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The Office Post Mortem

This blog post was originally published on the old Word Foreword on November 19th, 2017. Yea, there was a bit of a gap between this and the last blog post.

Last night Quinn and I stayed up until about 3am to finish the last 7 or 8 episodes of The Office. Overall, I really enjoyed it from beginning to end with a few highs and some lows. I’m going to breakdown a lot of my feelings by characters, or couples, because I think that’s where the show truly shines. The reality and dynamics of the characters is simply amazing in some places, and quite shallow in others.

The first pair I’m going to talk about, and the most important one in my opinion, is Jim and Pam. This couple started really strong, and I seriously felt for both of them. I sympathized with Pam being in a shitty, emotionally abusive relationship. I floundered with Jim as he wrestled with his feelings for her. By the time Jim confessed to her I was excited and completely submerged in their relationship. When Jim left for Stamford I was confused and frustrated - this isn’t explored nearly enough. The same is true for Pam who has an off-screen epiphany to break up with Roy. When Jim returns there’s a quick recovery to ask her out (the infamous “It’s a date” moment) which is really cute. Their wedding is a nice highlight and insight into the kind of couple they are - but their pregnancies feel like stories that could’ve had tension but are left flat. In fact, the next time Jim and Pam seem to have a real storyline is when the team is sent to open the Sabre store and Pam’s replacement (Cathy) attempts to seduce him. This is my biggest complaint about their whole story. The viewer is led to believe that this is a possibility and seems like shallow writing. We’ve been led to believe for eight years that Jim and Pam were meant to be together and have the most solid foundation of relationships. Interjecting a pseudo-story of an affair is lame. There was no tension, only the feeling of betrayal - and not from Jim and Pam but from me to the writers. Stories for couples can be more than an affair or the crippling tension of breaking trust. But, again, they make a quick save in the final season by introducing Jim’s investment and pursuit of his dream. This is the exact kind of story we deserve for married couples. Yes, there is tension. Yes, there is drama. But not of their faith and trust in one another - Pam clearly wants Jim to succeed, but there are huge risks involved in making these kinds of changes. The finale to their story is sweet, with Pam taking control and making the decision to go all-in on Jim’s dream.

Dwight was a very rough character. From the beginning I didn’t like him, but was confused on whether or not I was supposed to like him. A handful of times during the middle few seasons Dwight experiences some human growth which makes him somewhat more appealing, but this waffles back-and-forth with his constant and asinine feud with Jim. Admittedly, this is one of the things that makes me like Jim and makes me dislike Dwight. Him taking on roles of leadership always made me incredibly uncomfortable. Dwight is the kind of person who grovels for power and control and yet has no idea what to do with it. He doesn’t understand how to interact with people, which is exemplified in most episodes (especially in the first few seasons), and is expected to deal with people. Honestly I’m shocked at how he’s in a field that relies on human-to-human interaction with sales so much, and on top of that how he does so well. Each time the viewer sees Dwight on the phone with people he is either incredibly distracted, controlling, or hostile. Towards the end when he’s made Interim Manager and fires a weapon in the office I expected this to become much more of an issue than it was. Was he relieved of his station? Of course. I expected him to be fired, or demoted even further. Instead, a year later everyone seems to forget about this and he ends up manager of the branch. In that year, though, he does seem to grow a tremendous amount, finally partnering with Jim and putting his questionable hatred aside.

Angela, on the other hand, I loathe. And she’s written to be pretty obtrusive and hateable. However, there are several episodes that I feel like I was meant to feel sorry for her. In particular, the last several episodes. When the story of the Senator finally breaks and Angela is left homeless, I don’t feel sorry for her. Her situation sucked, but to be honest I’ve seen her be nothing but awful and cruel to the other people in the office for nine years. The first happiness I felt for her was when Dwight proposed. They are meant for each other, for sure, and I’m glad they found each other after all those years. And Dwight’s speech about how he would raise 100 of her babies from 100 other men was sweet in his own way - but that reflects more on how Dwight has grown as a character and not Angela. Her rebuttal of telling Dwight that Phillip is his, on the other hand, is the first relatable thing she’d ever said.

The most back-and-forth character I had feelings for was Michael. Many episodes I loved him. I related to him. I cheered for him. I was uncomfortable when Jan and him got together, I wanted to see him happy, but it was cringe-inducing to watch. But there were lots of times that I was angry or just plain fed up with him. Highlights include Scott’s Tots and the incredibly rude and poor way he treated Pam’s mother after the wedding. I was sad to see him go, but him choosing to move away with Holly was also one of the high points.

Andy. I think he changed the most through the show. To be honest, after the anger management bit in season three I didn’t care about him until Erin showed up. I loved their silly dynamic, mostly because it reminded me a lot of early Jim and Pam but more silly. Andy and Erin run through an interesting test of never loving one another at the same time. I think, on paper, this is absolutely adorable - up until the time they finally started dating in season eight. But Andy becomes a trash character and a trash person. When his parents money starts crumbling away, Andy steps up to bat and shows real maturity, which is a great way to show that he was a worthy choice of replacing Michael Scott. But that’s the end. Andy running away on a boat, stringing his peers, co-workers, friends, and girlfriend along while he drinks and sails across the world makes me hate him. I want to like the end of his story - abandoning your safety to pursue your dreams. I honestly wish I had the courage to do something like that. And for Andy, this says even more because he has had everything handed to him on a silver platter. This is exemplified to the max when Andy hires a marching band for Erin as this big, powerful gesture and then expects Erin to ask him out. So him abandoning his job speaks volumes at the levels of growth he should have, but Andy also seems incapable of growth.

Easily the most underrated character, until the end, is Toby. Michael’s hatred of him seemed to be a funny quirk of Michael, but ended up getting in the way of Toby ever actually developing a personality enough to be relatable. Toward the end, around the time Toby is called away for jury duty, Toby gets enough lines (finally) to be able to speak. There are other hints about Toby dropped here and there (he has a child, is divorced, etc.). When Nellie shows up in the office, though, is when Toby starts becoming well known and his inability to pick up social cues shines. This weird relationship he imagines with her is… weird. For someone in HR, I have to imagine that this is just a big no-no.

I cheered for Darryl quite a bit. He seemed to be a little manipulative, but never in a way that brought harm. I liked this a lot, and often in the pranks scheme of things, he seemed like the voice of reason. In the last season and in his relationship with Val I started to fall off the Darryl-train, but I am glad that he got to move higher up in the world and got a job that was much more fulfilling for him.

The other recurring characters (Phyllis, Meredith, Oscar, Kevin, and Stanley) I all enjoyed. Each had ups and downs, and if I had to pick a least favorite it would easily be Stanley because he had a very negative-nancy attitude that I didn’t enjoy. Towards the end Oscar started to easily become one of my favorite characters. He was grounded, likeable, smart, and honestly just seemed like a decent person. I do feel that none of these characters got served their due diligence though. I think all of them could’ve been something more if they were given an episode or two to focus on. I was hoping that toward the end, when Angela briefly moved in with Oscar, that we would see more of him outside the office and focus on something more of his (other than the Senator love triangle). There were 201 episodes of The Office, and these five characters were billed as Main characters for seasons 2 - 9 (the same amount of time as Angela), but weren’t utilized nearly as much or as effectively (in Oscar’s case).

Overall it was a wonderful show. Even Quinn, who was very resistant to watch the first season, enjoyed it after that. It was incredibly heartwarming and most of the characters felt real, if a little flat and uninteresting at times. It was not quite as good as Parks & Recreation in my opinion, because I’m much more connected to all the characters there.

Will Sobel