It might be difficult to believe, but there are still snobs who refuse to watch The Office out of some sort of misguided loyalty to the original British version. Their common complaint is that the American version is somehow sanded down, characters edges smoothed away to make them more likable, more palatable for our mush American brains. This is an oversimplification — oftentimes you want to put Michael’s head in a vice — but it’s true: The characters on the American version are nicer. And that’s okay. It’s swell to have people to root for.
Last night’s terrific episode reminded us that, deep down, the staff of Dunder Mifflin really are fundamentally good people that we want to see happy. Michael and Dwight, characters who can be superficially despicable, have never looked more depressed than they did at various points. Michael, never that responsible with money, is on the verge of bankruptcy, to the point that he’s working nights doing cold calls for diet pills. Dwight is legitimately brokenhearted by his breakup with Angela. Both Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson are talented actors, and they nailed the despair of the truly lost and defeated. (We’ll be seeing Michael’s dead eyes and hearing Dwight’s polar bear from Lost wail in our sleep.)
But they did not give up hope. We watched them fight off the void and emerge, if not victorious, at least still standing. Michael is comforted by Jan’s realization of his fierce loyalty, and, most touchingly, Dwight is brought back from the brink by Pam and Jim, whose union, finally, gladdened us the way we had always hoped it would. (We think things might just work with Pam and Jim together; is this the show that has finally overcome the Sam and Diane syndrome?) For all their comic faults, we want to like these characters. Last night, they reminded us why. —Will Leitch