It’s been just over a decade since Michael Scott left The Office in Season 7. In the episode, “Goodbye, Michael”, Steve Carell was no longer a regular on the hit mockumentary comedy.
After Michael’s official exit from the show, many fans expressed their dissatisfaction with the final two seasons of the Office, noting that the quality declined. I mean, after losing THE BOSS, a core staple of the show after seven seasons, you’d expect there to be a different tone of the show. That’s not being denied.
However, I’m here to pitch my case on why The Office is still worth watching until the end. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, as I want people who have made it to this point to be convinced to make it through to the end.
The Office Isn’t About Michael Scott
First thing’s first, the whole premise of The Office is that the workers are a part of a documentary series about an American Workplace. The documentary crew showcases the daily life at a paper company in Scranton, PA, Dunder Mifflin.
In the first seven seasons of the show, a lot of the action revolves around Michael Scott. He’s not your average boss, with a penchant for improv comedy and being oblivious to social boundaries and taboos. At the end of the day, he just wants a family and he turns to his office-mates to fill that void.
But for as much as the series promotes the antics of Michael, the show isn’t about him. There are numerous stories that permeate the patched drywall of Dunder Mifflin’s offices. You have the lifelong dream of Dwight K. Schrute to become the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin. You have the sometimes-tragic storyline of Andy Bernard, who just wants to forge his own path on the way to parental approval. And of course, you have the romantic thread of Pam Beesly and Jim Halpert, the apparent soulmates.
The Office wouldn’t be the same without the people who work there. Everybody has a role to play within the greater dynamics of the office, but they also have their own role in painting the story of an average workplace. Their personalities and mannerisms are what makes the office special; Michael isn’t the only one who works there.
Michael’s Departure Let the Other Characters Flourish
So many episodes up to this point revolved around Michael and his decisions. Usually it was withholding information from the employees, or sometimes it was something as benign as Safety Training. Regardless, Dunder Mifflin was always abuzz with some activity or another.
Because of this, however, The Office seemed to focus on four main characters: Michael, Jim, Pam, and Dwight. The rest of the characters, it seemed, were just secondary characters who were only present to fill a swivel chair with an occasional line.
After Michael left The Office, there was a sort of a power vacuum that needed to be filled. I largely consider Jim and Pam’s stories to be mostly intertwined to the point that they’re a single character. So, we are left with a third ‘major-character’ slot in seasons 8 and 9.
Now, there’s no way that the replacement bosses could really fill Michael’s clown-sized shoes. The eccentricities that Steve Carell brought to the table made it clear that nobody could honestly BE the next Michael Scott.
Numerous other characters were brought into the show: Robert California, Deangelo Vickers, Nellie Bertram, and others, but within the show they are never really considered to be a real part of family dynamic in the office.
Instead, the other characters start to come into their own and there’s finally enough screentime for their individual stories to develop further. I’m not saying that Michael Scott’s screen-time squashed their opportunities to develop for seven seasons, but I’m emphasizing that now we get to explore characters like Oscar and Erin.
After Steve Carell’s box office hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out, The Office rose in popularity. As a result, you can see that a lot of the series’ focus was on Michael Scott. As the series continued to grow, people really began to relate more with the other characters in the office. That’s why you have all those online quizzes like “Which Office Character Are You?” And people want to see more of the characters they relate most to.
Goodbye, Michael is a Classic Episode
It’s really hard to land an impactful, emotional episode when a character is definitely leaving a series. And Steve Carell IS Michael Scott. He delivered the role so well, and we should appreciate the character’s time on the screen.
There are so many really, really good hits in that episode that make you feel like an employee being a part of a goodbye for someone that you love. Michael’s conversation when Jim realizes that Michael’s last day isn’t tomorrow shows how much respect Jim has for his friend. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the silent exchange between Pam and Michael at the airport. The build-up to it was perfect.
Some characters get written out of shows with such an afterthought or a throwaway line, but Michael Scott got the full treatment. His story arc as he gradually matured and became more self-aware is relatable for all of us. He achieved something that really was the only thing he ever truly wanted in life with Holly. And he wasn’t going to waste that.
It’s an all-time classic episode because of the seven seasons of build-up, and the payoff is so worth it. Think about people in jobs that you’ve worked. Friends that you’ve grown close to, only to have them move on to a new chapter in their life. It happens all the time.
One of the points of the episode is that we should appreciate and fondly remember our time with those people, instead of lamenting their departure.
The Finale is One of the Best in Television
As you’re watching the final season of The Office, you know that it’s going to come to an end. There are 24 episodes, and at some point you’re going to hear that theme song for the last time. Well, at least until your next rewatch.
But just like how Michael’s personal finale was rewarding, the last few episodes have some incredibly emotional moments that also hit paydirt in a big way with the final episode. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this is the best example of a finale done right.
Loose threads are tied off, and each of the characters get their time in the sun. Sure, it’s sad to know that you’ve reached the end of the ream, but we’re engaged with the humanity of these characters. It’s so good to see years of growth and development capped off in such a satisfying way.
Plus, we get to reconnect with some old favorites, which is always really heartwarming.
Michael Leaving Makes You Appreciate Michael More
This sort of seems like a point that disproves my whole argument, but Michael Scott leaving makes you appreciate having Michael to begin with. There are numerous pieces of development and characters who annoyed or disappointed my in the final two seasons of The Office. Again, I don’t want to name specifics, but let’s just say that some of the storylines with Andy and Angela leave something to be desired.
During the first five seasons, there were a lot of moments where Michael Scott wrestled with his personal ups and downs. Instead of Michael taking these, we now see other characters with their own struggles. Jim and Pam go through some challenges of their own. Angela and Oscar get wrapped up in a subplot. Even Darryl gets to take risks and prove his worth to himself.
One of the most telling episodes that makes you miss and appreciate Michael is when Pam heads off to an interview at another company. Lo and behold, the boss at this company is basically Michael Scott. They share a lot of the same attitudes and filter-less remarks.
For a moment, we catch a slight reminder of what The Office was like with Michael. But at that point, we have already adjusted to the fact that Michael is gone and he’s not coming back. As similar as it seems, it also seems out of place. We don’t need Michael anymore, just like everyone in the office has moved on. We can look back on the Michael’s time with smiles on our faces.
The Payoff is Worth It
I was in your shoes once. After Michael left The Office, I completely stopped watching the show. To me, Michael Scott was such a fundamental part of The Office that losing him wasn’t something I thought I could recover from. I didn’t want to risk the final two seasons being bad, which might sour the whole series for me. I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones.
It took me YEARS to finally go ahead and finish off the series. I started back at the beginning and watched straight until the end. When you take everything in such a short time window, which you can do in the television binging era, you really get the full picture of the entire story. If I had to wait a week between episodes, I would have been constantly wondering, “Does this get any better? Has The Office peaked?”
The investment that you make in the characters for seven seasons gives you a big payout at the end. Yes – The Office has more duds-per-episode in the final two seasons than it does in the first seven. But the gems that you’ll find are well worth the wait.
Don’t be sad because it’s over; be happy because you had it.