The Office Finale recap and review: One of the best ever

Courtesy of NBC


Since The Office aired in the spring of 2005 it has made a name for itself among television’s best shows. Never a ‘ratings giant’ (it had a peak Nielsen Rating of #52), it was almost always lauded by critics. The mundane atmosphere, the awkward conversations and the deliciously inappropriate behavior of some characters made for delightfully subtle comedy not found in many American sitcoms. Fans of the original British series might have been skeptical when this version premiered, but I assume most were put to ease. And, along with shows like Arrested Development, it helped usher in a new era of single-camera sitcoms not filmed in front of a live studio audience such as Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Community.

A few nights ago, one of NBC’s institutions finally and sadly came to an end. And it did so better than any show that comes to mind. It’s true that this season has seen a severe decline in laughs, but toward the end it didn’t seem to matter much. To be sure, with any long-running sitcom, funny ideas can be exhausted, and this showed in most of The Office’s last season, but it wasn’t detrimental to the series. The Office has always mixed genuinely dramatic and touching moments with its standard comedic formula. I think that the show’s crew simply decided to shift the focus to highlight the dramatic aspect.

And that’s fine. It gave the characters a chance to demonstrate their growth, whether it be Dwight’s change from a tightly wound authoritarian to a likable chum of Jim and Pam or the cranky Angela actually showing her vulnerable side and confiding in her long-time office annoyance, Oscar. The conflict this season between Jim and Pam was far from humorous, but it made the audience revisit their relationship and appreciate it more than ever. Basically, it gave us a chance to care about the characters. This was never more evident than in the series finale, which combined comedy and drama perfectly.

The finale, which is both one of the funniest and most emotional episodes of the season, takes place a year after the penultimate episode as the documentary crew returns to see what the office staff has been up to. This is similar to the end of the British version. In addition to Andy and Daryl leaving in last week’s episode to pursue acting and work full-time at Athlead respectively, we find out that Dwight has fired Kevin and Toby, Stanley has retired, Nellie has moved to Poland, Creed has faked his own death, and Oscar, although still at Dunder Mifflin, is preparing to run for a seat in the State Senate. Most of them arrive in Scranton for the wedding of Dwight and Angela. Who is Dwight’s best man, you ask? Why, it’s none other than Jim Halpert. What a nice touch! Jim only promises good surprises as opposed to his usual pranks.

Both the bachelor and bachelorette parties have some hilarious moments. Dwight refuses to acknowledge that the ‘horrible waitress’ at the group’s restaurant is in fact a stripper. Over at the girls’ party, another stripper shows up who turns out to be Meredith’s son…but she’s okay with it and actually encourages him! Angela is kidnapped by Mose and taken to a bar which turns out to be a part of a German tradition. In one of the many delightful surprises of the finale, we find out that Kevin is the bar’s owner. Like many of the show’s moments, the reconciliation between Dwight and Kevin is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming. Dwight admits he only fired Kevin due to his poor performance and this, surprisingly, cheers up the big guy.

The following day, the gang takes part in a panel and answers questions from the audience. Jim tries his hardest to defend Pam’s desire to keep him in Scranton and Erin finally meets her parents. This part of the show is an excellent way to acknowledge the documentary, drive some of the remaining plot and discover some of the characters’ true feelings about the show. Afterward, we learn that Pam has sold Jim’s house and they decide to go to Austin so he can follow his dream and continue working with Athleap, formerly Athlead.

At the wedding, Jim plays one last prank on Dwight, perhaps the best one of them all. He admits he can’t be his best man, and reveals his new best man: Michael Scott. Dwight says, ‘you came!’ Michael replies, ‘that’s what she said.’ Perfect! After Steve Carrell had dismissed the thought of coming back to the show, this was truly a wonderful surprise. But the creators are so wise to keep his role discreet. He’s there, but he doesn’t steal the show that belongs to the remaining cast. He had his grand exit and his story is finished. He simply recites his famous catchphrase, says a hilarious line about being proud of his ‘children’ growing up and marrying each other and enjoys the festivities. I give kudos to the writers for handling this so well. It’s pitch-perfect.

The wedding itself is composed of zany ‘German traditions’. The surprises continue as Kelly and Ryan arrive. Ryan has a child with a girlfriend who left him and Kelly arrives with her boyfriend. Ryan and Kelly can’t take their eyes of each other and Ryan purposely gives the child an allergic reaction so Kelly’s boyfriend can take him inside. Ryan and Kelly run away to, perhaps fall in love, but probably have a fling and then break up once again.

The show ends with a photo of the cast and crew of the documentary in the warehouse and one last shindig in the actual office. I assume this is when the majority of viewers shed some tears. We get some of the most emotional moments and greatest lines of the whole series here as the characters give their last interviews of the documentary. Pam, referring to the documentary, says, “there’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things”, and Andy, in a refreshingly serious tone, says he wished “there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

There could have been a bit more footage in the actual office itself, but despite this minor flaw, the show ends with humor, heart and grace. Every character gets his or her moment in the spotlight. Loose ends are tied up even though the show could have ended somewhat satisfactorily in the penultimate episode, the actual end of the documentary. But the finale gives a little bit more closure. The surprises, one being Michael Scott’s appearance, effectively please the audience without distracting from the story. Likewise, we’re reminded of ‘the good old days’ with brief cutaways to scenes from previous seasons. Like the little surprises, this works as a pleasant reflection on a beloved show without turning the whole episode into a clip show. Remember Seinfeld?

No, the finale of The Office looks forward at a hopeful future rather than dwells on the past. Above all else, the writers have reassured the audience that the characters they’ve grown to love over the years are indeed happy and, despite some of the obstacles they’ve faced, will come out on top in their own way. Even Andy, who may not become the famous actor he may want to be, finds a job at his former university. It may not be glamorous, but, like Pam says, there’s beauty in ordinary things. It’s one of the main ideas on which The Office is based and a large part of what made the show so special for 9 seasons.

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