The Idiot Box: The Office Series Finale

The Office series finale took me by surprise last night. Maybe it's because, after over a year of hype, I wasn't sure the show's end would ever come. Maybe it's because all reports indicated Steve Carrell would not be returning. Maybe it's because the show, over its 7th and 8th seasons, was kind of a mess. Maybe it's because I'm always looking for the next thing.

But what a finale it was; in turns deeply moving, hilarious, and near perfectly executed. It deserved every minute of its 51 minute run time. Here are some of my thoughts on the show's last episode. (SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU'VE SEEN THE EPISODE.)

Think about what happened here: two series-long Dunder Mifflin employees were fired; one retired ("I've been looking forward to this since I was 18 years old.") and was replaced by a youthful doppleganger; there was Mose; there was an SNL Weekend Update bit mocking an Office character; a character met her birth parents (more on that in a bit); a bazooka; perhaps the worst male stripper scene put to film; an NFL icon in an autotuned internet meme...I could go on and on, because all of those things (and more!) happened in the first half of the episode.

Series finales can feel rushed as story threads are tied up, but this one never did. As far as closers go, this was one of the best. Other assorted thoughts:

- The documentary panel scene was amazing, particularly the part where female audience members repeatedly swooned over Jim, a marvelous approach to the Jim and Pam storyline which had found new life this season. I wasn't always wild about where the couple's arc was heading, but Greg Daniels and company knew what they were doing all along.

- The scene where Erin was introduced to her birth mother. Oh, man. Erin's confusion was perfect, and her response to the question of whether she hated her mother was so poignantly rendered. It was just an utterly strange and beautiful scene. I just teared up again watching it.

- And then Erin's father introduces himself, and the scene collapses. It was the only misstep this episode took, and I'm still trying to figure out why it fell flat.

- Kelly Kapoor: "Ravi's a pediatrician, and some of his patients are total uggos." Ravi: "They're called 'premature', sweetie." The series two least-likable main characters had a fitting conclusion together.

- Michael Scott's return. In a show known for brilliant pranks, The Office pulled one of its best on the audience by repeatedly denying the return of the show's most iconic character over the last year. I was stunned.

- The Shrute wedding was everything I wanted it to be and more.

- "As is traditional to the Shrutes, the lovers are standing in their own graves as a reminder that this is the only escape from what they are about to do." I choked on my nachos.

- I'm pretty sure a little person was standing in for Angela during the wedding dance.

- Michael Scott (through tears): "I feel like all my kids grew up. And then they married each other. It's every parent's dream." I can't imagine a better last line for Michael Scott.

- Hey, remember that mural that got ruined? Pam finished it! I especially like the depictions of Creed and Meredith with their arms aloft for no discernible reason.

- Bringing the show's production staff in for a group photo was a bit clumsy, but I was glad it happened.

- The second time I teared up was when Dwight refers to Pam as his best friend. Those characters always had a sweet, familial chemistry.

- Andy: "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them. Someone should write a song about that." The talking head bits in this episode were all impeccable. Even Andy was sympathetic in the end, but not cloyingly so.

- Jim's final talking head moment, which I won't quote here, knocked me flat. This show has been a part of our life for nine important years, years during which I also got married and had a child and pursued my place in the world. I think all men want to see some of themselves in Jim, and I feel lucky his arc mirrored mine, at least chronologically. Anyway, I was sobbing.

- Kevin thinks he's gay because he's so emotional. Wonderful.

- "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?" -Pam Beasley, in the last line ever spoken on The Office:


  1. I liked it as well, and my list of positives is similar to yours. I stopped watching around season 6, so I have no idea what Athleap is, or why they want to go to Austin. I have no idea why Toby is so different as a person than before.

    Like you, I thought the birth-mother scene was moving, and the dad part was not.

    I was uncomfortable, though, at the idea of someone leaving their baby and breaking up a marriage. I know this show lives on cringe-worthy moments, but that was a bit much. Must be the dad in me.

    "Take your complimentary hay into the reception room, as it will be your seating" had me laughing real hard. Has anyone ever uttered the phrase "complimentary hay" before?

    Dwight's failure to understand the stripper isn't a waitress was pretty funny, too. Not genius. Just very funny.

    1. I hear you on Kelly and Ryan storyline. It was really the only horrible thing to happen with anyone on the show. And it was a pretty bold move. I guess it didn't bother me all that much, but I don't blame anyone at all for being turned off by it.

  2. Oh, I forgot to add the obvious point: much better than the Seinfeld finale, which was such a major letdown.