‘Parks and Recreation’: Does Paul Schneider’s Mark Brendanawicz Have a Morbid Fate in the NBC Series?

Fan theories have the power to transform an entire television show or film — or to at least add a little fun and mystery to them. For the show Parks and Recreation, which has now been off the air for more than five years, sharing fan theories is a way to keep the fun and magic of the series alive.

The series itself was very lighthearted, so it makes sense that many of its fan theories would be as well. Some have speculated, for instance, that Leslie Knope was extremely rich and living off a trust fund or that Garry (Jerry) Gergich was running a cult. 

A darker, much less fun theory that fans have batted around involves the disappearance of Mark Brendanawicz, the city planner who vanishes after the second season. 

‘Parks and Rec’ ran for seven seasons

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NBC premiered the comedy Parks and Recreation in 2009, and it ran on the network for seven seasons. Created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who had both worked on The Office, the series immediately drew comparisons to the famous paper company-based sitcom.

Much like The OfficeParks and Rec got its charm by placing seemingly everyday people in a typical situation in front of the camera and letting the absurdity of mundane life experiences unfold. In this case, the setting was the Parks and Recreation department of the local government of Pawnee, Indiana.

Also like The Office, the magic of the series was wrapped up in the chemistry between the cast members. 

It also helped that the Parks and Rec cast included some truly talented comedians who were able to improvise at the drop of a hat and that the creators gave them the space to do so. These elements all came together to create a beloved series that fans still endlessly quote and meme.

They were also thrilled to see a special quarantine reunion that brought most of the cast members back via teleconference for another dose of their hilarious banter. 

Mark Brendanawicz was in two seasons

Paul Schneider
Paul Schneider | NICK HUNT /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Since the series revolved around the work-life of a local government office, most of the characters played some kind of official government role in the small town of Pawnee.

Mark Brendanawicz, played by Paul Schneider, appeared regularly in the first two seasons. Mark’s character was a flame (and past fling) for the main character Leslie Knope. He also became a love interest for Ann Perkins. 

After two seasons, however, Mark simply left the show without much fanfare and never returned. In real life, Schneider had decided to explore new directions for his career and expresses no regrets for leaving what would become such a popular series.

He left the show in 2010, and the next roles for his career were definitely much more serious in tone. Schneider appeared in 2011’s Water for Elephants and 2012’s Beloved, both serious dramas that provided Schneider with a very different outlet for his acting talents. That path seems to have worked out for the actor whose recent work in shows like Tales from the Loop and Chance continues to be in the drama genre. 

Fans have a theory about Mark’s disappearance 

While exploring a new career direction explains what happened to Schneider as an actor, it doesn’t explain what happened to Mark as a character. Often, when characters leave a series, there is some plot point written in to explain the change. In Mark’s case, however, the audience isn’t given much to go on, and he isn’t mentioned again by the other characters. 

This has led fans to concoct a dark theory about where Mark went. Some believe that he died. More specifically, many fans believe that he took his own life. A Tumblr post about the possibility provided this explanation: “He left his job, Ann dumped him just as he was about to propose to her, and his life was going nowhere. He was never the most up-beat character on the show to begin with, so it is not crazy to think that he had been suffering from some form of depression.”