Oregon Entertainment Review: The Office Finale
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Portland, Oregon) – Warning: this does contain many spoilers. Tonight, NBC's smash hit series The Office said goodbye, with a megalithic, non-stop flood of laughs, tears and twists and turns.
Did it live up to its own legacy of constantly and carefully-crafted gags, heart-string tugs and pranks? Quite likely. While it had plenty of faults, including the expected sappy-overkill, somehow the whole thing worked.
I'm sure not everyone will agree, but personally I was blown away.
Starting with the retrospective that aired here in Portland, Oregon at 8 p.m., this alone was a tearjerker and surprise fest. Plenty of fascinating insights into the show's production were offered, like how all those piercing looks towards to the camera are so very scripted and planned out. Those poignant analysis from the actors on their own characters were both a hoot and a sniffle-inducer. How Pam and Jim had such a remarkable chemistry as actors, and how Jim and Dwight also shared some unique connections in that department, as well as their talents for improv together.
Lots of tidbits from creator Ricky Gervais were particularly uplifting, and U.S. producer Greg Daniels made some moving and absorbing commentaries on various aspects of the show.
The finale itself started off a bit rocky and puzzling. But like a good puzzle, eventually the pieces all fit. A kind of disjointed scenario emerged at first, even downright disappointing in spots. I admit I didn't laugh very hard for a while. Dwight's powermad hold over the office seemed uber-silly, the firing of Keven and Toby just didn't feel right (even though Kevin was fired via a message on a cake), and somehow Jim and Dwight's new palling around still felt unnatural.
But as the crew started reuniting for the documentary event, and the talking head segments began, so did the laughs and the teary moments.
The downsides were aplenty, yet somehow these seemed to resolve themselves and all makes sense in the end.
The bachelor party seemed too preposterous in many spots, but that became a necessary setup for one of the best segments (involving Kevin). It's easy to say there wasn't nearly enough Michael Scott, and that still kind of bites. But after it all ended, that tiny dose (he had only one line) fit perfectly.
Much of Andy's storylines seem a bit off the wall and meandering, and I personally haven't found him that funny since he punched a hole in the wall in season 2. His rather sad flirtations with stardom just left me wishing they'd spent more time on others.
All the schmaltz was a bit overwhelming, yet in the end it was justified. Unlike the excessively, sickeningly sweet end to That 70's Show, these super-sugary moments verged on making you ill but inserted enough real poignancy or laughs to make it work. Erin finding her real parents started to get too much but was saved. All the “awww” inducing moments of Jim and Pam were a tad too much, but ultimately you could forgive them.
Michael Scott appearing for the first time (I cheered aloud). Kevin's mini-storyline and his reconciliation with Dwight. Creed's suddenly lucid and and provocative speech about the human condition – just before he gets carted off by police. You also discover some trippy and hilarious things about his past, including the fact he was in the 60's band The Grass Roots (which, interestingly enough, he was in real life).
The segment with the office staff doing the question-and-answer session for fans had plenty of stellar seconds and mini-seconds. Perhaps the funniest line of the night was Meredith's revelation she'd been getting a Ph D this whole time and the cameras never showed that, chalking up her drinking to being in “college.”
Oscar is entering politics, Nellie snagged a baby in a most unusual and hilarious manner, Kelly and Ryan find each other again in a touching and funny way, and of course the ultimate path taken by Jim and Pam when they abruptly sell the house all kind of made you cheer. Another powerful and moving moment – which also cracked you up – was Phyllis receiving the wood carving of her from Stanley.
Pam had several mind-blowing little interviews, but the most powerful one was in the last 15 minutes where she waxed philosophically about she watched herself with frustration in the documentary, wanting to yell at herself to “move on.” Her talk, a few from Jim, and ironically Creed's were probably the most emotional chats of the night.
Ultimately, that's what made it all work, and even its faulty segments helped tie the whole thing up into a marvelously funny and touching ball that was complete. Likely among the best finales of all time (right up there with MASH and Battlestar Galactica's end in my book), this one took what threatened to not work and pieced it into a powerfully moving and exceptionally funny send-off.
It's probably correct to say The Office hasn't been its truly wonderful self in the last two years, maybe even since Michael Scott's final year. So this was definitely going out on a high note.
As Michael Scott MIGHT'VE said: This was a long, hard road – but with a happy ending. Mmm... that's what she said!