“Christmas Party” was the first episode of the The Office I’d ever seen. Followed by “The Injury.” Both were Season 2 episodes. I only started watching The Office because my husband saw “The Injury” on a plane and thought it was both bizarre and funny at the same time but that I had to watch. I watched these two episodes thinking this is the dumbest and strangest show I’ve ever seen. But we both thought, to be fair, let’s watch it from the beginning to understand what the hell is going on. So we bought Season 1 and spent an entire Saturday watching this show and laughing our asses off. By then, we were hooked.
Over the course of 9 seasons, The Office has had some amazing episodes and some not so great episodes (as many series do.) It created one of the greatest, most realistic love stories ever in TV…Jim and Pam. It gave one of the top 50 characters in TV history…Michael Scott. It made us care about this wacky group of people in a way I never thought I would. I remember watching the finale thinking that I was so happy to get confessionals from every character on the show. Even fringe characters like Meredith and Creed, I loved hearing how their stories wrapped up. Not many shows can pull that off where you honestly care about each and every person. Even annoying Kevin! I was so happy to see that after he was fired he ended up buying a bar and having a really happy ending! But over 9 years and 187 episodes, these people became part of our family, our TV family. Even as characters came and went, other than Michael, our core stayed through to the end and it was nice to see everything wrapped up so beautifully.
Series finales are hard to do. Especially when the show has been on as long as The Office has. There are huge expectations. You want story lines wrapped up. You want people who deserve happy endings to receive them and people who deserve to be punished to get their comeuppance. You want questions answered. You want people who should be together, finally together. You want something momentous, rewarding, and sensational but yet still stay true to the nature of the show and the characters. And most of all, you want closure for you but also to know that the characters you leave behind are still doing well and moving on in their lives, even though you are no longer there to witness it. For me, that’s a quintessential finale. And it’s so hard to do, especially when you have very little time to do it. The Office finale was probably the BEST series finale I’ve seen in a long time. It had everything you want to see and nothing felt rushed or forced. For a comedy, it had its goofy, silly moments, but in true The Office form, it had its heart-warming moments as well. It was, dare I say, perfect. I laughed, I cried, I cried harder, I laughed again. At the end of that show, I was so content with what I had just seen because it was exactly what I wanted. And because I got a little taste of everyone, I didn’t feel cheated. But the hands down, best moment of the show, was seeing Michael Scott return as Dwight’s best man. Even now I’m tearing up writing this because it was a phenomenal moment. And not just because I really didn’t think Steve Carell was coming back. It was because John Kransinski, Rainn Wilson, and Steve Carell knocked that simple scene out of the park. It was so touching to see these men, who have given each other such grief over the years, come together as friends and be there for one another…it was amazing. There was so much talk about whether or not Carell would or should return for the finale. The last I read, he wasn’t because he felt he already had his send off and didn’t want to distract from the rest of the cast. Class act as always Steve Carell! But I stopped reading about the finale because if he did show up, I didn’t want to know about it. And I’m so glad I made that executive decision because it made his reveal that much sweeter. I literally gasped out loud when he was standing there and burst into tears….especially seeing Dwight’s reaction and getting one last “that’s what she said!” And it was perfectly handled because it wouldn’t have been right to have the finale without Michael Scott but he was also understated enough so that he didn’t overshadow the cast, but we got just enough Michael to be completely satisfied. Again, perfection.
There were so many relationships that developed on this show. Some were more front and center like Jim and Pam, Dwight and Angela, Darryl and Jim’s friendship. But it was some of the unspoken friendships that developed that was so nice to see highlighted. For example, Stanley and Phyllis. Here were two people who worked together for 15-20 years. They sat across from one another for 15-20 years. Even though we didn’t see it every week, these two were great friends. To see the genuine embrace between them when they hadn’t seen each other in over a year, was so nice. To watch Phyllis sit with the new rep in Stanley’s chair and feed him baked goods so she could fatten him like, like she did with Stanley was great. But what got me was parlaying the hysterical idea that Stanley now lives in a shack on the Everglades in Florida carving birds out of wood, into this touching moment where Phyllis bursts into tears because he made a wood carving that looked exactly like her. It was simple moments like that which really highlighted the connections between these characters that developed over the years. Was it something we watched week after week….yes and no. Yes and no because it was so subtle, we didn’t realize we were watching it until the finale. The same could be said for Oscar and Angela. They both drove each other crazy over the years and talk about two completely different personalities. Highlighting the fact that Oscar was having an affair with Angela’s husband! But strangely enough, that experience brought them even closer together. In the penultimate episode, Oscar could see how broken Angela was and in a beautiful moment of kindness, extends his home for her and Philip to live in until she can get her feet under her again. And when she reached out and put her hand on top of his, I lost it. It was just that simple gesture that spoke so loudly about her feelings for what Oscar was offering to her. I loved it. And I loved seeing that continue even after Dwight and Angela were married with Oscar being Philip’s godfather!
But I think the friendship that was most beautiful to see come full circle, was the friendship between Jim, Dwight, and Pam….mostly Jim and Dwight. Jim explained it perfectly. He never hated Dwight. He never wanted anything bad to happen to him. He razzed him the way you would razz your brother. And when it came down to it, he loved Dwight for who he was. Dwight, we always knew, secretly had a man crush on Jim and even though he hated when Jim got the better of him, which was most of the time, he loved him for it too because he felt like he was in with him. Over the course of the series, we saw their true feelings towards one another pop out because when something serious was going down, they leaned on each other and protected each other. I think it’s also why Dwight considers Pam his best friend. Because even though Jim would play countless tricks on Dwight and Pam would be complicit, she never wanted to hurt Dwight. And when Dwight was going off the deep end really annoying his counterparts to the point no one liked him, Pam always stuck by him. There were many times Pam believed in him when no one else did and he knew that. Just as Michael always wanted to be their best friend, so did Dwight. And in many ways, he was.
I can’t wrap up this review yet until I’ve spent some time on just Jim and Pam. We watched their relationship grow over 9 years from best friends, to unrequited feelings, to an awkward but beautiful first kiss, to the beginning of a relationship, to an engagement, marriage, and children. They were America’s ideal couple. Then we hit season 9 and Jim and Pam hit a rough patch. He was working for a start-up company in Philly and commuting back and forth from Scranton. She felt all alone and abandoned at Dunder Mifflin and raising their 2 kids. I really wasn’t sure where the show was going with this…especially with Brian the camera man lurking around and having obvious feelings for Pam. I hoped they weren’t going down the affair route. It wouldn’t have felt right. And I hated watching Jim and Pam fight and be angry with one another. I hated it. Most especially, I hated seeing this couple who could have entire conversations by just looking at one another and knowing exactly what the other was thinking, being reduced to therapy speak. “I appreciate” this or “to speak my truth” that. What? Are you kidding me? This is what Jim and Pam is going to be reduced to? But then a light went off. We are getting to watch Jim and Pam remind, not only each other, but the audience, why they fell in love in the first place. We get to see them fall in love all over again. And because they have been the most real relationship on the show from day one, it would only make sense that this new job opportunity for Jim would put a strain on them. It wouldn’t have made sense if it didn’t. So we got to see that angst and then we got to see the payoff. We got to see Jim and Pam flashbacks in the smartest way possible, in a video tribute to her so Jim could show how she is not only enough for him, but his everything. It was a perfect way to be able to give the fans those flashbacks to our favorite moments yet still keep it within the context of the show. In the end, Pam decided there is no way Jim is giving this up for her and sells their house without telling him (because, well, he bought the house without telling her) and they decide to move to Austin so Jim can work full-time for Athleap. She finishes her mural, which is the story of the people of Dunder Mifflin, and Jim and Pam will live happily ever after….as they should.
In the end, all is right with the world. Michael Scott is still married to Holly and they have lots of kids (which he needs two phones for all the pictures), Jim and Pam are together, happy, and moving to Austin to work with Darryl, Dwight is now regional manager of the Scranton branch (as well as the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager) and is married to the love of his life Angela and we officially learn that Phillip is really his son, Oscar is running for State Senator, Stanley is retired and divorced and living in Florida, Phyllis is still at Dunder Mifflin and still married to Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration, Erin found her birth parents and is still together with Plop, Andy is working for Cornell University, Meredith got her PhD (which she was going to school for the whole time), Toby is living in NYC with 6 roommates, Kelly left her pediatrician boyfriend to run away with Ryan (who by the way left said baby with the pediatrician,) as a result Nellie, takes the baby back to Poland with her and she now has the child she was always searching for, Kevin owns a bar, and Creed is going to jail!
Finally, I loved the way they wrapped up the documentary element. I always wondered how they would do it. I like the fact that they were smart enough to know that since the viewing of the documentary was in the penultimate episode, it wouldn’t make sense for the camera crew to be there for the finale. It’s actually the first thing I said to my husband. But they got around it by doing a time jump and saying they were there for a follow-up and retrospective with the Dunder Mifflin crew on being a part of the documentary, which they’re filming for the DVD. And because the series was filmed this way, it was great for the cast to be able to say what they really feel about their show and do it in the context of speaking about the documentary. I think the best line of the finale was when Andy/Ed Helms said “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days while it was going on instead of after they were over.” You could see the way he was getting choked up that it was probably more an Ed Helms comment, than Andy Bernard.
I will miss The Office. I know the last few seasons weren’t great and the show really went down hill after Michael left, but I don’t care. I will miss The Office and all the people involved in the show. I also want to commend the cast for heading out to the real Scranton, PA and spending time with the people of Scranton and thanking them for their good-natured sense of humor and their support of the show. I thought it was awesome that they would all do that and take the time to not only say goodbye to us a viewers, but their second community of Scranton. From top to bottom, the end of the series was handled magnificently and I can’t wait to watch The Office on Netflix, on syndication, on my DVDs, for many years to come.
What did you guys think of The Office series finale?