After Seasons of Frustration and Futility, "The Office" Proves It Still Has the Ability to Move Us
It's been a rough few season of deteriorating quality; the loss of Michael Scott, Kelly, and Ryan; the the unfortunate addition of Nellie Bertram; and a pitiful embarrassing waste of James Spader, but "The Office" is finally nearing an end, four seasons too late. There have been a few genuinely amusing moments along the way, but they have been few and far between, and it's hard to argue anything other than "The Office" has terribly outstayed its welcome.
That's no more apparent than in what has happened to Jim and Pam over the course of last season and this. Once the sweetest, most adorable couple on television, Jim and Pam have become increasingly distant, as Jim sought to start his own company in Philadelphia, to the dismay of Pam, who -- you have to admit -- hasn't been particularly supportive of Jim's ambitions. After all, though it's been lost along the way, Dunder Mifflin was supposed to be a temporary situation for Jim Halpert. There was a time, too, when both he and Pam were the voices of sanity, the anchors in a crowd of eccentrics. Over the last few seasons, however, both Jim and Pam become more like the oddball characters of "The Office," and maybe that's a realistic de-evolution for people stuck for years in a job below their qualifications.
In any rate, last night's episode of "The Office" -- which comes ahead of two hour-long episodes before it's all over -- was fairly typical of the mediocrity of latter season episodes. There was a paper airplane competition, which featured Kevin bumbling and Erin displaying the kind of temper that early Ed Helms showed, a subplot that also pushed Dwight and Angela -- now separated from the Senator -- closer together. There was also another frustratingly insipid subplot -- as most dealing with Ed Helms are these days -- where Andy got an acting gig, although I will concede that the scene where he was forced to stick his eye in a water fountain elicited a laugh.
The final subplot featured Jim and Pam employing the advice they'd gotten from marriage counseling. Never mind that five years ago, we'd never have imagined these two in marriage counseling, the evolution of Jim Halpert's assholery actually managed to make the situation feel somewhat genuine. I think many of us had begun to feel the way that Pam has felt: Her heart has been closed off to Jim. He's been too insensitive. His head has been stuck too far up his own ass.
But as will happen with any couple who love each other facing the prospect of actually losing one another, there was a break-through, the first genuinely great Jim and Pam moment in a very long time. I think Jim was determined to break through the ice that has shrouded Pam's emotions. I suspect he'd have continued hugging her for hours, until she finally relented. She did. And it was sweet, heart-aching relief.
That scene was all the more effective, too, juxtaposed against Jim and Pam exchanging wedding vows, a reminder of the couple they once were and we hope will be again. I genuinely hope that the final two hours of "The Office" continue to show the healing in Jim and Pam's relationship. We do know that the final episode will feature the Dunder Mifflin gang reuniting months after the airing of the documentary at a wedding, although we're not sure who, yet. will be getting married. My money is on Ryan and Kelly (they will return for the finale), although it could be Dwight and Angela, or even Erin and Pete. I would not, however, rule out Jim and Pam renewing their vows.