Well, the finale of The Office is tonight. It’s really a bittersweet feeling for me. While The Office has already staked its spot as one of my favorite shows ever, I’m ready for it to end as it has become less than a shell of its former self. Everything since “Niagara” has been overwhelmingly cynical and distrustful towards its audience. I’m sure they’ll deliver tonight, however, and give the fans a worthy finale. At its best, The Office was relentless with its writing, laced with fantastic acting, and probably the best television comedy since Seinfeld. All things have to come to an end, but it’ll still be sad to see the lights turned off at Dunder Mifflin.
“Test The Store” – Season 8
“Branch Wars” – Season 4
“The Return” – Season 3
“The Deposition” – Season 4
Viewers could always count on The Office to deliver a fantastic Christmas episode. Season 6 gave us their strongest effort for the most wonderful time of the year. Like with every Christmas episode, Michael acts like an idiot but everything ends up cheerful in the end. “Secret Santa” was the zenith of the Erin-Andy angle and, probably, Phyllis (Vance) Smith’s finest episode. The ending visual-gag of the two Santas (Bob and Phyllis) making out was/is utterly brilliant.
This certainly isn’t a “favorite,” but it deserves to be on this list because it demonstrates, more than any other episode, just how skin-crawling The Office could be when it wanted. It’s also a nod to the power of the actors involved in the episode; essentially only six. No matter how many times I watch “Dinner Party,” I still find myself clenching my teeth, turning away from the screen, and letting out strange noises in an attempt to break the awkward tension throughout it. Melora Hardin always seemed to be hit-or-miss on the show but she, in particular, shines here as she made the audience take genuine concern/pity on Michael Scott despite his moronic nature.
Classis Dwight line: “Mmm… Good turkey leg.”
The argument could be made, and won, that “The Injury” was the episode that put The Office on the map and solidified its spot on television. The absolute ridiculous nature of its premise was kept believable because of the ineptitude and hubris that Steve Carell’s Michael Scott had shown up until that point. In a sense, it was the first payoff episode.
Right as the wave began to break; “Andy’s Play” holds the spot for the last truly great episode in Office history. The season had been rocky up until this point and had created some confusing inter-office relationships, things seemed jumbled and on the edge of becoming chaotic, when this episode went back to basics and reminded the viewers that “Hey, these guys are all still a family.” I believe the Erin-Andy angle was one of the main things that killed the quality of the show, but this episode was the closest it ever came to *really* working. The closing montage to “Andy’s Play” marks that last time the show left me with any feeling close to “everything is going to be ok.”6. “Stress Relief” – Season 5
This is all I need to justify having this here.
Classic Dwight line: “I just got a text from Michael. ‘Personnel day.’ Are we hiring?”
“But on pretzel day… Well, I like pretzel day.” One of the simplest side-stories of any episode turned out to be one of the most memorable. The maturation of the Ryan character in “Initiation” was one of the more genuinely heart-warming angles BJ Novak had on the show. Jim and Pam reconnecting at the end of the episode was the proverbial cherry on top of this trouble-free episode that reinvigorated several of the show’s pivotal characters.
Pam – “Hey, Ryan, are you ok?”
Ryan – “…Yeah. Yeah.”
Humanizing and sympathizing Michael took a lot of effort, but this episode did it in spades. His great triumph with The Michael Scott Paper Company still didn’t take away the pain and feeling that he was truly fucked over by his former employer, Dunder Mifflin. In the end, Michael was able to call all the shots as Dunder Mifflin pleaded for a buyout and his return and was finally able to have the final word on Idris Elba’s heel Charles Miner character. “Broke” was the great Michael Scott vindication that left us cheering.
This was the first episode that displayed that Michael Scott may be a jackass but he is actually great at his job. “The Client” finally answered any questions of how Scott was manager. Back at The Office, Pam uncovered the legendary “Threat Level Midnight” script which led to a fantastic table-read and, eventually, her and Jim’s “first date.” Above all, this episode set a definitive tone that was kept for the following four seasons.
The main happening “The Job” will be remembered for is Jim finally asking Pam out and the timeless “…it’s a date” line and that’s ok. This episode was far from a one-trick pony, though. BJ Novak’s Ryan Howard character has been one of the show’s most complex and this episode set into place his fall-from-grace story that would remain interesting throughout the rest of the series. Personally, the highlight of the episode was one of the classic Dwight-Andy side-storylines in which Dwight was interviewing Andy to become his assistant, leading to one of the funniest exchanges in the show’s near-decade run.
Dwight – “How do you build a table?”
Andy – “You make a chair, but you don’t sit on it.”
The show should have ended here. No way around it. There was nothing left to say. The Office was never going to have an episode that even came close to this. Every single character had their moment in “Niagara” and we were treated to the excellent conclusion of one of the great modern love stories. No episode of The Office played more off the viewer’s emotions and it absolutely had the right to do so. They set us up for something great and gave us something that exceeded it. The shot of a teary-eyed Michael as Pam and Jim were wed illustrated everything the show was, is, and will forever be about. I felt like Lucas at the end of Empire Records when the credits rolled… “Perfect” was all I could say.