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Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Staff of The Office Are "Livin' the Dream"

Article first published as The Staff of The Office Are "Livin' the Dream" on TheTVKing.

NBC's The Office begins winding down to their series finale (airing May 16th) this week with "Livin' the Dream." Two weeks out from the release of the documentary, the staff considers what is important to them, and begins to think about where they want to be. For some, that means finally realizing something they have longer worked towards. For others, giving up one thing they love might be necessary to hang onto what they care about the most. And some are ready to take a leap of faith, no matter what it could cost them.

Dwight (Rainn Wilson) has always wanted to be the manager of the Dunder-Mifflin Scranton branch. When we are introduced to him, he isn't anywhere near ready to lead, and he has many rocky years of trying and failing to establish himself as a leader. Even a couple of years ago, after the departure of Michael Scott, Dwight has no idea what it means to really run an office, as we see during the brief time he grabs power.

But Dwight has grown a lot. In recent months, he has lost family members and found love. He has considered giving up the paper business altogether, but decided against it because his spin-off was not picked up. At least, right before the curtain closes on the series, he is ready for the job.

Not only does Dwight's promotion feel totally earned, he is supported by the entire staff in an incredibly sweet sequence. No one begrudges him the accomplishment, and even as he celebrates a bit too much, both after getting his black belt and this news from David Wallace (Andy Buckley), they are happy for him. They all know just how much he cares about their company, and Dunder Mifflin will be in good hands.

The best moments are between Jim (John Krasinski) and Dwight, naturally. There has long been an undercurrent of affection in their rivalry, with a relationship not unlike brothers. Jim recommends Dwight for the promotion, and could not be happier for his friend. Dwight getting Jim his desk back from Clark (Clark Duke) proves the feeling is mutual. And the interplay when Dwight offers Jim the position of assistant manager is not only a call-back to the earliest days of their ribbing, but a way to say "I love you" without saying it out loud, as men do. Perfect!

Of course, for Dwight to rise to that level, Andy (Ed Helms) must first be de-throned. David intends to fire him, only to have Andy quit first, set on following his dreams of being a performer. Everyone thinks this is a bad idea, and Andy waffles, temporarily accepting a return to the sales team, where he didn't flourish, but got by better than he has as manager. But in the end, passion trumps sense, and he makes a go at becoming famous.

I am a bit disappointed with Andy's trajectory. He works so hard at bettering himself, after being introduced as a terrible man, and then slips backwards in this final year. Andy does almost everything he can to leave with shame and pity, not good wishes. Even his excellent farewell performance doesn't make up for what he has done, nor promise him a successful career.

The Office will likely let Andy go "Livin' the Dream." I think the fact that he pulled out a song far better than what anyone expected was the writers' attempt to set him up to soar. However, realistically, it feels like Erin (Ellie Kemper) has the more likely prediction, that Andy will end up homeless and starving. What a tragic ending to a briefly beloved (during the middle of his run) character!

It's also sad to see what Jim is giving up. He makes Pam (Jenna Fischer) his priority, quitting work in Philly and telling Darryl (Craig Robinson) he won't go on the road. This shows us what a dedicated family man Jim is, and what he is willing to do for the love of his life. It's romantic, of course, and it paints Jim in a very good light. What's more, he seems at peace with his decision, like he will never regret making the choice that he does.

But he shouldn't have to make that choice. Pam is being selfish. Yes, Jim doesn't handle the start of the business well, in regards to consulting Pam. But she agrees to support him before they begin to fall apart. Her behavior, while somewhat coming from a place of love, is holding Jim back. With the opportunity now presenting itself, she needs to sacrifice, too. And, since she overhears the conversation between Darryl and Jim and knows is at stake, I think she will.

Many of the side characters remain side characters, and don't have their own subplots in "Livin' the Dream," nor will they likely in the next couple of weeks. The exception to this, though, is Angela (Angela Kinsey). Evicted and with her cats, whom she considers her babies, taken away, and realizing that she loves Dwight, who is with someone else, this is the lowest we've ever seen Angela. It's not easy to like her, but it's hard to watch her suffer.

Thankfully, Oscar (Oscar Nunez) steps in and offers her a place to stay and a shoulder to cry on. There's something poetic here, Angela being supported by the man who contributes to the downfall of her marriage. Oscar may be trying to make up for something, but there's also a kinship between them, both tossed aside by the same guy. It's special.

Most likely, The Office will see a reconciliation between Dwight and Angela, but I think this is the wrong move. Like with Andy, I wish they'd take a less predictable tact, with Dwight marrying the farm girl, and Angela becoming Oscar's roommate and best friend. Perhaps it isn't that realistic that Angela could learn to care about Oscar deeply (and platonically, of course), but that's what I'd really like to see. They could be like Karen and Jack from Will & Grace, living together for the rest of their days.

The end is near, and one can sense it in the air. At least before it goes, The Office has found a lot of what makes it special again. "Livin' the Dream" isn't perfect, and there are signs that the series finale won't be either. But it will make a lot of fans happy, and the emotional heft, barely begun to scratch the surface this week, should be significant.

The Office airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC for two more weeks.

Oh, and TVLine.com reported yesterday that Michael Scott will appear in the series finale!

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