Tonight was the farewell episode of one of television’s most beloved characters. Like Michael J Fox’s farewell from Spin City, Steve Carell’s departure from The Office will probably be remembered as the series’ true finale, no matter how many years it continues on from here.
Michael’s final arc had its ups and downs, as did his final episode. Deangelo (Will Ferrell), Michael’s (most likely temporary) replacement is both unlikable and unfunny, making some of these final episodes (and especially the tag of this week’s) hard to watch.
But watching those couple episodes wherein Michael and Holly found each other again, got engaged and decided to move to Colorado, you just knew that the writers were sending the boss off in the most fitting way possible.
The final farewell began last week, at the end of a somewhat mediocre Dundies episode, when the entire office burst into a re-written version of “Seasons of Love” recalling Michael’s minutes at Dunder Mifflin. The moment was remarkably touching and would set the tone for the episode to come.
Tonight, a few misguided jokes aside, was a truly wonderful episode of The Office. Each character was given their proper goodbye as Michael slowly checked them all off a list. We witnessed funny goodbyes to the warehouse, Darryl, Angela, Creed, Meredith, Kevin, Oscar, Toby, Stanley, Gabe, Ryan, Kelly and Phyllis- each one paying perfect tribute to the seven season relationship they shared with Michael.
Then there was Andy, the worst salesman in the office, to whom Michael touchingly gave his best accounts, a show that he believed in him. The gesture was perfectly Michael- irrational, misguided, rash, sentimental, thoughtful and somehow exactly the right thing to do.
Dwight’s goodbye was lovely as well- the greatest recommendation letter you could ever write (read with fantastically conflicted sarcasm by the amazing Rainn Wilson), and an epic parking lot paintball battle.
But it was when Michael bid adieu to Erin that I started to lose it. The new receptionist has quickly become my favourite supporting character in the office and so much of that has had to do with her relationship with Michael. As a substitute father, Michael’s best qualities have been brought out by Erin over her short years behind the reception desk. Their farewell was hopelessly touching but, wonderfully, also one of the funniest.
Jim and Pam was a tough one. Pam wasn’t there and we were meant to believe she’d miss him completely. I didn’t buy it for a minute though. So while I was obviously happy to see her say her farewell at the airport, I wished it had been a little less movie-cliched. Jim, on the other hand, said the perfect goodbye. The most consistently written character, Jim appropriately figured out Michael’s plan to leave a day early and miss the drama of a real final day. He also, appropriately, refused to get in the way of that. True to form, the stoic salesman played it cool but allowed little morsels of sentimentality to leak through. His affectionate look to the camera after one of Michael’s trademark goofs, the wordless way he nodded goodbye, how he promised to tell Michael that he was “the best boss he ever had” at the lunch both of them knew they wouldn’t have tomorrow- Jim’s goodbye was the most character-perfect arc in the episode.
Then we get to the airport and, heartbreakingly, Michael (and, by proxy, Carell) bids adieu to the audience by talking to the men behind the mockumentary cameras that have been following him all this time. He asks them to call “if this thing ever airs” then with a final “it’ll be nice to get this off my chest” removes the microphone from inside his shirt and returns it to them. He says his final goodbye, unheard, then walks off past security towards Holly and his new family. With that little nod to the format we take for granted, Michael Scott said farewell exactly as he should have.
Who knows (or cares, really) where the show goes from here. Steve Carell was The Office for 7 years and with tonight’s episode, it’s now an entirely different show.