‘The Office’: Second-to-Last Episode Portends Terrible Things

The Office

Job Fair
Season 4 Episode 13
Michael, taking a hands-off approach.

There’s only one more episode left in this strike-truncated season, and like most shows affected by the in-no-way-a-waste-of-time -and-money strike, The Office’s rhythm has been off ever since it returned. For a self-contained sitcom, it has always been good for legitimate season-finale cliffhangers. Season two built up splendidly to the moment when Jim finally told Pam how he felt, and season three expertly navigated not only Jim and Pam’s coupling, but also the four-way battle for the corporate position Ryan eventually won.

In the limited universe of our Scranton crew, we are always prepared for some sort of shuffling of the deck in the final episode, and we usually get one. So what are we set up for this season? Uh … Pam taking night classes?

It’s odd that Michael Scott, the lead of the freaking show, doesn’t have one actual plotline heading into the finale. (Not that he wasn’t funny last night — we would watch three hours of Michael and Darryl in a phone booth.) Jim and Pam are as happy as ever, albeit considering other jobs, and Dwight and Angela are flirting in their silent, frosted way. But what’s actually happening? The finale, staged around Toby’s resignation from the office — to be replaced by the 100 percent double-plus awesome Amy Ryan — lacks all urgency. We’re anticipating just another sitcom finish.

Yes, The Office is a sitcom. But this is also a show that inspired swoony YouTube mash-ups and, most amusing, “The Office by Ken Burns.” As funny as the program has always been, the emotional attachment fans have to it is based in something else. And that something else, as an entertaining but inconsequential season draws to a close, just isn’t there. —Will Leitch

‘The Office’: Second-to-Last Episode Portends Terrible Things