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The Office Series Finale Review: That'll Do, Show. That'll Do.

The Office S09E24: "Finale"


Of all the things that the mockumentary/cinema-verité style did for The Office, chief among them was that it provided the show with a format perfectly suited for a series finale. Look at all those other sucker sitcoms who have to nestle their end-of-show character assessments and recollections into some sort of hackneyed story, while the good folks of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton just got to look directly into the camera and tell you whatever thoughtful and eloquent thing sprang to mind. There's no room for soliloquy in your run-of-the-mill sitcom.

 Like Cory said in the comments of our list of The Office's top 25 episodes, last week's "A.A.R.M." could have been a finale except it lacked a certain direction for many of the characters. The series finale, without pretense, was a where-are-they-now and, seemingly, everyone got their happy ending, as you would expect. Except Toby. But you probably expected that, too.

Before sitting down at the banquet that was "Finale," there were certain things we knew going in with regard to what we'd be dining on: (1) Pam was going to redeem herself, (2) there was going to be a lot of manipulation, and (3) by the end of it, we'd feel like it was the last day of senior year and all your friends were going far away for college.

After Jim and Pam made up, the show decided to capitalize on the large gesture Jim made to come home. Basically, over the course of the season, the audience was split on whether or not Jim was being a jerk for moving forward on plans to move to Philadelphia; some supported Jim for chasing a dream and some supported Pam's disillusionment and concern with regard to Jim's distance. By making sure he made the big move back to Scranton, quitting on his dream and stationing himself at a paper company that represents mediocrity, the show brought the entire audience over to Jim's side. Pam overhearing Darryl's news about Athlead, which Jim rejected as not being in-line with his life anymore, was basically a telegraph to us that she was about to make that decision for him.

It was the ultimate in Jim's Betterman story. He was the prototype for every Betterman story on The Office. Angela was engaged to Andy but Dwight was the Betterman. Erin was dating Gabe but Andy was the Betterman. Val and her boyfriend were no match for Darryl Betterman. Even Angela at the end of the series was a Betterman. It's about meekness and inheriting what you want.

Jim hosted an "aw shucks" clinic at the panel, which was populated with fewer audience proxy questions than I thought there would be. The fact that most of them had to do with Jam was about right, though. The point was that, with Jim defending Pam's doubt and being unfazed when the audience reacted so strongly to their relationship, we saw a microcosm of what we now know wore Pam down to start showing the house and clearing the path to what Jim wants. Pam loved her stagnant life. But Jim was the Betterman.

The panel itself started to open the floodgates of manipulation. It started with Andy getting some love from the documentary fans, continued through the Jim and Pam questions, and peaked with the Erin story. Erin searching for her birth mother is a vague recollection somewhere deep in my memory of the series, so vague that I'm not even sure it's a real memory or one created by this episode. "Oh, right. The birth mother thing. Yeah, I totally remember that." I remember Devon more than I remember Erin looking for her biological mother.

And, yet, when she ran to her mom and hugged her, I couldn't help but get a little misty. That shouldn't have felt earned at all (and I would venture to guess that more than a few of you might've rolled your eyes at such an endeavor). Maybe it's my affection for the Erin character or maybe it was just the performance. Or maybe I'm just scarred by watching that Belle & Sebastian cartoon as a kid and whenever a child gets reunited with their mother after years of absence, I get a little trembly. Whatever it is, I'm recognizing that we shouldn't've felt anything for that moment but it still seemed to work on some level.

The panel, however, only set the floodgates ajar. We headed into Dwight's wedding and it was one Guten Pranken on the audience after another, the dam completely open. And it opened with a bang. I should've known that, in order to keep the secret, Steve Carell would straight up lie to everyone with that flimsy excuse of, "Oh, I think it's truer to the character if he never returns." Garbage. Hot garbage. I can't believe I fell for that. Of course Michael Scott would attend Dwight's wedding and be the bestest mensch and hang out with all of the people that he loves the most in the world. It's the only thing that makes sense. But I'm glad his return was still uncertain because the reveal was made that much sweeter.

Following that, the hits to our tears ducts just kept on coming. The wedding itself in accordance with the Schrute tradition. Stanley made a Phyllis bird sculpture and we got to see them dance together. "Come on, Toby! Let's go to the after party!" Jam selling their house. Pam reminding us about the butt mural. Everyone going upstairs to hang out together. Pam returning to her receptionist desk. And then came the video testimonials.

The emotion that you want at the end of a series is that you know everyone is riding off into the sunset for their own good. You'll miss them, but you want them to be happy and continuing somewhere. Giving us the words of wisdom from every individual cast member (except, curiously, Angela) to absorb while we were sniffling and trying not to embarrass ourselves with tears was the tricky way to work in old footage while also making sure to give us that feeling of satisfaction. It felt okay to say goodbye because it was the right atmosphere. Nothing was too abrupt. Nothing was painfully overwrought. Everyone got their shot (okay, Pam got to go twice) to speak the erudite and sentimental things we all think for these characters. And I'm okay with that.


It was the kind of finale where you take a big sigh of relief at the end. Your brow wasn't crinkled like it was at the end of Seinfeld. You didn't roll your eyes like when Will Smith turned out the lights on Fresh Prince. But you also weren't overwhelmed like you might have been at the end of Mad About You (seriously, go back and watch that series finale—it's amazing). It was just right. For as much as we complained about the latter half of the series and yearned for the Michael Scott years, the ending was more about the fact that you took a journey with these characters. Even though we're parting ways and the last few miles or so were pretty bumpy, we're still good with these people.

And we can all agree that Athleap is a ridiculous name for a company.


FINAL NOTES

– It was a good idea to include everyone in the opening credits for the end of the series. I know that it was probably a business thing or some motif that made it so that only a handful of characters were in the opening but I'm happy to see that everyone got to be featured.

– Anyone else wish now that Bill Hader had taken Ed Helms' place as Andy for this past season?

– That being said, what a good way to turn Andy's character around. What a way to show growth in the span of a single episode.

– It was nice to see the show confirm that I'd want Jim to plan my bachelor party. I want to shoot a bazooka.

– "Gentle, Jakey! Gentle!" I'm really happy that they put a really, really awkward scene in the middle of the episode. Get back to your roots, show.

– Mose is still a Top 5 character on this show for me. I think it's just the stiffness of his running. The kidnapping was extraordinary.

– CreedWatch: I was a afraid the only thing we were going to get from Creed was that he was on the run from the cops, that we wouldn't see him for the rest of the episode. But we got plenty, including a little singalong. And his last words, "Let's do this." I'm going to miss you, Creed.

– Why not have Angela walk down the aisle to "Sweet Child of MIne" by Guns and Roses?

– With that, "That's what she said" is officially done. You must now all to switch to "Phrasing!" if you haven't already.

– "I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other." Ah, yes. Vocalization of the Friends syndrome that The Office represents.

– "This stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job." Way to put it in a capsule, Jim.

– Lastly, these two idiots deserve each other.

What'd you think of "Finale"?

Comments (111)
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Highlights and observations:

Erin lighting up and saying "Really?", when the woman who turned out to be her mother said she had a question for her.

Stanley and Phyllis.

Oscar being the one to carry Phillip down the aisle: I knew he and Angela were destined to be best friends.

Pam is Dwight's best friend.

The smile on Jim's face during the entire bachelor party.

Kelly and Ryan can only bring out the worst in each other, but they definitely deserve each other. Also, are you trying to tell me that Kelly and her pediatrician lasted two years? He seemed so normal.

Meredith has been getting a degree in psychology!

Of course Michael got two phones. Of course he did.

"I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you've left them." Such crying bait. Totally worked.
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God... you mentioned "Belle & Sebastian"... that's epic. Didn't even know Americans could have seen that show.

Great series finale; great article.
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Nickelodeon used to show it in the mornings on the weekend during the 80s. My six-year old self would sit on the couch and sob, pointing at the TV, trying to tell Sebastian, "She's right there! Turn around! She's behind you!"
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Haven't seen it mentioned much but what's up with Krasinski being in every episode this season? A big deal was made of him and Helms needing plenty of time off before the season began and I assumed that part of the reason for him going to Philadelphia was to write him off for awhile. But ultimately, unlike Andy, Jim never left once this season.
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I'd like an explanation on how Dwight was able to fire Toby, considering no one before him ever could (and this was considered to be one of the reasons Micheal hated him -the lack of authority over him and he reported directly to corporate).
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Well before they always had "corporate" to report to, now they really only had David Wallace as anything above the Manager position, so what is Toby gonna do, run off to David?
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That could be possible but I would have liked to at least get a full explantion in the episode. And I'm sure there are more people at the new corporate than David, it's not as if he's doing everything on his own. There's too many branches.
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I've read these post and felt like I was re-living the Finale (which I still have on the DVR and will re-watch) But I've noticed that not one post ever mentioned Robert California (James Spader) He was part of the show for a year...nothing made of him. Maybe HE was the Scranton Strangler. Just sayin'
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The Scranton Strangler thing was cleared up earlier in the season when Toby visited the man convicted of the crime and the man's behavior in the episode implied that the person convicted was in fact the Scranton Strangler.
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Although it could just be that Toby went to go visit the person he helped frame as the Scranton Strangler and the man reacted violently to facing the true murderer that ruined his life. Yeah, it's probably exactly what's on the surface but it's more fun to me to imagine Toby's awkwardness/creepiness being a symptom of his night-time strangling vice.
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It certainly would be more interesting, but I'm glad they never revealed any cast members as the strangler. That would be too much. It would have been far too dramatic of a departure in character for any characters.
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This is how you do an ending....
Jeffrey Lieber can learn a thing or two about Finale.
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Was Steve Carrel paid for this episode by the line? There were a number of shots where he was in the background talking, but he only actually said 2 lines.
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I'm with you, would have been better if Carrel talked about Holli and the kids, but no we had to hear it from another cast member that they had kids.
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I think they just wanted to keep the focus on the other characters and keep Michael as a little cameo.
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I love this show and while I truly missed the Micheal Scott seasons, this finale was nigh perfect!
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Honestly the show never really acted like Erin was actively searching for her birth mother, as the ONLY reference to it was the one episode where they thought Phyllis might have been her mother, so that was unexpected and I fully admit had me in tears. There are still a few unanswered questions, like who was Stanleys second and third affairs, the first being his nurse from his post heart attack rehab, this last episode makes me think Phyllis may be one of them.
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I couldn't ask for a better ending. Sentimental and sweet, but so true to what it was, with no overly Corney sentiments. Can't begin to explain how much I will miss this show.
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I'll miss you most of all Creed... Let's do this.
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Congratulations to the writers for a great series finale!! I thought it was wonderful.
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One small complaint: Where was Amy Ryan? Her character was such and important cog in Michael's story arc and she doesn't attend the wedding, while Michael is showing pictures of their kids? What happened?
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I thought about that too, my only thought could be having Holly return might in some small way take away from any time with Michael. Obviously they would be together so having her show up would just add another person to the scene without any real reason to. We, as an audience, don't have the connection to Holly that we do with Michael, and I'd imagine the showrunners wanted to keep it as simple and effective as possible.
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i love it...cry with the creed song and i will really really miss The Office...
godbye
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While I am happy with the amount of Michael, I think he deserved to be up in the office in those last 15 minutes of the show hanging with his friends. He could've called one last ridiculous conference room meeting.

Also, I'll always wish we would've seen Michael and Holly's wedding at some point in the show.

So basically I just love Michael Scott.
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And where was Holly? They brought everyone back, but her. Strange
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Well, the full quote was "I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other. Just what every parent wants." It was the second half that made it funny and squicky...a perfect Michael Scott statement where you know what he's trying to say but he gets it horribly wrong.

It was just about as perfect a series finale as you could hope for although I would have stretched it out to 90 minutes and shown more of what a Schrute wedding looks like (unlimited potential for jokes there).

The only bit that was sour was the part about the baby. First, Ryan taking responsibility for the baby was weird and uncharacteristic (he would have called a relative or child services) and then later, dumping the baby among a group of unrelated friends and running off with Kelly was just beyond contemptible. I mean, Ryan and Kelly were always self-absorbed but that was almost criminal. And handing off the baby to Nellie to take to Poland as if you were passing along an unwanted book? Just a strange writing choice and not exactly a happy ending for Nellie (whom I've actually grown to like).

The most uncomfortable moment to me was when Meredith was dancing with her stripper son. But then, Meredith reliably provided her fair share of awkward moments.

But all in all, probably one of the Top 10 (if not Top 5) series finales I've seen. ; )
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They had me at:
"I can't believe you came!"
"That's what she said!"
...cute and hilarious.
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Very good ending, would disagree with anyone who said there should have been more Michael, they just got it right, I could have even done without a talking dead anything more wouldn't have felt right, he had his ending he just turned up because Dwight was getting married.
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Not bad even from a non-Office fan. :)
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I forgot to add in my first post, I completely remember the Erin searching for her biological mother only because there was some dancing around with it being Phyllis.
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It was a great ending. I think at this point nobody wanted any big surprises or twists or anything like that. There is a ton to comment on but I really enjoyed that Jim set up such a good time for Dwight, I was really hoping he wasn't setting him up. Also... Pam is Dwight's best friend, just saying.
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I love that about Dwight and Pam c:
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To sum up the show in just one word : Perfect. It was the best episode in what seems like a lifetime, and it really closed up a story while still leaving that open horizon for the characters you'll never see again to ride off into.

I was so happy that Steve Carrell made the time to come back for the finale. Even though his time on screen was brief, it was true and pure Michael Scott. Well, except that it appears he had some tan leftover from The Amazing Burt Wonderstone.

When Jim started to tell Dwight that he could not be the "best man", I scotted forward in my seat and got giddy like a little kid waiting for Santa Claus. Is it Michael!? It's going to be Michael!! Come on, Michael......YES!".

Now that the show's over, I'm going to fire up Netflix and watch it from Episode 1 on in the near future.
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I thought this was a really awesome ending to this show! I started crying when Michael showed up – his cameo was perfect. I actually wasn’t home to watch The Office finale when it came on because I was on my way home from my shift at DISH. I have the DISH Anywhere app on my iPad though, so I was able to watch it on the bus. It’s so cool being able to use this app to watch live or recorded television wherever I go. It definitely makes my commute a lot more fun!
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I am both relieved and sad that the show is done. I mean a lot of the last two seasons have been somewhat tedious to watch, but I will miss these idiots dearly. The ending wasn't perfect but it was a perfect representation of the show fun, silly, weird and heartfelt. And every Michael moment made me tear up, that was the icing on top of the finale!
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This finale was perfect. I thought it was brilliant and lovely, funny and sad, silly and serious. I completely remember Erin's search for her birth parents, in fact the moment Joan Cusack addressed Erin I was like "She's her mother!". I sobbed when Michael appeared in the doorway and laughed when Ryan abandoned his baby (was it his his or just his ex-gf's?) and ran off with Kelly; just perfect for the two of them. I loved what they did with all the characters. It definitely made up for the lackluster past couple seasons and actually made every one of those episodes seem more important now, just the fact that they were leading up to this one. I've been with this show since day one and I will miss it.
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It wasn't an all EPIC ending but it was an adequate ending for a show which had a lot of ups and downs over the years. I will miss the show next fall and I'll follow its former stars on their future endeavors!
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Surprised you didnt mention the Dave Chappelle cameo in the beginning. But the episode was so good that by the end you even forgot the dude made a cameo. To me it was a big deal because that was Chappelles return to television in how long now??
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That was actually the wonderfully talented Malcolm Barrett, most well known from Better Off Ted. He is confused with Chappelle often enough that he makes jokes about it.
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I didn't see Chappelle. His name wasn't in the credits. There were names in the credits of people I didn't see, like Bill Hader & Seth Meyers. They must have been part of the wedding crowd. I was happy to see Eric Wareheim, though.
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If you're referring to the guy who was replacing Stanley, I don't believe that was Dave Chappelle. He did kind of look like him though, only a little more of a fuller/chubbier face.
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White people think all black people look alike. **shakes head**
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They did a cameo as a SNL sketch making fun of Andy's viral video.
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Of course! I forgot about that. I need to watch the whole thing again.
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I'm surprised you didn't mention the scranton strangler and toby thing... I was waiting for the reveal the entire episode, thx to you. lol.
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The only thing about the finale that I would have changed would be to take away Michael's 2nd line. "That's what she said", was all he really needed to say and it WAS the best one of them all. I'm glad they kept him in the background so we could say goodbye to the rest of the cast. I already shed my tears for Michael a few years ago, it was the rest of the cast's turn. Brilliantly done.
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His character was much more than "that's what she said" though. That second line reinforced the idea that Michael's phrasing isn't the best.
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I was a great finale to a great show. Michael Scott's reveal absolutely shocked the crap out of me. I really have nothing negative to say how the show ended. It kept everything real and gave every character, except Toby LOL, a good sense of closure. I'll definitely miss The Office.
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It's hard for me to make my mind about this episode. I was moving and yet it's definitly not one of my favorite episode on the show. A lot of think in it felt very weird, like Ryan giving up his baby and Nellie taking him (now that's a disturbing happy ending for those characters!) or Michael being here without really being here (two lines? seriously?) or Erin's parents showing up as if everything were forgiven. I also thought that a lot of characters and storylines were abandonned in order to focus more on Jim and Pam, For instance what happened to the all Erin and Andy's love story? After years of chasing each other, they break up and then...nothing? Finally it felt a lot like watching a making-of of the show while I was expecting a finale "traditional" episode so the show could ends with a bang. It was moving and it was a good ending but it wasn't a great one.
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This was awesome, just awesome. They really did things well considering how this last season has mostly gone. I was really thrilled they finally mentioned Creed in The Grass Roots having art imitating life and vice versa.

As light as a comedy should be and mostly about laughs, there were really lots of real life lessons to be looked at and followed. What Pam said about "going for it" and "life is short" is so true.

And when Michael arrived, just forget it on how I pumped the fist and got all misty.

To better their lives, it ends up the way it should for Jim and Pam but I just have to be in Pam's camp from the beginning since you just don't do what Jim did when you're married. Call me the traditionalist but ultimately it all worked out and that's what counts.

It was "nice" about Erin's reunion but definitely a lot considering this wasn't some indepth on going story line.

So the Nard-dog gets respect in a roundabout way so that's better than nothing. I may be in the minority and have said it before but I really was against how they wrote Andy this last season. He always was that bumbling likable jerk but to make him into what he ended up was just not warranted in my opinion.

I caught up with The Office in early 2010 so can only imagine someone going week to week since 2005. It was definitely time but the characters will be missed for sure.
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I too hated how they destroyed Andy's character this season. It seemed forced and unnecessary.
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When Mose looked longingly at the scarecrow, I could not stop laughing for two solid minutes!
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why would you roll your eyes at the Fresh Prince finale?
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I laughed, I cried and I felt happy that they decided not to do a spin-off series.
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I actually quit watching the show after the 9th episode of this season, because, well, it kinda sucked. But because I'd seen every episode of the show before this season, I figured I'd HAVE to watch this series finale.

For the most part, I liked it. It had its sweetness, its stupidity, and its humor. The only thing I kind of disliked was Erin's "reunion" with her parents at the panel. That seemed both forced and lame. Sorry. There were a few other things, but I kind of chalked those up to not following along the storylines for most of this season.
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Remember the documentary have made the characters famous so it's only natural for abandoner parents to come crawling out of the woodwork...
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It was the perfect ending to the series.
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The best episode to end an awesome show. You will be missed, The Office. :')
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GREAT finale. Steve Carrell did us all a huge favor by lying about his return. When Jim is talking to Dwight before the wedding I was starting to get what they were doing and I had this huge smile on my face and then they pan to Michael Scott.

"Michael, you came" "That's what she said". Any "That's what she said" jokes are now jumping the shark. Saved the best for last. I also liked how Jim's last prank on Dwight was a happy prank and not a "gotcha" prank. If that makes sense. While the last couple of seasons weren't top notch overall I loved the series and will probably be firing up some of these old episodes on Netflix. I know I'll miss the holiday themed episodes. Not many shows do those anymore it seems and The Office usually hit them far out of the park.
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Never has a Thats what she said, been so sentimental.
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The cold open was fantastic. It's about time they fired Kevin, but I still felt awful for him. And I laughed a lot.
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I thought that this was a great and satisfying finale. This was a perfect way to end an amazing show.
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If kevin just hadn't said that one line, then the finale (in my opinion) would have be great!
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What line?
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I would have hoped for more Michael Scott, or maybe just more spotlight and a happy happy ending for everyone...but it was a beautiful finale :'( There was closure, and it seemed to pretty much end perfectly for everyone (kind of like Fringe).
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Today last episode of season 9. Tomorrow first episode of season 1
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Amazing finale.

Only didn't understand why Michael didn't come to the afterparty. Especially after that travel. And Holly could have made an appearance.

Roy wasn't there, but I guess he's returned throughout the years anyways.

Also odd that Angela was the only one without an interview at the end like mentioned above.
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Michael already said goodbye to them and to us.

While it was amazing to see him come back, and the finale would have felt like it was missing a piece without him, I think it was fitting that he skip the after party. The other characters stuck with The Office until the end, even if those were lesser years. It's only fair to those characters (and actors) that Michael not be there at the very end to steal the show (and we all know he would have).
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Roy was at the party in the warehouse, actually. They didn't make much effort to show him, though. He's got long hair now.
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I thought Toby would come clean about being the Scranton Strangler....
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It was especially bittersweet because I've come to enjoy NBC's Thursday now more than any other night of network TV in recent years, and the total uncertainty of where it's heading could mean last night might be my last watching it in full. So sad.
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Overall, a really great finale. I have to admit, I hadn't been watching the Office regularly for the last couple seasons. In my dark pre-DVR days I had to make a choice and I the Office had been dipping in quality so I chose to pass on it. But I've still kept up with the show over the years and made a point to watch particular episodes.

I did well through the beginning the panel. The second that Dwight and Jim were getting ready right before the ceremony, I knew exactly what was coming. The second we had the choked up "That's What She Said" I started tearing up. And it kept going from there.

I agree that the premise of the show lent itself to the PERFECT series finale in the sense that you can just have the character's say all these existential things you would want from a finale and it feel like it fits and isn't out of character.

This will most likely go down as one of my favorite series finales of all time. The degree of closure but setting up the characters for their future paths was very well balanced.
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one of the things you left out, which i think deserves mentioning, is dwight's growth. What i mean by that is his firing jim and pam before they could quit, so that they could each get a full month's pay for each year of employment, the maximum allowed, and both were working there at the start of the series, so who knows how much that is. also his "exit interview" in which he calls all his subordinates, his friends. Dwight from even a few years ago would never have done that. and i think that point deserved recognition in this review, but was sadly left out.
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i re-watched the finale and jim mentions he worked there for 12 years. not sure about pam.
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