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There are two ways of looking at last night's season finale, and how much you liked it depends on which way you choose to direct your focus. As an hour-long episode of a long-running sitcom with a large cast of characters and several notable guest appearances, it was exceptionally funny. I often don't laugh out loud that much while watching TV, but I couldn't stop chuckling almost the entire time I was watching. And the guests actually kind of worked out - James Spader was definitely the best of the bunch, but everyone ended up being funny. But as a season finale, a way of wrapping up the major subplots and story threads that have been running all year long, of bringing some sort of emotional resolution to everything, of even answering the question of who's the new boss, it was a failure. The only thing of significance to really happen was Jo sending Gabe back to Florida after realizing how entangled he's become with the locals, and that's a pretty minor development. Otherwise, people looking for closure were left hanging.
Since The office is an improv-heavy sitcom, I tend to ask whether the latest episode was funny rather than how satisfying the story it told was, so I liked "Search Committee" a lot. With Jim and Pam being married and Michael sent away to life a happy life, the major character arcs I was interested in are pretty much settled, and I'm still watching just because I enjoy the humor. So while I was a bit annoyed by the way the episode spun its wheels with almost every subplot that was going on, I still had a great time watching it. I think it's probably best to think of "Goodbye, Michael" as the season finale, and these last three episodes as extra. For some reason it hasn't been decided who the new boss is, and since they couldn't answer that question, they went open ended with the whole thing, which makes it feel a bit off as a finale but ultimately doesn't make a huge difference.
If there is a problem with delaying the answer to who the new boss will be, it's that people will find out from hearing about the casting in the news rather than seeing it in the eighth season premiere. The options are limited - Catherine Tate and James Spader are the only guests from this episode who don't have something else obvious going on (I think Will Arnett is even starring in a totally different NBC show this fall), so it's going to be one of them or an existing cast member. But still, there's not going to be a lot of fun trying to speculate on who it's going to be, both because it's not a secret that will be kept, and the fact that the show will need to share the load among the whole cast anyway with Michael gone. This episode made me confident they can do that, though I'm sure America won't tune in quite as much.
But anyway, there was an episode with jokes and funny lines. Jim, Gabe, and Toby are holding interviews for the position of branch manager, and get a number of candidates, including Andy, Darryl, and Dwight after he finally convinces Jo to give him a shot. Dwight comes off the best despite Jim mailing in the interview thanks to his confidence, with Andy's interview being sidetracked by Gabe's continued jealousy and Darryl being a bit unprepared and trying to use his daughter for sympathy points. Also applying were David Brent from England, a creepy yet captivating character played by Spader, a friend of Jo's played Tate who isn't sure what she wants to do, and an impressively disheveled Ray Romano among others. These interviews were pretty entertaining across the board, and while some of them were just one-note joke characters that wouldn't work in a long term role, it was still fun to picture all these people running the office. Otherwise this part of the episode was pretty segmented, with the focus more on the team's inability to really find a great candidate and how they got the rest of the office in on the discussion.
No boss ends up getting picked by the end of the episode, and this trend of nothing happens continues in the other bits. We do find out that despite the matching timelines Erin is not Phyllis' daughter, a possibility I had seen brought up on the Internet but dismissed after a couple fun moments between the two. Phyllis describing the beginning of her relationship with Bob Vance was pretty horrifying, though. She gives Erin the courage to ask out Andy, but he rejects her and explains that he doesn't feel that way anymore, though he doesn't actually totally rule out the possibility. Angela announces her engagement to the state senator, and while everyone is let it on Oscar's theory that he's gay (Ryan already knew he was because he liked his Facebook photos in the middle of the night), they decide not to tell her even though she's being a huge bitch about the whole thing. Jordan's still around, and still has little to do besides help Pam keep Creed from ruining Dunder Mifflin with his own Michael Scott Paper Company idea by asking him to find differences in identical photos and posing as various clients he attempts to steal.
And that's about it for plot stuff. Ryan was in pretty great form, trying to get Jim to be serious for once and talking about how he wants someone who will lead him when he feels like being led. The Creed stuff was mostly confined to the very beginning and very end, though it was a lot of fun and I hope he's still there at the beginning of next season. Kevin has been superb all season, and his joy at everyone in the office paying attention to him along with his ideas about the alphabet were just two more in a long string of great Kevin moments. I am actually a little sad to see Gabe go, his characterization was a bit inconsistent with the writers assigning him whatever personality was required for his role week to week, but he was often very funny, especially lately with his poor reaction to his breakup. Andy shutting him down on facts about the sun was particularly brilliant. And that's about it for this season of The Office, which wasn't perfect, but was probably the show's funniest and best since the fourth. There isn't a ton of reason to that statement since I don't particularly remember too many specifics from season to season, it's just the gut feeling I have. I am really worried about how next year goes, but I'll certainly be giving it a shot. Thanks for reading.