Arts & Culture

Jews Watching TV: Where Were You When Steve Carell Left The Office?

Every time an actor/actress leaves their TV show to do movies a peacock loses its wings. Read More

By / April 29, 2011
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Apparently, last night was Steve Carell’s last episode of the Office ever. Well not forever ever, he will definitely show up for a couple episodes in the show’s final season (that is hopefully many years away). Still, this was obviously a big deal; NBC hyped it to the moon, parody videos were released, and TV critics used it as an excuse to offer a pontification on Scott. Even Community, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock all seemed to phone it in a little as to not to overshadow The Office.

The episode opened with Michael on the roof, trying to acclimate to Colorado’s storied altitude (haha, classic Michael). He was shot from below like Charles Foster “Citizen” Kane, implicitly making his significance clear. His regality slightly alluded to other British television import to be aired much later in the evening. Last week, we complained, as did others, that these last few episodes felt like a send off to Carell and not Scott, but last night’s episode was about the character.

As a character, Michael Scott is at his core a selfish romantic. He is incredibly self-absorbed but also wants everyone in the office to love each other as much as he does. He wanted the Office’s office to be a family partly because he wanted to be a father and he wanted a happy workplace. Last night’s episode explored what this type of person’s last day would look like.

We learned early on that it looks like Michael not telling anyone that it was actually his last day. On one hand, this action was done as a way for him to avoid the reality of it all at the expense of his coworkers, who would likely want to say a real goodbye. Looked at positively, he simply didn’t want to bring this sadness to the office.

Instead, he gave his employees left-handed goodbye gifts or advice, and they treated him like a jerk. It was appropriate for the character’s history and it seemed like what he wanted. It was also interesting to see how each of these characters are very much defined currently by their interactions with Michael, which excitingly leaves the next few episodes and seasons up in the air. It was emotional and touching but without any of the pleasant sappiness that surrounded the season’s big tearful moments (i.e. the proposal & the song)*. It was refreshing to see how much they stayed within the vocabulary the show has established.

It also was pretty clear that the goal of Deangelo Vickers character was to offer a contrast. Michael is a self-centered, irresponsible, buffoon but he is not Mr. Vickers, who is unqualified, malicious, and completely awful at his job. It’s this distinction that validates Michael, which in turn makes The Office believable and underwrites the whole sadness of his departure.

Yet, it isn’t really sad that Michael is leaving and that was proven by his chipper mood in the airport. As Pam (who selflessly missed the ending of The King Speech) put it, “He wasn’t sad…he was just real excited to get home and see Holly.” Michael Scott was a character that, more than anything, wanted to be loved, whether it was by his co-workers or the girl of his dreams. So when he said bye to Pam with a giant grin on his face, after seven seasons, it was obvious that Michael was loved by his office, by his fiancé, and by millions of fans watching at home.

* This is not say the episode lacked waterworks worthy moments. Here is the Top 3:

1)    Dwight reading Michael’s recommendation letter. This supremely acted scene beautifully displayed how much Dwight cared about Michael’s opinion about him. When Dwight’s voice drops mid-sentence while reading the letter it got mighty dusty in the room.

2)    In the conference room, when Stanley asks Michael, “Is that it?” and Michael just stands there speechless for a moment, trying to think of anything to say to make his time last longer. One of the 15 zillion wonderfully acted scenes by Steve “let’s start the Emmy campaign now” Carell this season, you can see years of relationships reveal themselves in his facial expressions.

3)    In the scene where Jim confronts Michael in his office. The one moment where Jim goes from being the typical mugging for the camera Jim to where you can see his eyes welling up. It was the episode’s most emotional scene but the writers infused it with plenty of jokes to avoid it from getting too weighty. It ends with the perfectly scripted and performed line by Michael, “I am looking forward to lunch and hearing about what a great boss I am.

Every time an actor/actress leaves their TV show to do movies a peacock loses its wings.