The Office finale: Near perfect

I love The Office.

I loved the British version of the show, and I loved the slightly less brutish American version even more.

It ended last week, and I am sad. I will miss those characters deeply.

It occurred to me that Elysha and I started watching the show at the onset of our relationship. Jim, Pam and Dwight have been with us for as long as we have been together.

I don’t think I have ever been as emotionally invested in the relationship between two television characters as I have been with Jim and Pam. It bordered on obsessive at times. I’d find myself sitting in a restaurant, enjoying dinner with friends, and suddenly I’d be worried that Jim and Pam might never get together. This year I was legitimately angry with the writers of the show for introducing discord into their relationship.

Jim and Pam

It was bizarre. I often wondered why I cared so much about them.

During this series finale, I realized why.

In one of the many memorable lines from the final episode, Creed Bratton says:

It all seems so very arbitrary. I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring. I took a desk at the back because it was empty. But no matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home. 

A minute later, Jim says:

Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have I owe to this job.

Then I realized it.

I am Jim.

Elysha is Pam.

That is why I care so much so much about them.

Like Creed said, my marriage to Elysha seems so arbitrary.

I chose to work at my school because they were hiring. I had already been hired to work in Newington and was scheduled to sign my contract the following day, but a principal in West Hartford called and asked me to come in for an interview. I was mowing the lawn, and because I was nearly finished with the front yard, I thought, “What the hell?” Might as well get some more interview experience.”

I had a terrible interview. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should. I immediately regretted everything that I said once I realized that this school was a perfect fit for me, but somehow I got the job anyway.

Elysha chose our school three years later after nearly deciding to work in Farmington instead. Like Pam, she was engaged to be married when she arrived at our school. I was newly single. We became friends first, and after Elysha called off her engagement and we both dated other people for about a year, we finally came together.

Much like Jim and Pam.

Almost exactly like Jim and Pam.

Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, I, like Jim, owe everything I have to my job. My wife. My children. Even my writing career. Had I not enjoyed the support and encouragement of Elysha, I might still be writing the first few chapters of failed books.

I might have quit by now.

Unlike Jim, I love my job most of the time, but I would not be married to the most amazing woman in the world and have these two perfect little children had we not come together as seemingly arbitrarily as Creed described it.

No wonder why I suffered so when Jim and Pam were apart. I saw us in them.

Except for the fact that it signals the end of the series, I loved the season finale of The Office. It was damn near perfect.

Other excellent decisions from the season finale included:

A limited role for Steve Carell’s character, who left the show three years ago. It was right that Michael Scott return, but it was also right that he not be the focus of the episode. He was gone too long to return as the star. At it’s heart, The Office has always been about Jim and Pam and Dwight anyway. It was right to keep the attention directed on them.

Actually, I think the show has always been about Pam more than anyone else, so it was fitting that the last voice we heard was Pam’s.

I also loved the ending for almost every character.

Toby gains a moment of mediocre acceptance. Perfect.

Dwight becomes manager, marries Angela, and declares that Pam is his best friend. Perfect.

Stanley is retired and divorced. Perfect.

Andy is off to Cornell, a place where he always belonged, after delivering this brilliant line:

I wish there was a way to know that you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.


Darryl is leaving the place that he despised for so many years for a much brighter future, and yet he finds himself inexplicably lamenting his departure. Perfect.

Phyllis, Erin and Oscar remain in The Office, as they should. Perfect.

I didn’t love the idea of Creed being arrested, but for those less savvy Office fans, it was great to let them in on the secret that Creed Bratton was playing himself for the entire series. Creed Bratton was a musician in the popular 1960’s band The Grass Roots. I learned about this after listening to Creed perform a version of Spinnin’ and Wheelin’ in an episode years ago. The producers of The Office never concealed this fact, but unless you did your homework, you would never have known that Creed Bratton was a real person operating in a fictional world.

I thought that the ending for Kelly, Ryan and Nellie was a misstep. While it was fine for Kelly and Ryan to come together for what will most assuredly be another failed fling, the idea that Kelly would leave her husband for Ryan, who would then abandon his baby to Kelly’s husband, a pediatric doctor, and then that doctor would pass the baby off to Nellie with the suggestion that she call child protective services, and then Nellie would illegally adopt the child and take him back to Europe was too much to believe, even for The Office.

Not a satisfying or decent end to any of those characters.   

But other than that mistake, it was a perfect series finale. Pam’s decision to take her painting of the office with her was excellent. We all want that painting. We all want to take The Office with us. Keep it close. And it was a perfect final nod to Michael, the person for whom the series centered upon for so long.

The series ended with the words of Pam Beasley. Her words not only spoke to the nature of the show and the characters who populated it, but they also spoke to Pam herself, the simple receptionist who won the heart of Jim and so many viewers over the years:

There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?