In its early going, The Office was a pretty messed-up show. Not too long ago, I set about re-watching it from the beginning, having not really taken it all in pretty much since it aired. Of course, I had definitely watched and re-watched every episode a good two or three times...but had stopped watching the show after its relatively sharp decline in quality a few seasons back, and hadn't revisited its early material in years.
I was sorta shocked. Early Office is pretty fucked up. I mean, it's hilarious as all get-out — maybe even more so watching it a few years removed and with a little sharper understanding of how people work and the way they operate in groups like the one that's depicted. Seriously, though, the people on The Office were downright pathological. It's something I've touched on before, especially in contrast to Parks and Recreation.
Since then, the show's come a pretty long way, if you think about it. Over the course of nine seasons, it definitely experienced its fair share of both peaks and valleys in terms of quality. For its ninth and final season, NBC brought back the creative team that was responsible for its earlier, better seasons, and the change was pretty apparent for most of the season. In a lot of ways, the show got its edge back (something I thought was apparent from the get-go with Kevin's turtle gag), and this remained pretty constant throughout the last season. Turning the show's reins over to the creative team that churned out its best material was a smart call on NBC's part.
Ending the show was a smart call, too. I've gotta say, I wish it had happened a bit sooner. Don't you think it would have just been perfect if Michael Scott had just collided with the real world in some kind of irreversible way back in like, season five or six? Remember when he went to that shareholder's meeting and it turned out to be a total feeding frenzy in response to the Dunder Mifflin brass' dishonesty? Why didn't the show end there? Or at like, any one of the other instances in which Michael Scott put himself in a position which would have inescapably resulted in his being totally fired and/or arrested or whatever. I know I'm asking for something that doesn't exist, and I'm only saying this stuff for the point of just suggesting that it would have been super awesome.
Because in the end? I'm glad The Office actually got to end on its own terms, even if it did stay a little too long at its own party.
And in the end, I'm extremely grateful for everything I got from The Office. And the final episode was the perfect ending.
First of all, the idea of having the series proper basically end with its penultimate episode was a structural stroke of brilliance. The documentary premieres, and the series finale winds up being something of a coda, taking place a year later when Dwight and Angela are about to get married during the same weekend as a reunion panel discussions featuring the entire cast of the documentary.
It's a great who's who that gracefully fills in story details while never feeling busy, overstuffed, or anything in between. Everybody gets a moment to do something great, even Ryan and Kelly. ("I let him suck on a strawberry. He's allergic. But he'll get over it fast." Brilliance.)
Just about everything in this episode works, and does so pretty perfectly. Really, I hate heaping praise on stuff like this (thought it might seem like I do it often), but I've watched the episode three times now, and I have a harder time finding stuff I don't like with each viewing. It would almsot just be more convenient for me to simply bullet-point you a list of the moments that either made me smile, clap, cry, or some combination of the three. Erin's moment during the Q&A? You've got to be kidding me. Jim's confession that about his age and the Bestesch Mensch rule? Priceless. And something I totally didn't see coming.
The Office is a show that has had a lot of seriously problematic episodes throughout its run. Some of them were even included in this final season. The finale, however, definitely wasn't one of them.
Oh, and also...
• "It's like all my kids grew up and married each other. Every parent's dream."
• I think that the line reading of the episode goes to Rainn Wilson's delivery of "That won't work" during the restaurant scene.
• I love the subtlety with which we were shown that each character has grown up in a serious way. Angela's apology to Phyllis was as touching as it was understated, and the fact that Michael just stood by and watched the wedding take place was something I didn't really make note of the first time around.
• "'A mistake plus keleven gets you home by seven.' ...He was home by 4.45 that day." Probably the best joke of the episode.