Interestingly enough, Ben and Mark never interacted, but in these two episodes, Ben was easily beating Mark at his own game. His romantic ties to Leslie would hit later, but he was the man standing in Leslie’s way, not due to being a bad person, but because of his realist beliefs. Ben’s moment at the end of the season finale, where he stepped in to make sure Leslie’s unauthorized children’s concert happened for the sake of the town’s morale, felt much like a more bombastic take on Mark secretly helping Leslie in the show’s pilot.
Mark had what seemed like a combined four minutes of screentime in those two episodes. He appeared in a mere two scenes in each one and never in any major group moments. One scene had him come across Andy at a bar, where it was apparent that while Andy no longer held any ill will towards Mark and was becoming a better person, Mark was stuck with no prospects and a history that wasn’t all that endearing. It almost read like Mark was noticing how Pawnee was leaving him behind.
With the show’s plot involving a government shutdown in “Freddy Spaghetti,” Mark decided that the entire situation, along with Ann’s rejection, was a sign that it was time for him to move on. Leslie was angry at first, dubbing him “Mark Brendanaquits,” but the two later shared a nice goodbye moment on the plot of land that used to be the pit. As a farewell present, he gave Leslie some blueprints for a layout of what her dream park could possibly look like. Mark was inspired by Leslie and it bounced back and inspired Leslie to continue fighting for what she believed in.
As for Ann, she drunkenly stumbled into the first step towards a relationship with Chris Traeger, which was already a million times more entertaining than what she had with Mark due to Chris’ otherworldly optimism and dedication to his personal health. Plus, and this is big, the two had amazing chemistry. Ann never had a goodbye scene with Mark (even though she presumably did talk to him to at least ask if he was the guy she made out with at the bar) and we were probably better off that way.
After 30 episodes, that was it for Mark. At first, the door appeared to be open. Series co-creator Michael Schur was quick to point out that it was an amicable split and that Mark’s role allowed him to return down the line, even if he was just going to be a guest appearance here and there. He would probably show up once or twice in the third season! Parks and Recreation was all about recurring characters popping up, so such a thing made all the sense in the world.