It’s been obvious for some time that, with all due respect to the BBC original, NBC’s The Office is one of the great comedic works of our era. Staggeringly honest in its look at social behavior and personal values via the daily goings-on at a typical office workplace (here, the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the fictitious paper company Dunder Mifflin), it’s a full, rich realization of the episodic format to which few can hold a candle. Praise is due in equal parts to the actors as well as the show’s writers: The multifaceted characters bounce off each other in ways predictable, unexpected, and revelatory, while the writers’ flawlessly executed mockumentary device, in which the camera crew is a recognized presence in the office, helps to create and sustain the illusion of everyday life caught in motion.
Last season’s plentiful high water marks—from the profoundly hilarious (Dwight’s unannounced fire simulation) to the profoundly emotional (Jim’s tenderly impromptu proposal to Pam at a highway gas station)—culminated in the revelation that Pam (Jenna Fischer) is pregnant. For the first three episodes, season six has appeared to be rather frank in its not insubstantial efforts to stay the inevitable, and what with Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam’s wedding en route, it was hard not to feel anxious under even the best of circumstances. For the time being, it seems that the intended point being driven home is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Alas, even considering the show’s strengths, these three episodes came up wanting, as plotlines centered around Michael’s (Steve Carell) crass manners and tensions between Jim and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) have proven redundant in more than just concept. Though funny, we’ve seen and heard most of these jokes before, and for the time, it seems indicative of the unfortunate reality that any show that lasts this long risks an increasingly greater likelihood of the creative well running dry. It might seem like grilling an A+ student for B- work, but the fact remains that this is among the few times the show has spun its tires.
Only time will tell how the rest of this purportedly final season will play out, but having arrived at the monumental fourth episode (an hour-long feature dedicated to the aforementioned wedding at Niagara Falls), one can only agree to the virtues of patience as Jim raises his glass at a pre-ceremony dinner and—reminiscing on the long, long journey of winning Pam’s heart—makes a toast “to waiting.” A celebration of love and diversity that, at its peak, suggests a roving human landscape of Altmanesque proportions (romantic and chaotic, ecstatic and sublime), this episode delivers beyond all level of expectation. In a sequence almost dreamlike in tone, the entire cast reenacts the JK Wedding Entrance, and even those characters we find ourselves unable to look upon fondly, each a revealing and empathetic manifestation of familiar archetypes, prove an equally necessary presence in the world. Distilled to its essence, it argues that only love will correct our ills, and with Jim and Pam now where they belong (together, like the calm eye at the center of a turbulent storm), it appears that nothing is impossible.