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NBC’s Park and Recreation is a comedy classic. The series ran for seven seasons before viewers had to say goodbye to the town of Pawnee and its unique residents, specifically Leslie Knope. Played by Amy Poehler, Leslie was known for her love for waffles, gift-giving abilities, and passion for parks and Pawnee.

Fans of the show loved her. But many of them noticed a shift in Poehler’s character between seasons 1 and 2. In fact, one went so far as to develop a theory for why Leslie Knope changed.

Leslie Knope’s personality in ‘Parks and Rec’ Season 1

Leslie Knope change
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Paul Schneider as Mark Brendanawicz in ‘Parks and Rec’ | Mitch Haddad/NBCU Photo Bank

Parks and Recreation premiered in April 2009. The comedy borrowed the mockumentary style of The Office, bringing it a built-in viewership. And like beloved workplace comedy, Parks and Rec took time to come into its own. Many viewers later noted Leslie Knope came across as ditzy and incompetent in the first season. 

This was not the intention of Mike Schur, the series’ co-creator and showrunner. In an interview with AV Club, he explained: 

“Leslie was reading to people—completely unintentionally—as ditzy. That was never our intention. We always thought she was really smart and good at her job. We realized we had screwed it up a little.” 

A ‘Parks and Rec’ fan theory about Leslie Knope’s change

Looking back on the show, Parks and Rec fans identified the shift in Leslie’s personality came in season 2. She soon became a more confident, driven person and showed a deep love for her friends and coworkers. So why the change?

Reddit discussion implied Knope wasn’t herself in the first season. “I propose that Leslie began the job as the character we know and love, but the betrayal put her in a nosedive on the brink of a nervous breakdown.”

The “betrayal” in question was explained in season 3 when Leslie reveals a former friend left Pawnee for rival town Eagleton. The user explained that once Leslie developed her friendship with Rashida Jones’ Ann Perkins, which began in season 1 but really took place between seasons 1 and 2, she reverts to her “old” self.

Others agreed with this theory


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The Reddit thread got a few diehard Parks and Recreation fans thinking. A person in the discussion agreed with the theory and even built upon it.

“I can see that,” they wrote. They then cited Jones’ season 6 exit and how it affected the characters. “We see when Ann is thinking of leaving that Leslie doesn’t handle it well, she does go into a mini nosedive when Ann leaves, but this time has a better support system.” 

Though the thread definitely contains some logical possibilities, it seems like, for the most part, it was just a case of a TV show and its characters coming into their own. “I think a likelier explanation is that the writers wanted to introduce the characters gradually/they may not have solidified their personalities yet,” another person said. Whatever the case, fans can agree the later Leslie is the one they fell in love with.