I can still remember watching the pilot for The Office and thinking, what’s the big deal? Now, after watching Michael Scott say goodbye to Dunder Mifflin it’s hard not to wonder if NBC’s Thursday night lineup will ever really recover.
Michael’s last day was uncharacteristically mature as he attempted to subtly say goodbye to everyone in the office. I say it was uncharacteristic, but it’s really a logical extension of the groundwork laid with the introduction of Holly oh so long ago.
From day one, Michael saw himself as the father of the office. His desperate need for family and attention (and lack of any social etiquette) clashed against the employees’ desire for normalcy perfectly. But once he and Holly became an item, it was obvious that things had changed.
With Holly, Michael gained a partner. Being the “World’s Greatest Boss” was no longer his top priority. This was illustrated well with one of my favorite character moments for Michael. After Holly was transferred Michael eventually exploded and told David Wallace exactly what he thought of the corporate cockblock. For a man who had revered his bosses, it was quite a big step.
It was probably the main reason he was eventually able to quit and start his own paper company, briefly. That move was one of Michael’s few moments where he was able to demonstrate a degree of acumen. Without that, I don’t know that he would ever have been able to envision leaving Dunder Mifflin at all.
Even with his personal growth Michael had a wonderful moment of weakness on his final day. Momentarily deciding to stay at Dunder Mifflion he called Holly in tears. His metamorphosis at the sound of her voice told us everything we needed to know. Those two are going to be just fine. She is his rock. He is her rock. Two rocks really. And as long as they can avoid paper… then scissors better watch out.
There were two other subplots for the episode. Deangelo attempted to help Andy keep the branch’s biggest customers. It was only moderately funny and really felt out of place. Yes, the show needed a good comedic storyline to balance out Michael’s exit, but that wasn’t good enough.
The other story also involved Andy and was much funnier. A distraught Gabe threatened Andy with the classic “I own over 200 horror movies.” and desperately tried to win Erin back. This was much more interesting and actually worked into the main plot later as Michael gave Erin advice.
I understand that the writers probably want to take advantage of Will Ferrell as much as possible, but sometimes less is more. Deangelo’s cake issue was a solid coda to his brief food-related crazyness.
Still, the episode was a straightforward, classy way to say goodbye to Michael. His last scene cleverly used the documentary set-up to give us a sweet goodbye between Michael and Pam that echoed distantly of Lost in Translation. It was a wonderful real moment that managed to upstage crying Jim.
In many ways The Office is over.
Yet I can’t help but think the show can survive in a different form. It will largely depend on the person that ultimately replaces Michael Scott. Hopefully we’ll get an extended period of cameos and insanity before that happens.