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In the one-hour retrospective that precedes the series finale of The Office, Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) offers up a near-perfect summation of the show’s enduring appeal. She says that the show is, at heart, an optimistic show. At no point is that better illustrated than in tonight’s finale episode, in which every character is given the perfect ending. Not every ending is happy or rosy, but each ending arc fits the character and feels realistic. But we’ll get to the finale in a second (and yes, Michael Scott does appear, and his appearance is brief but moving). First and foremost, let’s cover the retrospective. What follows are some of the funniest and most touching moments from the retrospective.
-- Rainn Wilson says that this is the perfect time for the show to come to a close, and I agree. (Though I could’ve done without season 8).
-- Michael informs us that “an office is a place where dreams come true.” That hasn’t exactly been my experience, but then none of my old offices ever held an Olympics.
-- A “That’s what she said” montage! I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed Michael’s signature catchphrase.
-- Rainn Wilson says that Dwight is a combination of farm boy, uber-nerd, and heavy metal white trash rock-n-roller. Yeah, that about sums it up.
-- Ed Helms says that Andy is a sweet guy, well intentioned, with a good heart and a mean streak. Well, Andy was written like that before, but recently…not so much.
-- Wow, John Krasinski had great chemistry with Jenna Fischer and Rainn Wilson right away. Apparently, people think Krasinski and Fischer are married in real life. Aw.
-- The first episode had terrible reviews since everyone compared it to the original. Well, considering that it was a line-by-line rendition of the UK version, I can’t say I’m surprised.
-- B.J. Novak says that both Ryan and Kelly “had a common love for Ryan. They both thought Ryan was the best.” Ha!
-- Rainn Wilson compares Dwight and Angela to two little power-mad urchins, and to Lord and Lady Macbeth. How…strangely accurate.
-- Best Dwight line ever: “In an ideal world I would have all ten fingers on my left hand, so my right hand could just be a fist for punching.” Yes.
-- Rainn Wilson’s favorite episode is “The Injury.” Mine, too!
-- Ed Helms says that the show “celebrates minutiae, it finds comedy in the smallest human beats of life, and it doesn’t always look for big, ridiculous moments…” I agree.
Now that we’ve spent some time examining The Office’s past nine seasons, it’s time to move into the future and examine what has become of our favorite plodding office workers. The writers embrace that idea whole-heartedly, since the episode takes place a year after the events of the last episode, “A.A.R.M.” Let’s take a brief tour through the office of our favorite regional paper company and see what everyone’s been up to. Oscar is still working at Dunder Mifflin, but running for State Senate (and running his campaign out of the office). Do these people ever do any actual work? Cut to a scene of a good-bye party for Stanley, who’s retiring and moving to Florida. (We’ll find out later that his divorce papers were delivered by fan boat. I guess his wife wasn’t too pleased to see his extramarital exploits laid bare in the documentary.) Since Dwight is a power-mad sycophant (and I mean that in the nicest way), he decides to let Kevin go in the cruelest (and most appropriate) way ever: with a thickly frosted cake that says “Get out.” Oscar explains later that Kevin has had some…um, questionable accounting practices. And let’s be honest here: although Kevin’s gotten dumber in recent seasons, he’s always been portrayed as dim-witted. How on Earth did he ever get a job as an accountant? It seems fitting to see him go, even if I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. Dwight also has a firing cake for Toby. Okay, Toby’s pathetic, but I must be missing something. Doesn’t Toby work for corporate? How can Dwight fire him?
With all these people gone, Dwight’s had to hire some new people. We don’t meet most of them, which is fine, because a final episode doesn’t need much filler. I’m actually a bit sorry any time was wasted on them at all. However…Devon is back! Remember the Halloween episode and Creed’s craftiness? And now, at long last, we’re about to find out more about Creed than we’ve known in nine years. Here goes: after Creed faked his own death following the airing of the documentary (Kevin was fooled), he went on the run, the FBI hot on his tail. It seems that during his time in the band The Grassroots, Creed was selling drugs, stealing weapons-grade LSD, and trafficking in endangered species meat. This is hilarious in two ways. One, we actually learn something about Creed, tying up the (incredibly strange) loose ends we’ve been given over the years; and two, it’s a nod to Creed’s real-life counterpart, who was a member of The Grassroots (but I’m betting did not steal weapons-grade LSD). Since it wouldn’t be an Office episode without some Andy humiliation, he returns to let us know that his reality show audition went viral, and he is now a laughingstock. Cue mocking from late night comedians and cruelty from complete strangers. Seriously, what did Ed Helms do to deserve this? I know I say this every week, but remember when Andy was buffoonish but loveable? I remember, but man, it’s getting harder. He claims to have a job in the admissions office at Cornell, but I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to believe that. For some reason, Nellie lives in Poland now, “the Scranton of the EU,” and Toby, a budding novelist, is living in New York. Darryl is in from Austin, the home base of Athlead (now called Athleap, for some reason).
I’m incredibly grateful to this episode for its brisk pacing. Despite a length of more than an hour, we only have to navigate our way through two storylines, giving us lots of time for proper goodbyes. Before we can get to the main event (the wedding of the century, seriously), we get to learn a bit more about the office mates when they participate in a panel discussion about the documentary. Thanks to the documentary, Pete’s friends call him Plop. I think that’s the most information we’ve gotten about Pete thusfar. He and Clark really have the potential to be great characters, but I wish the writers had brought them in two seasons ago (and avoided the whole Dangelo Vickers tragedy). An audience member asks “Do you find that your life feels pointless now that nobody’s actually filming you anymore?” and Toby immediately answers affirmatively. Wow, the writers are really pushing the whole Toby-as-sad-sack thing, aren’t they? Apparently, Meredith was getting her Ph.D. in school psychology over these past nine years. Yes, she was getting hammered, but it was college. Okay, that’s…sort of funny. Jim takes his share of responsibility for how he handled the Athlead move, but Pam admits she was scared of losing Jim. There, now doesn’t it feel better to get that out?
Before Dwight can wed his “monkey,” we have to endure two of the strangest bachelor(ette) parties in human history. Honestly. Angela’s is so horrifying I had to look away. So let’s talk about Dwight’s while my retinas heal. Dwight’s takes place at some sort of German restaurant – you know, the type where the waitresses wear those tiny dresses you never see in, um, Germany. The whole thing has been planned by Dwight’s “bestest mensch,” Jim, which is oddly fitting. Krasinski mentioned in the retrospective that Jim has always pranked Dwight like a brother whose feelings he never wanted to hurt, and we see that brotherly relationship when Dwight gets to fire a bazooka and then when he doesn’t understand the concept of a stripper. The scene in which a comely wench wriggles her, um, assets in Dwight’s face while he demands an onion loaf is hilarious. Things are just as wild at Angela’s party, where we finally meet her sister. (Is this the sister she hadn’t spoken to for years?) A stripper shows up there, too, and it’s…oh dear…Meredith’s son. Ew. Meredith is…um, supportive of his career plans and urges him on, with suggestions, as he starts…ew…dancing. Luckily, it doesn’t last too long, which is good because I don’t keep smelling salts in my house. Dwight’s cousin Mose shows up for a fittingly weird Schrute family tradition: kidnapping the bride and stowing her at a nearby pub, where the groom must buy drinks before he can get her back. The pub in question happens to be owned by Kevin, who is none too happy to see the manager who fired him. But some smooth talk by Dwight (he explains to Kevin that he was fired for his incompetence), and we’re all friends again.
Cue the wedding march. No, wait…cue a muzak version of “Sweet Child ‘O Mine.” Seriously. The guests arrive at the Martin/Schrute nuptials, each bearing a cat as a gift. How many cats does Angela have? Kelly arrives with her fiancé, and Ryan arrives with his baby. His girlfriend left one day to get a new e-cigarette and never came back. How…pathetic. Kelly, flirting right in front of her fiancé, tells Ryan, “Ravi’s a pediatrician, and some of his patients are total uggos.” Seriously, Kelly. Shut up. These two deserve each other. I find it impossible to believe that Ravi can tolerate her at all. Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the best prank ever. Jim tells Dwight that the bestest mensch has to be younger than the groom, which means Jim can’t do it. Who will Dwight get at the last minute? Michael, eek! Dwight says, “Michael, I can’t believe you came.” And we get one last “that’s what she said.” Sigh, happiness. During the ceremony, the lovers are standing in their own graves as a reminder that this is the only escape from what they are about to do. How…moving? Yeah, we’ll go with that. Kelly is making eyes at Ryan during the ceremony. Gross. Mose is making eyes at a scarecrow, and I find that less appalling. Knowing Mose, that isn’t as bad. We learn two important things during the reception. One, Ryan is worse than we thought, feeding his poor son a strawberry (he’s allergic to them) to get Kelly’s fiancé out of the way. Then the two make out and run off together, leaving the kid. Wow, a dark turn for these two. At least Nellie is happy to take the baby. Secondly, Michael has kids! Remember how he always wanted them? Aw. I know a lot of people are going to find the Michael appearance somewhat unsatisfying because he doesn’t thoroughly humiliate himself, but I’m okay with the idea that an older, matured Michael (a father, nonetheless) has matured at least somewhat.
After the ceremony, we’ve got to have one last scene at Dunder Mifflin because, really, that’s the glue that holds these weirdos together. Pam and Jim have great news for Darryl. Pam has put their house on the market without telling Jim (hey, turn about is fair play), and she wants to move to Austin. I never thought I’d say it folks, but Pam actually took a risk. Hasn’t that always been her Achilles Heel? Even Jim, despite her love for him, was safe. She already knew he loved her. This is the first time in nine years she’s put herself out there. I’m proud of her. I think I speak for everybody when I say: FINALLY. Darryl looks thrilled to found out Jim is moving, and how great is to see Darryl dressed nicely, enjoying his success? Go, Daryl! Pam answers the phone one last time, and she gets to say Jim doesn’t work there anymore. She tells the camera that she didn’t enjoy the documentary because she wanted to yell at herself. It took her a long time to be as happy as she could’ve been. Aw!
As we pan away from the office, Creed is off to prison, Jim and Pam are off to Austin, and Dwight and Angela are off to their beet farm, Pam leaves us with one last thought. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kinda the point?” Yes, it is. That’s always been the point of this show – that the mundane things, the small things, those are the moments that make up a life. The past few, post-Michael seasons have gotten a justifiably bad rap, and this season has had its share of missteps (the less said about poor Andy, the better). And there’s no avoiding the reality that the finale episode doesn’t work well as a scripted piece of television. There are only the loosest of narrative threads to follow, and there’s little in the way of “plot.” This is not the sort of episode a casual viewer would watch for something to do on a Thursday night. What this is is a sentimental Valentine to fans who’ve stuck with the show through the hard times, and it reminds us that at its core, this show is about real, flawed people who’ve spent nine years falling in love, falling out of love, fighting, making friends, and doing as little work as possible. The documentary concept, though it sometimes grated, allowed us to spend nine years getting to know these people, warts and all. Now we’re bidding them adieu, and we remember why we love them, why we hate them, why we’re mystified by them, and above all, why we’ve come to care about them, and why we hate to see them go.
Notes & Quotes
-- Dwight tells the filmmakers that PBS is the “propaganda wing of Bill and Melinda Gates and people like you.” Tee hee!
-- When Pam protests Toby’s firing, Dwight says, “The cake has spoken, Pam. Sorry.”
-- Dwight challenges everyone to make a case for Kevin staying…“based on his merit.” Cue crickets.
-- Nellie to Toby, who is stalking her, “I thought I unfriended you.” Andy: “Anyone can share a Twitter feed.” Toby has six roommates and says that roommates are better than friends because they have to give you a month’s notice before they leave. Ouch.
-- Oscar on attending Dwight’s bachelor party: “I just have to remember how I acted before I came out.”
-- Kevin to Andy: “Yeah, people hate you.” Ouch. Too bad he’s only saying what we’re all thinking.
-- Dwight after the ceremony: “Now please take your hay bales to the reception. They’ll be used for seating. Complimentary hay hooks are placed along the aisle. Just stab ‘em on in there.” Ah, Dwight. How typically efficient.
-- Michael on the wedding festivities: “I feel like all my kids grew up, and then they married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” Um…sure.
-- Jim, upon finding out Pam has sold their house: “That’s why it’s been so clean.” “Pam: “Well, you bought the house without telling me, so I thought I could sell it without telling you.” Nice, Beesly!
-- Pam and Jim try to quit, but Dwight fires both of them and then tells them to shut up for the severance. “If you’re ever in the area, you’ll always have a place to stay: in my barn.”
-- Dwight on the Dunder Mifflin crew: “I don’t have coworkers. I have subordinates.” Pretty much Dwight’s dream right there.
-- Andy gives a great commencement speech at Cornell. This is bittersweet. Finally, some redemption, but it feels too little, too late.
-- Creed is living in the office. Creed doesn’t have a mattress, but he still has his Flonkerton medal. He gives a nice speech about camaraderie…and then leaves in handcuffs. Hey, you can’t hide from the FBI forever.