For about three seasons, devoted Office fans have been waiting for the shoe to drop on the Pam and Jim relationship, but the perils of their plotline were obvious from the first episode. Since before, actually, given that Ricky Gervais’s version neatly solved the issue: The show ended before the “will he or won’t she?” grew tiresome. Cheers, Moonlighting, et al, were not so lucky.
Which is why The Office has pulled off a small miracle. Not only did they not exhaust the Jim and Pam buildup, and not only was the eventual payoff worth the wait (the simple elegance of Jim merely asking her out to dinner, those few words providing a cliffhanger Dallas would have killed for), and not only did they allow us to see them happy together without resorting to some ridiculous “now he’s in love with someone else HOW IRONIC” subplot, but, having navigated those choppy waters so skillfully, they had the audacity to actually
It’s difficult to argue any show of recent vintage has earned its marriage proposal more than The Office did in its season premiere last night; the audience’s gasp was a long time coming. At its heart, this show is achingly earnest and straight-faced. The biggest romance came to its logical conclusion in front of a gas station off a rest stop in New Jersey. No other show could pull that off.
Jim finally popping the question was the centerpiece of the hour-long opener, but the real fun, once again, was the Great Amy Ryan as Holly the HR woman, goofy, awkward, bewildered, and “a dork,” as Jim puts it. She only has a few episodes left — it looks like she’s going to be replaced by Toby, who Charlie Brown–ed his way to a broken neck on his retirement trip before he even made it to the beach — and we already miss her. It’s a shame she ever had to learn that, alas, Kevin is not actually “retarded.”
What else? The Dwight-Andy-Angela triangle is losing its steam already; we were treated to one of the lamer Michael conference-room pep talks in a while; and the revelation that Ryan has rejoined the company as a temp was funny for the first episode but promises diminishing returns. (And we’ll repeat it until someone listens: MORE DARRELL.) But The Office is back, and it gave us the plotline payoff we’ve been waiting four years for at the least expected, most perfect time. Regarding any other show, we might mean this as an insult, but seriously, all together now: Awww.