Thursday, May 16th shall be a night of heartfelt infamy. Last night on NBC aired the series finale to the US version of The Office. Last we left Dunder Mifflin, the documentary was starting to air, and there were some like Darrly Philbin (Craig Robinson) who were leaving were leaving Scranton behind. Others like Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) saw failure and humiliation. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey) were finally engaged after Dwight became Regional Manager and Angela’s son gained Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nuñez) as a godfather. Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer) also seemingly were going to go off into the sunset with a happy ending. There are others like Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith), Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner), and Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton) whose futures were up in the there. So how was the episode titled “Finale” the series finale to the long-running NBC series The Office?
It was hit and miss.
But being fair to the series itself in that final moment, there were way more hits than misses. Honestly, some of the misfires present in the finale were just lingering problems the series had and seemed to acquire as time went on that felt unaddressed or not executed properly.
In the opening moments of the finale, we learn it has been six months later; Toby and Kevin were fired. When hard-pressed for reasons why they shouldn’t fire Kevin, no one had any good reason. Meanwhile things at the Scranton Branch are going well and with Dwight getting married soon. And it was here that one of my biggest arguments about The Office was somewhat placed to rest, which was Jim and Pam’s uppity better than thou nature. At least, to me, the Jim-side of that argument was laid to rest. In his one on one or ‘talking head’ segment, he admitted to the camera that he never picked on Dwight out of spite. It was good-natured ribbing because he loves Dwight like a brother. And now, “Dwight has made me his bestisch mensch. Which is Schrute for ‘best man’.” With Jim as best man, he promised the documentary crew nothing but good pranks, full of nothing but love.
And all were fun pranks from going out and taking a bazooka to blow stuff up with the boys, hiring a dancer* who Dwight thinks is their waitress at a nice eatery. There was the whole staging of Angela being kidnapped which felt like a ‘Ut-oh’ moment in the finale, but as Jim best says “Mose has been weird? That’s so unlike him.” This was of course a Schrute family tradition, the kidnapping I mean, and yet, as Dwight finds his bride in a bar now owned by Kevin, who finally has his fears laid to rest that he was fired by Dwight not because he didn’t like him but because he was a bad accountant, it was here that Jim Halpert promises one more great prank for Dwight.
(*) - the sequence featuring ‘Jim’-like looks from Clark (Clark Duke) were over the top hilarious.
As Jim prepares for the wedding, he admits to Dwight that talking with his family has made him realize that the Bestisch Mensch needs to be older than the groom. As such, it is tradition for him to step down. And he has a replacement. As Jim side-steps, revealing to us the new best man. “Michael!” Dwight says, surprised, “I can’t believe you came.”
Michael Scott’s natural response is a heartfelt and tearful “That’s what she said.”
It was here that “Finale” to The Office began winding down the laughs, and really focused on, well, almost a checklist of things for characters to do in their curtain call. And while curtain calls usually tend to go in an opposite direction than good or flattering, The Office seemed to really hit all the right notes, finding a sweet spot for its characters, which was really pressed upon in the way the return of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was handled, though there was a downside to that as well.
“I feel like all my kids grew up and then they married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” Michael recalls, tearing up. It’s a sweet if not weird but true-to-form-Michael Scottism. But besides background scenes, we don’t get much else from Michael. Honestly, it was a bit of a let-down in that regard. While it felt poignant and did not take away from his character’s leaving the show, it felt like it skipped over a glaring plot hole from the show. The documentary premiered with moments from Michael Scott. So I’m sure the show which filmed nine years worth of footage showed Michael being a big idiot and thus opened him up for ridicule from other people. The question though is, what did the documentary do to him? While we learn from most what happened to them and how the documentary has treated them, Michael was left un-touched in this regard. And in it’s leaving it undone also brought up the other flaw with The Office with the whole filming for nine years only to air twelve episodes?
Despite that nagging feeling, we still get some great closure for Michael via a voice-over from Pam, as we learn that Michael has the family he has always wanted. The very proud but fiscally irresponsible father Michael Scott has taken so many photos of his kids that he had to get a second phone; yes he is paying for a second phone number. **
“He’s just so happy to have a family plan,” Pam says happily to the camera.
(**)- What happened to Holly? Are they still together? Did they divorce? It is little things like that the really have nagged at me and gnawed at the inner-core of my being since the finale has aired. And it was something that could have been handled with just one simple line of dialogue, almost like they did with the line about his family plan, and kids. It is easy to assume that Holly and Michael are living happily, but it wouldn't hurt to just get confirmation. The point is Michael is happy. He has is family. But a family can still have parents who are divorced but still happy and work together. This could be used as an argument back to me that why does Michael need Holly to be happy, and you're right, he doesn't, but for a show that is all about curtain calls, it felt like that curtain call was missing.
Even Andy, who we last saw try out and meltdown on the singing reality show (within a show) America’s Next Acapella Sensation really didn’t make my blood boil. Andy was an example of a character who was to me a favorite of the cast but in the last two seasons began to really become unwatchable and unbearable. Instead of rooting for Andy, he became more of a thorn in my viewing paw, and I would have to stop myself from fast-forwarding the show when he was on because it was just so painful to watch. And it wasn’t really Helms fault, it was purely writing-wise: they had taken a character so well loved and broken him down.
In a way, he ended up being the David Brent of the US version of The Office, a role that seemed probably destined for the original US counterpart of The Office: Steve Carrel’s Michael Scott. But when Michael left, the role of the guy wanting fame and to be loved by everyone seemed to hinge on Andy, which Andy wasn’t really that guy. Andy wanted friendship, sure, but the whole fame angle felt misplaced on him. Like he was just filling a roll. You know it’s bad when his ‘goodbye’ in “A.A.R.M.” playing his guitar didn’t move me in the slightest and instead illicit a ‘when will you just leave?’.
What was oddly refreshing is that even though I strongly disliked (bordering on hate) what they did with Andy Bernard, the finale made his return actually quite touching and added to the warmth that “Finale” was bringing to the table. In the show’s downtime, Andy has become a laughing stock, becoming bullied and ridiculed as his breakdown on the reality show went viral. He is almost made fun of wherever he goes, and they even made an auto-tune song out of it. But Andy is doing ‘okay’ as he tells everyone numerous times. And what is odd as well is that he isn’t lying. While things could be better for Andy, Andy has had a real turn-around. As a joke, Cornell invited him to speak so the college kids and faculty could laugh at him, but instead he turned his speech, he said, around. So much so that Cornell hired him in the admissions office. It isn’t until the end of the finale we see his speech and see Andy wasn’t lying: from what we heard, Andy’s speech was a surprise, much like his characters return from his horrific fall from grace. Heck, Andy got to say one of the best quotes of the episode: "I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you've actually left them. Someone should write a song about that."
Other side charcters, like Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate) who finally ‘adopted’ a baby, David Wallace (Andy Buckley) got their day in the son, including Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) who got to meet her birth parents finally during a Q&A with fans. Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) has moved on to write the great American Novel, while Pete (Jake Lacy) laments people call him plop now and Clark (Clark Duke) seems to be doing well too.
But the king and queen of The Office, if it were, were always the heart of the show; Jim and Pam Halpert. And they ended on a nice upnote too with Pam making a great romantic gesture for Jim, despite the rest of the country thinking she doesn’t deserve him. But Pam proves the rest of the country wrong, and there was a quote about it being hard and not like a fairy-tale which I found fitting of a documentary or tv show: what we SEE in life and what actually is happening are two different things. Pam and Jim, if the documentary was ‘real’ would have been tough to go through being apart like that. Marriages are work. Even happily married people will tell you that they have rough patches like that. But that is what marriage is. It’s an ordinary thing. But as Pam said: "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"
You are so right, Pam.
Despite the big qualms with the whole why nine years for a documentary, how did it affect Michael Scott’s life, where was Holly, the show continued to swing for the fences of our hearts with great quotes from Jim like: "I sold paper at this company for over twelve years. My job was to speak to clients, on the the phone about quantities and types of copier paper. Even if I didn't love every minute of it, everything I have I owe to this job. This stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job." Or Dwight with “Do I get along with my co-workers? First of all, I don’t have co-workers anymore. I have subordinates. So, have I gotten along with my subordinates. Let’s see. My supplier relations rep, Meredith Palmer, is the only person I know who knows how to properly headbang to Motorhead. Oscar Martinez, my accountant, is now godfather to my son. Angela Schrute, my former accountant is now my wife. My top Salesman Jim Halpert, was best man at my wedding. And office administrator Pamela Beesley Halpbert is my best friend. So yes. I’d say I have gotten along with my subordinates.”.
And there were of course a few more chuckles by episode’s end such as Dwight’s jab at PBS: “Nobody buys DVDs anymore. Heh. PBS. The propaganda wing of Bill and Melinda Gates. And Viewers like you.”
Overall, The Office was a great finale for a series who’s past few years almost didn’t feel it warranted it. Despite a shakey past few seasons, it was an honestly a great surprise to see The Office return to top form in its final hour and fifteen minutes properly titled “Finale” with a few minor bumps. The Office in a way, is really like a hidden current within the context of the show for those who have stuck with the series from the pilot to “Finale”: like co-workers in real life, you are with people every day. You are with them for the good (Micahel Scott years) and the bad (Andy) but in the end, they are like family. But at some point, family grows beyond the reaches of its confines, leaving the family behind but not forgotten. And that is sort of what it feels like now that The Office is now officially over. Going/riffing on that final bit, I’ll end this review using a choice line from the show:
“Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam. Oh… I’m sorry. Jim Halpert doesn’t work here anymore.”
Yeah Pam, but no one in The Office does. And with how it ended, I almost wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Office can be watched on NBC WCMH Channel 4 for Time Warner and Insight Communications customers. For HD channel versions, check your local cable or satellite provider for more information
can be watched on NBC WCMH Channel 4 for Time Warner and Insight Communications customers. For HD channel versions, check your local cable or satellite provider for more information.
But what do YOU think?
You can read Nick’s additional reviews on The TV King.