Season finale review: ‘The Office’ – ‘Free Family Portrait Studio’

A review of “The Office” season finale coming up just as soon as the coconut is pretty subtle…

I last reviewed “The Office” in the middle of the Tallahassee story arc, and I either made it only a few minutes into the last 3 or 4 episodes before the finale or simply deleted them unwatched from the DVR to clear hard drive space. While there have been isolated moments here and there – including several jokes in the finale (the energy drink, the velcro suit, the return of Mose and – in what’s been the one part of the show that’s remained consistently good – the pre-credits sequence) – overall the show has felt lifeless, airless and joyless.

I came back for the finale mainly to see where Paul Lieberstein left things before moving on to the planned Dwight spin-off, which should turn up at mid-season next year. “The Office” hasn’t technically been renewed at the time I’m writing this, but NBC yesterday reportedly closed deals to have Ed Helms, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer to return (while allowing them time off to do movies), so I imagine the renewal will come sometime later today. As dire as “The Office” has become creatively, it’s still NBC’s highest-rated comedy, and they need it for at least a half season (if not more) to lead into “Dwight’s Beet Farm,” or whatever it winds up being called.

We don’t know yet who will be taking over as showrunner, and the new boss could decide to undo some of the developments of the finale. Or maybe I’m just hoping s/he will. Andy as regional manager never really worked, and kept putting the character into too many watered-down Michael Scott scenarios, up to and including last night’s idiotic play-acting so his return to power could seem as dramatic as possible. And what I’ve seen of Catherine Tate as Nellie doesn’t have me eager to watch more of her as a kind of chaos agent within Dunder-Mifflin. And not that Robert California (or Bob Kazamakis, or whatever name he chooses to go by while “mentoring” uneducated Eastern European gymnasts) really worked out as an amusing antagonist, but bringing back David Wallace as a relatively sane(*) guy who (for now) fully supports Andy removes any non-Nellie tension away from the job. The staff likes him (as we were reminded over and over again in the early part of the season), the new CEO supports him, etc.

(*) Turns out he was entirely right to believe in the power of the Suck It! vacuum.

I’m going to watch an episode or two in the fall just to see what, if anything, the new showrunner can do about steering this very old, inflexible battleship in an interesting new direction. But I’m curious how those of you who stuck it out through the end of this season feel. Are you glad to have Andy back in charge? Are you invested at all in Darryl and Val? In the rekindled Dwight/Angela/HRG/Oscar quadrangle? If we assume next year really will be the end, is there anything the show hasn’t ever done that you want to see happen before it’s all over?

What did everybody else think?