Sunday, September 23, 2012

Last day at The Office

NBC's The Office returned this week with "New Guys," the final season premiere of the long-running sitcom. It felt like the end, too. Sure, there were a couple of new staff members at Dunder Mifflin, but others have moved on, and a couple of the leads are contemplating their next step for their future. I don't know if this final season can make up for the mess of last year, but "New Guys" gets them off to a promising start.

Kelly (Mindy Kaling) is gone, whisked away to the glamor of Miami (Ohio) by her fiance, Ryan (B.J. Novak) trailing her and trying to pretend that he's not. I really wish there had been an entire episode where this played out, rather than a couple of scenes shown with voice over, but at the same time, Ryan and Kelly were never the focus of The Office. It's an appropriate ending for them, as far as the series is concerned, though I will miss them. (Kaling and Novak are both currently working on The Mindy Project, which premieres this Tuesday on FOX).

Jim (John Krasinski) considers moving on, too. A buddy of his is starting a business based on Jim's idea, and wants Jim to be a part of it. At first, Jim hesitates because it would mean moving his family and taking a big risk with their financial future. But when he sees what he has become through a new employee his co-workers dub "Young Jim" (Jake Lacy, Better With You), he decides that he must give it a shot.

Does Jim have the luxury of following his dreams now? Before having children, sure, as long as wife Pam (Jenna Fischer) is on board. As a creative person herself, she probably would be. Now that he has a couple of little mouths to feed, though, is it selfish of him to leave the security of the paper company to work on a venture that could fail? I guess it would depend on what kind of savings he has tucked away. But it's TV, and we're near the end, so anything can happen.

Dwight (Rainn Wilson) feels much the same as Jim when viewing his own "Young Dwight" (Clark Duke, Greek, Hot Tub Time Machine), but doesn't have the same prospects that Jim has. Learning Angela's (Angela Kinsey) baby isn't his adds to his misery. So, with no outlet for these feelings, Dwight acts out by trying to ride a bicycle on a wire off the roof of the building. It does not go well.

Most people who follow television know that Dwight is about to get his own spin-off called The Farm that will open a completely new chapter of his life. And he's ready for it. Dwight is no longer the same goober he once was, having grown as a person. He can't be held down by a menial job. He needs something more. It's time.

Seeing Dwight and Jim reach this point almost simultaneously is thrilling. These are two beloved characters who we have seen shaped over nine years. To be present at the time of major change is great, and it's nice that the writers are going to take their time with these plots, rather than just toss them in the last few episodes of the season. In this way, the conclusion should feel natural, and make watching The Office this entire time totally worth it.

In other plot, Andy (Ed Helms) comes back from leadership training more confident and in charge. This isn't good news for Nellie (Catherine Tate), whom Andy justifiably resents after she tried to steal his job. The thing is, as much as I've disliked Nellie, seeing Andy being such a bully to her makes me feel bad for her. This poor woman is just looking for an anchor to hold on to, and she has nowhere else to go. Hopefully, Andy will see that soon, and take pity on her. Having the bravado stripped away has humanized Nellie in a single episode. Terrific job.

Awesome throwback that Andy finally hates Toby (Paul Lieberstein) as much as Michael did! It seems like balance that I hadn't even noticed was off has been restored to the universe.

Lastly, it turns out that Oscar (Oscar Nunez) is having an affair with Angela's husband (Jack Coleman). I can't say that I didn't see this coming, but it's a regrettable turn of events. Unless Angela leaves with Dwight for the spin-off (she hasn't shown up in the current cast list), this leaves her with no happy ending. She is a miserable person, but no one deserves to be cheated on. It's not a bad story, but I'm still hoping the writers find a way to satisfactorily resolve this, and I have no idea what that could be.

Oh, and Creed (Creed Bratton) has gone completely insane, which doesn't bode well for the safety of anyone who works there. Might there be a death looming? Might he even be the infamous Scranton Strangler (assuming you don't believe the Jim Carrey theory).

The Office's final season continues Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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