The Office: Finale

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Simply put: The Office series finale was fantastic. It was one of the most satisfying, thoughtful, and rewarding television endings that I have ever seen. In some of my previous articles, I complained about the extended runtime of the final episodes, arguing that an hour-long slot was unnecessary. But with this 75-minute installment, I was left wanting even more. Also, I am happy to say that my wish for the finale to attract at least 5 million viewers came true. 5.69 million people tuned in for one of the series’ best episodes.

“Finale” takes place a year after the previous episode when the PBS documentary first aired. In the first few minutes we learn that within that year, Dundler Mifflin experienced a lot of staff shake-ups under Dwight’s tenure as manager. Kevin bought a bar after getting fired, Toby moved to New York, Andy got a job at Cornell, Darryl has been running Athleap (previously Athlead) in Austin, Stanley retired to Florida, Nellie moved to Poland, and Creed faked his own death after being revealed as a wanted fugitive. But everyone reunites after PBS organizes the cast from the documentary to get together for a Q&A panel open to the public, which is scheduled for the same week as Dwight and Angela’s wedding.

Originally I was skeptical when I heard that the finale would be taking place so long after  the rest of the season, but quite honestly, it works, and it was very interesting to see where a lot of people ended up without it feeling too much like an epilogue tacked on to the end.  So many changes in the course of one year seemed a bit forced, but considering the timing corresponds with the release of the documentary, it makes sense that some of the staff may have wanted to change the direction of their lives after seeing the film and how much time they spent at Dundler Mifflin. The Q&A panel scenes were great because the audience’s questions sparked fascinating moments of reflection for the staff. For instance, Pam describes how she was unable to get through the entire documentary because she kept yelling at her old self for taking so long to realize that Jim was perfect for her and he was waiting for her from the beginning.

The wedding between Dwight and Angela was also an excellent part of the story. It’s hard to compete with the two-part Jim and Pam wedding episode “Niagara”, but it also wasn’t trying to; it had an entirely different tone, mostly because it also served as a reunion for many of the characters. Particularly, the surprise appearance of Michael Scott, who shows up to be his best man in a perfect cameo that did not overshadow the rest of the episode, while remaining true to the beloved character created by Steve Carell. Upon seeing him, Dwight says “I can’t believe you came!” And Michael simply responds, “That’s what she said.” The slightly graying Michael Scott then sticks around for the reception, and we learn that he now has kids and the perfect family he always wanted.

There are many laugh-worthy moments in the episode. Perhaps one of the funniest moments for me was the bachelor party arranged by Jim and the guys. Dwight does not understand that their “waitress” is actually a stripper, and expresses his frustration with her incompetence: “Now for the last time, I’d like a side salad with balsamic” Dwight tells the stripper sitting on his lap. Oscar comments “If you want her to leave just tip her…” But Dwight interrupts arguing “What for? We haven’t even gotten bread yet!” And Jim just smiles at the camera in his usual way, sympathizing with the audience. 

I really love the relationship between Jim and Dwight. For nine years, Jim pranked Dwight, while Dwight complained about Jim to Michael. But all along we could tell Jim loved Dwight, and in this final season, particularly the final episode, we can really see how much these two guys care about each other. Dwight asks Jim to be his best man, and in return, Jim organizes “good” pranks for Dwight, such as the opportunity to fire a bazooka in a field, the stripper waitress, and bringing back Michael for the wedding. And in the end, Dwight insists that he fire Jim and Pam instead of letting them quit so that they can get the severance package, after they decide to move to Arizona to work on Athleap. But in the moment Jim tells Dwight they are leaving, we can see Dwight start to tear. I’m sure it’s also a combination of the actors’ sadness for leaving each other, but we know as an audience that Dwight sees Jim as one of his best friends. Why else would he have wanted Jim to be his best man?

And that also brings up Jim and Pam’s love. The two have been described as one of television’s best couples, and for six seasons, we could not wait to see them finally get together. In recent years, they have been having marital troubles, and the audience worried that the writers were breaking them up. But true love survives, and we saw in these last episodes the lengths these two characters are willing to go to be with each other. Jim is willing to give up his dream job to stay in Scranton with Pam (even though he didn’t think so at first) and Pam is willing to let go of her life in Scranton and start a new chapter to be with Jim and let him have what he wants. So many television (and film) couples’ stories end with the “happily ever after”, but what I like about the Jim-Pam story is that we see what it takes to actually reach this ending, and accept that even the “happily ever after” stage can include conflicts and hardships.

Quite honestly, there is a lot that can be said about this episode and the series as a whole. But nothing I write can deliver the same satisfaction to you as simply taking the time to sit down and watch it. The Office will go down as one of the most ground-breaking and influential comedies on network television, and the series finale wraps up the show in a very moving and respectful way. Do yourself and favor and stop reading this so you can go find the episode on Hulu or NBC.com and watch it. I promise you won’t regret it.

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