[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]
I loved The Office. I love The Office.
The tricky business of which verb tense to use in reference to this show has been a detail I’ve been pondering over for a while.
What is certain is that The Office is ending and, if you said that to me four seasons ago, I would have been despondent. It was in the middle of NBC’s airing of season four on TV that I bought the DVDs and caught up on what I had missed. Ever since, I have stood by and defended this comedy as one of its very ardent fans. I have dressed up like Pam Beesly, driven to Scranton for one of the city’s “Office Fan Tours”, and have a mug with cast signatures (won in a contest)displayed on my book case (the day I found out I won that mug– priceless).
It was my favorite, most treasured show of all time and now, I’m not sure where it falls on the line-up because it carried on too long. That’s it, plain and simple. The show that could do no wrong didn’t leave on a high that it would have so earned but trudged along for nine seasons. Never terrible but a faint shadow of what it had been, there is a marked difference in quality and laughs, strength of characters, that I’m reminded about when I see old episodes again.
I also, terribly, forget those great times occasionally because it’s been a shadow of itself for so long (with some sunny patches in between, but always intermittently), tainting my memory of a program that could only be mentioned in the same sentence as high regard. Episodes from later seasons are provided the benefit of the doubt, a cushion of accounting for their flaws, but were being watched more out of ever-withstanding loyalty than anything else (particularly during James Spader’s stint in season eight; Catherine Tate (Doctor Who‘s Donna Noble) has been a much better celebrity replacement for Steve Carell, even if she may not be as big a name in America).
As we hit these final episodes in the lives of Dunder Mifflin paper company’s employees, some great stuff is being done.
Characters are acting the way they used to when they were beloved, and situations like Dwight actually toning down enough to be able to hold the position of regional manager he’s always dreamed about, plateauing at the level of crazy that made him iconic instead of the enhanced version of crazy that made him a joke these last few years (not the funny kind), are occurring (though not really explained). One looks the other way, however, because he’s back. Angela-loving, constantly-pranked-by-Jim Dwight is back, and even if it doesn’t match his character’s developments lately, who cares because those developments were lousy, turning him into someone cruel and dangerous instead of opinionated and quirky. Last night’s episode took him back to a time and place when he was sympathetic, before the “Sprinkles the cat in the freezer” incident, where everything started falling apart for him. Now he and Angela are engaged, and their finding happiness at last was nice to witness, even if a slightly random, fast, and conveniently timed reunion, considering how long they’ve been separated.
Other Blasts to the Past
- The bringing in of baby Philip, who has now been officially acknowledged to be Dwight’s child, as a device to allow for some references to his father’s infamous favorite things worked well.
- Daryll’s dancing with everyone as their last request to mark his departure for a new job, while a slightly more “in your face, this is the end moment” (like Andy’s singing a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s song, “I Will Remember You,” last week, an appropriate, well done, dramatic choice that allowed Ed Helms to show off his banjo skills before he left), was a fun excuse to see the various dance styles unique to each person. Plus, Daryll attempting to adapt to match each style as he made his way around the room was quite amusing and successful (Creed jamming on a fake guitar, or whatever erratic motions he was attempting, may have been the most memorable but there was the sweet Jim/Pam dorky dancing to smile at, too).
- The Assistant Assistant Regional Manager prank (from the title of this episode), was straight out of classic Office and classic Jim. Where classic Jim was hiding during his disagreement with Pam over the job in Philly, when his role was filled by a rude, oblivious husband as opposed to the exceedingly caring one that usually resides, doesn’t really jive with me but again, he’s back.
~ SIDENOTE ~
High five to the writers for making the great callback to one of the most memorable scenes from season two’s Christmas special, “The Christmas Party.” The return of the mystery letter removed from Pam’s teapot present led to some false excitement that, in having it be mentioned again, the actual contents of the card would be revealed. But, like whatever was said between the couple when they found out Pam was pregnant, this will probably never be revealed. It’s ok because the sentiment is clear. Jim has loved Pam for a long time, and Pam loves him back.
The One Criticism
The only part that didn’t belong in this episode was Andy’s storyline, which seemed like something that would have appeared in one of the weaker episodes of late and had nothing to do with the wrapping up of the show that these final hours should be concerned will. Well, I guess it is a follow-up on his choice to quit his job last week and put all his focus on making it big in the music business, but the character of Andy has been taken in so many different directions (anger management to Angela’s fiancée to fighting for Erin’s* love to becoming regional manager to going on a boat ride to returning from the boat a complete jerk) that it’s difficult to define who he is anymore, or care. Last week being his final swan song (literally through song) would have been fine. Continuing his story line here by having him cheat his way onto a fake music competition didn’t do him any favors, and only seemed to be included in order to name drop NBC’s successful ratings accumulator, The Voice.
* Erin actually came out of this ninth season better for it. There were intonations that “Andy and Erin” were supposed to be the new “Jim and Pam,” but dating him only brought out her more erratic side, in reflection of Andy’s own personality. New boyfriend, Pete, on the other hand has really grounded her, and not just because he comes from the same mold as Jim (from his expressions to the camera, to his use of customer complaint cards to build a tower in episode eight, “The Target”).
In any sense, next Thursday will mark the extended series finale of The Office, a show that has meant so much to me, at times frustrated me, but always been there. Even though I know it’s time for it to conclude (been time), I will still miss it because The Office did, and always shall, play a very important role in my personal television fandom journey, producing a lot of laughs along the way with an hilarious ensemble cast.
How do you feel about the show’s send-off so far? Any favorite memories from its nine season run? Share them in the comments below (and please, no finale spoilers).