Goodbye, Scranton: Part 2

from Nick Suss

May 17, 2013, 2 p.m.


Last night’s finale of The Office was good. It was extremely good. I watched it with one person who had seen every episode on a week-by-week basis since the beginning, one who stopped watching after Michael left, one who watched reruns periodically, and one who had never seen an episode before. All of us laughed. And I was thinking about doing a top-10 favorite episodes list for the finale, but instead, because the finale was so good, I’m going to do a top-10 character wrap-ups from the finale. It was the good and expansive that I can legitimately think of ten different characters who were wrapped up well. So without any honorable mentions, though there probably should be one or two, let’s hit the ground running with one of the shows more boring characters.

10: Phyllis Lapin-Vance

Phyllis was the show’s mommy. To dislike Phyllis would be wrong. The only time Phyllis ever had a story which made her out to be the villain was when she had her wedding to the exact specifications that Pam and Roy were to get married. Even when she was blackmailing Angela, it was Angela so it was okay. Phyllis was nice and happy and good. Her relationship with Stanley was one of the best of the entire show, not because it was featured a lot, but just because of how stable it was. As the show grew, we learned that despite being a bored, old grump, Stanley came to work to get paid but was happy to see Phyllis along the way. Phyllis also cared for Andy when no one else did. Phyllis loved Erin like her mother even when it was proven that she wasn’t. Phyllis even took all of Michael’s crap without anger even though anyone else would’ve lashed out at him for what he did to her over the years. And how did Phyllis end her run on the show? Just like she started. She was kind-hearted. She smiled. She danced with Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration). She laughed with Stanley and established his pathos just one more time with the bird sculpture he made for her. She got Angela kidnapped and ruined just one more of her parties. (By the way, that was my favorite hidden joke of the night. It wasn’t really obvious looking at it, but when you think about it, Angela’s ultimate party was ruined by Phyllis, just as she had done with countless other Angela-planned parties before. Sneaking that joke in was poetry.) Phyllis made me feel warm and fuzzy last night. And that’s was the intent of her character all along. Well done Phyllis Vance. Well done.

9: Kevin Malone

For a long time, I thought Kevin was my favorite character on the show. Though I had since swapped my allegiances to some of the more mainstream characters, I still hold a certain place in my heart for the lovable oaf that was Kevin Malone. Kevin’s closure was a long time coming. When Dwight fired Kevin at the onset of the finale, I cracked up uncontrollably. Everyone knew that he was expendable and incompetent, so his being fired was justice being served. But the rest of what we got from Kevin was just pure Kevin being Kevin. He accidentally aided and abated in the theft of a baby. He bought a bar. He didn’t understand that Dwight’s insults weren’t personal and he thought they were just to make him feel better. He thought he was gay. (Which I thought all along for the record. I was rooting for him and Oscar to make it, those crazy kids.) He got confused. He ate food. He did all the things that made him Kevin. And that included not accounting.

8: Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard

These two have to be lumped together for a very obvious reason. Though they may have begun as sovereign characters who each represented a different facet of the doldrums of the American workplace, the two grew to become fused at the hip. Kelly and Ryan became as logical to say back to back as Jim and Pam. And this wasn’t because we liked them as a couple, but because quite the opposite. They were the two perpetually locked in a high school romance. BJ Novak put it best in last night’s retrospective before the show. “They shared a common love of Ryan.” And that common bond locked them together tighter than any other minor relationship on the show. The hijinks that arose from their relationship were purely comical; there was never a point where I found myself entrenched in the drama of their battle. But the way they earned their closure was perfect. The two had finally learned how to be happy independent of one another. Kelly was happily married to Ravi and Ryan was a single father who had a child named not after the rapper, but blended between Drew and Blake. But when the two laid eyes upon one another, there was no mistaking that their lust would overpower their logic. As Kelly ran off into the sunset, becoming the second Dunder-Mifflinite to divorce a former Heroes castmember, with Ryan, inadvertently allowing Nellie to steal his baby, the two needed only one line to explain what was happening. Ryan had finally mastered commitment.

7: Toby Flenderson

I do hate Toby. Everyone hates Toby. He was the most downtrodden and deplorable mistake for a human being to ever grace the Electric City. If you felt sorry for Toby, then you were wrong. I don’t want to be too blunt here, but Toby is up there with Newman for the least likable character in the history of American television. I wanted to link to a scene of Michael barraging Toby with insults here, but there are just too many. Just go watch a few of them yourself. Anyway, Toby was a sad excuse for skin and bones. And the finale explained that perfectly. Nellie didn’t want to talk to him. He has roommates now, which are better than friends because they have to give you a months notice. He cried on Pam’s shoulder at the wedding. Best of all, he got canned by Dwight. (This was my second favorite hidden joke of the episode. Within just a year of becoming manager, Dwight already hated Toby as much as Michael did. When he didn’t even bother writing “Get Out” on Toby’s cake and rather just smeared icing on it, Dwight was saying the resounding “F-OFF TOBY” all of us had wanted to say for years.) Yes Toby, you answered perfectly at the roundtable discussion. Your life is useless now that cameras aren’t following you anymore. I don’t want to type about Toby anymore. I’m making myself angry. On to the next person.

6: Erin Hannon

Let me preface this by saying that I love Erin, and by proxy the actress Ellie Kemper, entirely too much. The fact that she has yet to be cast in anything upcoming soon bothers me deeply. All of the things she has ever been in were absolutely fantastic. She was my favorite part of Bridesmaids, my favorite part of 21 Jump Street, and frankly the best part of The Office over the past two or three years. So I obviously have Erin higher on here than I should. But I got goosebumps when Erin’s parents were revealed to her. I actually have them now while I type this, but that may be a product of the fact that I am typing this wearing nothing but underwear while my fan is on. The look on Erin’s face when she finally understood what was going on was priceless. It made me as happy as almost anything that happened last night. I don’t know if Erin found happiness with Plop or if she still wants something better, but I can tell you one thing: she deserves it. Erin Hannon was the kind of character who was anomalous on this show. She was bubbly, happy, excited to work, friendly to everyone, and above all else grounded in farce rather than reality. There are so few people that have an outlook on life like Erin’s, but she still existed in the realm of the most realistic comedy in history. But how the camera worked that filmed her, she will never know.

5: Creed Bratton

The biggest mystery of the entirety of The Office was solved last night. We finally learned that Creed Bratton was in fact playing himself and not a character. I don’t care if The Office had a fourth wall, last night they allowed Creed to break it. Creed remarked in the previous episode that he felt that he would have to pay for all of the things they caught him doing on camera. And he finally did, becoming a fugitive of the law the second the documentary aired on PBS. But Creed still loved his coworkers. So he lived in the office park in Scranton where he had worked for so long. He shaved his head and grew an Al-Qaeda beard to disguise himself and finally went by his real name instead of his stage name of Creed Bratton. For those of us who either knew first hand or, like me, second hand that Creed was a member of the Grass Roots, when they revealed that to the audience it was an instant laugh riot for us. He showed up to the wedding and the afterparty. His speech at the end was nothing short of beautiful. If the show had ended on a Creed joke, I would’ve been more than content. And as Creed was pulled away by the cops for all of the crimes against humanity he had perpetrated, you couldn’t help but feel that the guy was more integral to the show than he had ever let on. I think I’ll miss you most of all Creed Bratton, even despite your distinct old-man smell.

4: Jim Halpert

Jim’s part last night was too predictable. It was a good thing that it was so predictable, but nonetheless it was. In fact, Jim perfectly wrapped up his storyline a week earlier in the episode A.A.R.M., so all he needed to do in the finale was support the other characters. And in orchestrating Dwight’s perfect bachelor party and wedding, Jim Halpert did that which only Jim Halpert could do: he pranked his way through the perfect evening. Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest proponent of Jim and Dwight being friends, but last night’s Jim was not the same Jim from nine years ago. Jim grew up and these past few weeks have been his truest coming of age. Jim never wanted to be the best. He never strived to be better than anyone else. Jim wanted to be content. He wanted to be happy with his life. And Jim achieved that as well as any other character in a long time. Jim found the love of his life, he has a family, he made a true best friend and he came to realize that all the days of doing nothing but moving Dwight’s desk an inch or two closer to the copier every time he went to the bathroom actually meant the world to him. So when Jim reintroduced Dwight to the estranged friend that was Kevin, he did it in kindness. When Jim allowed Dwight to shoot a bazooka like he always wished he could, Jim did it in friendship. When Jim surrendered his best man duties to the only logical choice, he did it out of compassion. Jim was right, it was the best prank ever. Jim Halpert was The Office’s strongest character. Like Tim Canterbury before him, he was the rock which the show stood stable upon. Jim was predictable last night in the same way he has been predictable for nine years. Jim always wanted something else, something better, and when he found it, he wanted nothing else. Jim finally reached content this year. And that is the ultimate goal is it not, self-actualization? Jim Halpert found himself. Pretty good for a paper salesman.

3: Michael Scott

Michael Scott had two lines in last night’s finale. By almost every account, they were the two funniest lines of the episode. His second line was something along the gist of “It’s like all of my kids grew up. They grew up and married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” When Michael just looked at the camera as said that, part of me knew I would never again hear a line from Michael Scott. And I was okay with that. His first line I plead you do not read right now if you haven’t seen the finale. All spoilers from above are nothing compared to this. You’ve been warned. Again, I have goosebumps thinking of this scene. But as Dwight turned around and it was revealed that Michael Scott was standing behind him, all Dwight could say was “Michael, I can’t believe you came.” Michael just smiled at Dwight, put his arms out, and said those four little words: “That’s what she said.” I can honestly say that joke was the TWSS joke to end TWSS jokes. It may have been the quintessential Michael Scott TWSS. It just may have been the quintessential Michael Scott joke. Ever. Everyone knows Michael Scott was the main attraction to the show. Frankly, I only started watching The Office because I knew it as the show with Brick Tamland in it. And Michael already got the perfect finale about two years ago, so he didn’t need anything wrapped up last night. He has a family now. He’s never been happier. Remember that dream Michael said he had in Bring Your Daughter to Work Day where he said he wanted to have as many kids as possible so everyone could be his friend. I like to think Michael Scott achieved that dream. I didn’t need to see an episode wrapping up his life in Colorado with Holly. I got everything I needed from last night. Steve Carell will be remembered as Michael Scott in the same way Dan Marino is remembered as a Miami Dolphin: arguably the best ever to play the position, but they never won the big time. Just like Marino never won a Super Bowl, Carell never won an Emmy. But that doesn’t tarnish his legacy. Overusing him last night would’ve tarnished his legacy. Like he said in Goodbye Michael, we did catch him on the flippity-flip.

2: Dwight Schrute

Dwight Schrute was a heartless monster who ruthlessly pursued the managerial position like bears eat beets. Dwight Schrute could never be happy until the whole world bowed down to him, or at least until all of northeastern Pennsylvania’s paper market. Dwight Schrute finally ruled Lackawanna county. Over nine years, Dwight Schrute became the king. But he also found love. He made a best friend in Pam and turned his nemesis into his Best Man in Jim. He genuinely likes being with his subordinates, just as Michael had years before. Everything that Dwight Schrute had ever wanted out of life, a beet farm, a wife, a black belt and his dream job, now knelt at his feet. Dwight went from the anti-hero of The Office to the hero. I will forever mark his reaction to Michael showing up at his wedding in my top five favorite moments in the history of the show. Dwight really wasn’t as important of a character as Jim or Michael, but Dwight grew in the show by an unreasonably large amount of the course of almost a decade. Last night, Dwight achieved self-actualization in the same way that Jim did. His monologue at the end about all of the things he can do with his subordinates was the closest thing Dwight has ever done to 100 percent human when he didn’t have a concussion. Let’s be real, the finale was all about Dwight. But I wasn’t as compelled to his character as the top name on my list.

1: Pam Halpert

I thought about this while lying awake in bed last night. You really don’t know who the protagonist of an ensemble show is until it’s over. With Friends, it wasn’t made apparent that the whole show revolved around Ross and Rachel’s relationship until the very end. With Scrubs, it wasn’t proclaimed that all JD wanted was Eliot until the show really ended, before season 9 of course. The same was clear with The Office. I many ways, this show was more about Pam Beesly becoming who she became than it ever was about the journey of Michael Scott. Yes, had Michael stayed the whole time things would’ve been different, but to me Pam was actually the heroic figure of the show. Think about it. She was the one who was in the dire straits at the beginning of the show. She was the one who was tasked with a dilemma. She was the one who took charge and finally told Jim how she felt in Beach Games. She was the one who had to endure the choice between pursuing her art career instead of staying in Scranton for a year. She was the one who matured first in the perpetual childhood that was Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. And last night, Pam fulfilled her heroic journey. Whereas Jim and Dwight found themselves, Pam found that she could only truly be happy if the ones she cared about were happy. Pam made the ultimate sacrifice. She gave up her own happiness, her own comfort, her own well-being, just to make Jim happy. She sold the house without telling Jim just as he bought it without consulting her. She was the one that ponied up and told Dwight that they were moving. She was the one who revealed the mural that explained exactly what Dunder-Mifflin meant to them, and to us. And for those of us with keen eyes, she was the one who Greg Daniels put his arm around in the final photograph. (Greg Daniels was the show-runner of The Office for many years before leaving to work on Parks and Rec, but he returned to run the show this year. He was the gray haired dude with his arm around Pam when they were in the warehouse.) And the show ended, as it should’ve, with Pam grabbing her sketch of the office park, the work of art that symbolized so much more than just an office park, and leaving the shot. And as the last shot of the show took my breath away with its beauty and simplicity, all I could think about was Pam. Pam was never the key attraction to the show. She wasn’t the funny one or the quirky one or the one we hated the most or loved the most. But Pam was really all of those. She spent some episodes being goofy. She spent some episodes being dramatic. She spent some episodes crying. She spent some episodes laughing. She was the cog that kept the show from being just a comedy. She kept the show seeming like a family affair. No one could ever have done for that show what Jenna Fischer did for that show. From the bad times with Roy to the good times with Jim to the bad times with Jim to the better times with Jim, Pam was always defined by who she was with, not by who she was. And it was because of that that she seemed to be an afterthought. But at the end of the show, it was Pam who I fell for the most. Almost every show with meaning ends with a stoic shot of the place where most of the show took place, and this one was no different. The full screen shot of the office park was awesome, but it was awesome because of what Pam did seconds before. Pam won the finale. Pam may have won the show. I’m gonna miss this show a lot.


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