Ron acting as wise old sage, calming all the fraying nerves around him, but it’s also a balm to soothe audiences. He’s a person who understands that as much importance as we place on events like this, life continues onwards either way.
I won’t spoil the campaign’s result for anyone reading this who hasn’t watched the episode, even though I would like to comment about what it means for where the show’s going next. But I will say that “Win, Lose, or Draw” keeps up the tension until the very end without making it feel forced. Parks and Recreation has managed to actually give the episode suspense and offered compelling reasons why Leslie could win or lose. While I feel that the result really reflects what the show’s really about, it’s set up that there will be difficulties for characters either way and that whatever happens Parks and Recreation, and Pawnee, won’t remain the same.
That goes for the episode’s b-story, too, which unfortunately wasn’t comparatively very strong. April screws up the Parks Department’s data and to console her Andy says, “oh well, we can run away and start new lives.” He has the two of them draft what they could be, and April notices that with the exception of shoe shiner, everything he lists is some form of law enforcement. While it may take some time for her to get him to realize this, it looks like next season will probably pursue that path, as well as a myriad of other changes.
As I’m writing this, NBC hasn’t announced whether or not it will be renewing the show. If it’s not picked up, “Win, Lose, or Draw” works as an excellent end to the show, let alone the season. Hopefully that won’t come to pass, though, since it’s set up changes so large that it feels like the DNA of the show will be completely different in the future. Because Parks and Recreation has proven that it can do something different from the largely episodic mockumentary form it began with, though, it sounds like the show will have no problem handling these changes. The show’s grown into being about the characters rather than the department, and with that it’s grown exponentially in both heart and ambition since it began. NBC willing, I can’t wait to see what that means for season five.
•The Sweetums voting machine is far too advanced to be an American voting device. I think that’s the real reason it couldn’t get approved.
•I was really happy to learn how much Andy loved his shoeshine job.
•I wrote a note saying: “How exactly did Leslie buy Ben a Washington Monument memento while remaining in that building?” moments before the episode answered that question.