The Office "A.A.R.M." Review: Love in the Time of a Series Finale

The Office S09E22: "A.A.R.M."


Now, with two episodes left, The Office is a show with an agenda.

As we watch the celebrated exits of long-time contributors from the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin (Andy last week, Darryl this week), I can't help but feel that they writers are ticking off line items from a dusty to-do list they've had since the second season (once the characters stopped being clones and the series diverged from the source material). It's all very important that these things happen, too. It's the difference between enjoying the end of the series and just watching the minutes roll by.

Jim probably accounts for a good amount of those to-dos, and he was a big focus in "A.A.R.M."—both with Pam and again with Dwight. Obvious fan service needed to be paid to Jam, though.

Season 9 for Jim and Pam has been dedicated to their moving through all the motions of a relationship that weren't explored in the last few seasons as we fell asleep during their scenes. The season opener was like horror movie rules as Pam suggested happily to the doc crew that nothing interesting ever happens to them—which, of course, was eventually followed by the largest obstacles Jim and Pam have faced since Roy still worked in the warehouse. It's debatable whether their struggles were really all that difficult compared to those of less rose-tinted, real-life couples, but the challenges were relatively large for them, and that mattered.

Everything that's happened this season, from Jim becoming distant for a few episodes to Pam's breakdown to the reconciliation was all service for that montage Pam watched in the breakroom. Jim's line: "You're not enough? You're everthing" felt like it's been waiting in the wings for years, waiting for a moment when Jim hadn't been the perfect human being for long enough that we could miss him being perfect. You could almost believe the doubt that was in Pam's mind, despite the fact that Jim's "distance" only lasted a few episodes and we only witnessed it a handful of times.

But as you can probably see, I'm torn on whether Jim and Pam's relationship troubles were what we needed to fall in love with them again, or if the post-montage scene being a tearjearker was mostly about nostalgia for the better times of the show.

The awwwww feeling was certainly helped along by stacked-up warm fuzzies in consecutive scenes. While Pam watched the montage to put a cap on her and Jim's story for the week, Jim was putting the cap on his and Dwight's arc. Last week, we discussed how Dwight's change of heart about Jim might've been a little sudden or even manufactured, but now I feel the need to walk that back. Starting with Dwight's petulance when Jim went part-time earlier this season, you could see the tide turning from this being a relationship between nemeses to it being a comraderie between veterans. I don't want to say the transition for them this season seemed more effortless than Jam's, but it was a little more subtle.

Seeing such a long-game goof by Jim was great, however. Pam mentioned that she loves "Goofy Jim" and I, have to admit, I love Goofy Jim myself. One of the brightest spots of the season for me was when Dwight found Young Halpert's treasure hunt, because it reminded me of the old Jim, the one that pranked Dwight to make himself feel alive. Ambitious Jim didn't need that. And Ambitious Jim was nearly the ruin of Jim.

So watching a well-orchestrated scheme featuring his vast knowledge of all things Dwight was equally a breath of fresh air and solemn relief. It's so fitting, now, to watch Jim close out the series with something that so defined his character at the beginning. And this week it segued nicely into that bond these two share which, even if Jim picks on Dwight, is mutual and, deep down, respectful.

So Jim's conversation with Dwight at the end about love and honesty with yourself, which overlapped Pam's viewing of the love montage and a Snow Patrol soundtrack, did double duty of checking a box off the list (showing how close these two men really are) while setting us up emotionally for the Pam and Jim scene where he uttered that line. Even if the total reconciliation feels unearned because of the confluence of different feelings from Jim, Pam, Dwight, you, and me with our nostalgia, we can let the Pam and Jim thing slide. It's been scratched off the list.

And then a new box: Dwight and Angela. Of all the things we saw coming at the beginning of the season, this one seemed the most obvious: Angela had birthed a Schrute baby and they would end up together. My eyes screwed up when Jim said that Dwight had "always" loved Angela (there was a time in Dwight's existence where you weren't even sure he was a sexual being) but their story was brought to the climax we'd always expected: Dwight and Angela are going to end up together. And she's going to wear a ring pulled out of Dwight's grandmother's butt. That's love, right there.

I know it seems like I'm giving Jim preferential treatment here, dedicating so many words to him even though his actions were only a portion of what happened (I'm purposefully ignoring Andy) but, to be fair, Jim was given heavy preferential treatment by the show. I don't know what the final episode has for in store for us (enough fifteen extra minutes and rumors that Michael Scott is going to show up), and it's probably going to include more warm fuzzies times ten. But this was a decent if uneven penultimate episode that gave us one last look at this quirky group of people in their office environment, not doing any work. Seriously, when do they work?



NOTES


– Okay, so I guess we have to talk about Andy a little bit. Last week, I said I'd be happy with Andy not being a part of The Office's final two hours, but in retrospect there was no way we'd ever be so lucky. Instead we got a mediocre story that stood in stark contrast to the emotional timbre of the rest of the episode. It was the same issue I had with his industrial safety video where it looked like he might've had an emotional beat in there, but it was so far-fetched and so over-the-top, it was easy to laugh at him. Which was probably by design. But it was jarring to switch back and forth between Pam's admission that she's not sure if she's good enough for Jim (another subject entirely) and Andy sitting on the ground, crying in old-man makeup. The reasoning might have been comic relief, but Andy's stories have contrasted everybody else's way too much, and this one threatened to remove the sentimentality of the rest of the episode.

– So, do you think the devolution of Kevin was just a long game for that joke where he was jealous of Angela's baby? I almost hope it was, so there could be a viable—if ridiculous—explanation for it.

– I'd knew beforehand that Mark McGrath, Santigold, and Clay Aiken were going to appear in this episode as guest-stars, but it was Aaron Rodgers who caught my eye, being a Packers fan since birth. My prediction was that he'd figure into the Athlead storyline, maybe for a visit in his hometown of Chino during the tour of the western United States. Instead he was a panel judge for a singing competition—which was kind of funny, but you have to wonder, why him? Because he's the new Peyton Manning (a football player with comic timing)? I guess I should just be glad he didn't do the Discount Double Check.

– CreedWatch: Creed had a few lines this week, but none that matched his material in the beginning of the season. He was on fire for a while, but lately he's been petering out. Such a disappointing end to what started as an MVP-caliber season. I hate to see that happen.


– I can't say enough about how happy I am not to actually be seeing the documentary. A pan across all the faces at Poor Richard's and the sound of Michael Scott's voice was all we needed. There's no possible way that showing any part of the documentary, assembled from nine years of footage, would be satisfactory for anyone in the audience. Besides, you've already watched the producer's cut.

– That Brian thing evaporated pretty quick, didn't it? No mention of him since he tried to convince Pam that Jim was a monster.

– Quote of the evening goes to Stanley. When everyone else panicked about the public's response to documentary, the Senator had the most to lose. Stanley was a close second. I'm interested to see his happy ending. Or whether the last episode partially takes place at his funeral.

Comments (25)
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I don't like that Jim has to give up his dreams for a better life for him and his family because Pam can't grow up emotionally. She doesn't want to move to Philly, she seems to have given up on her murals, and she constantly needs reminders from Jim that she's doing the right thing by crushing his soul and forever sentencing him to hell at a paper company. Didn't she just see a montage of Jim's love for her? I thought this would be the episode that Pam realizes there's better things on the horizon, and actually supported her husband as a man instead of a clown in a small town, who's only sense of accomplishment and worth at work is gained from pranking his boss. Having Jim go through all of this just to baby her, yet seeing Darryl happy to get out, really put a damper on their relationship to me, and by extension, the whole episode. I love goofy Jim too, but character growth means a lot more to me. Besides, isn't Jim goofy at home?
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Is it just me or does the guy in the cowboy hat in the crowd when Andy is waiting in line looks an awful lot like John C. McGinley with a mustache ?
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How is it feasible that Dwight would start believing that he is the baby's father after a DNA test proved he wasn't a season ago? The writers really have to explain that, because the only way Dwight would start suspecting the baby is actually his is if he knew the DNA test was falsified.

As for the two of them being together I can't think of a more perfect way for them to do it than Angela flipping her shit and cursing at him while Dwight screams at her through a megaphone.
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I still don't understand why they treated Andy liked this. I used to like the character and the whole season was a strange attempt to turn him into somebody we all hate for no visible purpose. Just like I didn't believed Jim could change so fast into a sexist/macho version of himself, I had a hard time feeling that the guy who gave up his work to go to Florida to be with the girl he loved, was the same guy who left her for three months, wants to be famous and think of nothing but himself. Okay he always was unrealistic and weird but now it's just too much and he actually manages to be more pathetic than Michael Scott ever wars. So it was a funny and relatively good season but a lot of things felt forced in term of characters development.
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" Just like I didn't believed Jim could change so fast into a sexist/macho version of himself" I agree. I could barely stand the direction Jim and Pam went in this season. I know some here keep complaining Jim & Pam were boring but I actually didn't have a problem with Jim & Pam being a tv couple who got together and were actually happy afterwards - it was a refreshing change. I felt they were still strong characters who added to what was going on in the office. The real problem was that the office as a whole had started to get boring and inconsistent. And this was true even before Michael left. Michael reuniting with Holly was a miraculous save and renewal at the time for Michael's character and the show as a whole.

Nonetheless, it's amazing how emotional you can feel with shows that get a proper series finale even if the last couple seasons hadn't been the same; a lot like "Lost" was in recent history. I'm sure I will feel very sad to say goodbye this thursday.
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I just rewatch the entire series and I don't think The Office got boring before Michael left. In fact the whole series is quite consistent in quality until they have to find another manager. In season 8 it felt like writers didn't know what kind of stories they wanted to tell anymore. It was a show that already had a proper ending but was forced to last another year. However I didn't have that feeling with season 9. Some things felt forced but it seems they knew where they were going and we managed to have good (and sometimes great) episodes.
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true. i didn't mean to imply that I thought the Office ever got that bad - it's always been a great show for me overall.
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I must admit that in regards to this show and this show only... I'm emotionally bankrupt. There is very little that can happen in this show that can make me appreciate the "awwww moments." This entire season the writers have been trying to emotionally hijack us in such a half-assed fashion that I think I'm numb now lol. I did enjoy the Darryl and The Office dance scene though.
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Am I the only one who is confused about how Phillip is a Schrute even though the DNA test said otherwise?
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My best guess is that there was more than one baby at the photo shoot (including Jim and Pam's Phillip.) I hope they explain it but I'm guessing he grabbed the wrong diaper.
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I asked the same question. Wasn't it a nurse of a doctor that gave him the news?
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Solid review. This was a stronger episode because Jim was a character with purpose, and that purpose wasn't to be the Athlead guy who goes on the road for months at a time and schmoozes rich people who play games for a living, it was to be the guy who loves his wife and the life they've built together, it was to be the guy who helps keep his coworkers happy and amused. It also did a real thing with the flashback video gag instead of just preying on sentiment, it produced something Jim never gave Pam until now. It also helped that it was funny and touching without feeling forced, and it wasn't all Jim, there was Oscar and Angela, Dwight and Jim, Dwight and Angela, and the gang at Poor Richards.

That said, yes there was the Andy material, and that was a complete waste of our time, to call it "mediocre" would be generous. There was no logic to following Andy to this cattle call tryout, nor was there logic to him putting on makeup and then breaking in and half-assing his singing, but on the other hand, the payoff of him just sauntering into the bar to watch the doc with his friends actually felt very solid, very nice, he wasn't there to talk about him or to get his job back or to be antics-man, he was just there to be there, so maybe that was the payoff of one more awful Andy story.

Kevin playing the (barely) older brother role to Angela's baby was too much for me, and no I don't think they were playing the long game there, it's just the natural evolution of bad writing over time expressing itself.

Mark McGrath was hilarious as the host of this show, that was a crackup. Clay Aiken is so weird looking now!

Dwight's ending of the episode was awesome, very Dwight, and Angela's reveal was what I called from the outset. Solid work, and their wedding should be epic, 6 months down the road in general should be epic.
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How do you not mention the dance with Darryl and the rest of the office?! That was epic!

I really enjoyed the sentimental nature of the episode, and I've kind of forgiven Andy at this point - does anyone even remember that Andy's absence was the result of Ed Helms having to shoot Hangover 3? That kind of made him into a villain for no reason, and he has been such an important part of this show for so long now. Was he a jerk in the beginning of this season? Sure. But that's not a reason to forget the rest of his time at The Office.

Obviously, it was awesome to see Jim and Pam back to where they should be, but it was a nice touch to finally allow Dwight and Angela to be happy. Rainn Wilson pretends to be this off-putting, weird character in playing Dwight each episode, but you can really see his acting ability as he tears up when Jim convinces him to finally propose to Angela. Very nice job by Rainn Wilson there.

Personally, I would like to see the finished documentary. We've been watching the filming for nine years - wouldn't it be nice to see how it all came out? Maybe just release it as a bonus feature for the DVD/Blu-ray and iTunes Season Pass.

I really can't wait for next week - a super-sized 75 minute finale with a very likely possibility that Steve Carrell will be making a cameo. It's already been announced that it will take place months after the airing of the documentary with the office members coming together for a wedding (Dwight and Angela, perhaps?), so I hope it doesn't get to "clip-showy" and sticks with the sentimental farewell this show deserves.

This really is an end of an era - besides for Big Bang Theory and maybe Modern Family, it's hard to imagine many shows in the coming years will get to air 201 episodes and make such an impact on so many people. This has been a great run, and I look forward to seeing the conclusion on Thursday.
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I guess we really needed the Brian thing to feel this warm and fuzzy about Pam watching the DVD. And it worked for me. Nick is certainly right to point out everything that went wrong with this storyline, but it's the final season and I forgive them for shaking things up a little.
I can't wait to watch the finale next week!
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Andy's storyline is absolutely unbearable to watch. I literally hate it.
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I'm not ashamed to admit it that I got misty eyed during the Jim & Pam montage... the rest was eh for me.
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Yeah, what was the point of Brian? The writers came down with Changnesia on that one.

Also, Jim cheated -- Boy Meets World had more than one theme song.
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But only one of them had words
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Jim and Dwight was spectacular, such a fitting way to tie up their relationship. Stupid question didn't they have a DNA test for Angela's baby already?
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That's what I thought, seems they just go against the DNA test from last season :p
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Was? :P
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I've missed Jim's antics with Dwight.
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It was a very good set-up episode to the finale for me. The Jim/Pam montage was well done. Didn't make me weepy, but gave me a great nostalgia feeling about how long its been for this show. Nine years and its finally coming to an end. I loved the memories that montage brought back for me.

I also loved the Darryl dance with his co-workers. In fact, the whole setup for it was quite funny. Instead of sneaking out, he went out with a bang!!! Loved it, loved it, loved it.

And of course, Dwight and Angela. All I have to say about that is IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!!
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I haven't even watched this yet. I just had to comment on Jim's "days since last nonsense" sign. I don't know why but I found that hilarious.
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This episode worked well as a penultimate and I think it is a great set up for the finale. You are right though, the Jim/Pam montage didn't make me weepy eyed because of how much they loved each other, it made me nostalgic of why I loved this show so much to begin with which is why I am excited, and a little heavy-hearted, to see the end of 9 years in The Office I wish I worked at. (Minus Andy)
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