The final season premiere of The Office was very much concerned with playing catch-up, making sure we know that Kelly has moved with her fiancé (did that happen last season? I vaguely remember Mohinder from Heroes popping up quick but I could be thinking of something else – that’s what a wonderful impression last season left me with), not that she’s starring in a new show on another network. Ryan has followed her and we are left with only our imaginations to conceive of how that would play out as I suspect this will be the last time we ever see those characters again. Replacing them are the eponymous Clark and Pete, otherwise known as Fart and Plop the new Dwight and Jim due to their vague physical resemblances. I’m actually a big fan of Clark Duncan and I liked what I saw from him this episode so I’ll remain hopeful for his future on this last season of The Office.
“New Guys”, written and directed by series developer Greg Daniels, actually made me somewhat hopeful for the last 21 episodes of the series. Despite all the exposition, the episode felt much more natural than it has in years. I even laughed a few times. Mostly though, it was just nice to see that the creative forces behind the show (those that are left anyway) heard what people had to say about the last season and seem to be responding accordingly.
David Wallace is back as the big boss after using his profits from Suck It! to buy back the company he once served as CFO for, Andy is more confident and decisive after spending a month on a wilderness retreat which seems to have been attended mostly by teenagers for some reason, and Nelly, perhaps the most loathed new character in years, was not only kept mostly out of sight, but was specifically picked on by Andy (she did ruthlessly (and nonsensically) steal his job) and eventually the rest of the office. Though I don’t hate Catherine Tate, I’m hard-pressed to not hate Nelly so I was pretty happy to see Andy tell her straight out that he’s going to be a bitch to her and make sure her time at Dunder Mifflin (sans Sabre, another good sign) is terrible, push her off the slack line, and position the office’s trash cans around her desk so people throw trash at her.
Another inspiring element of the ninth season is the potential return of the dynamic seen between Michael and Toby with the newly empowered Andy. When Andy told Toby he understands why Michael hated him so much, I got pleasantly nostalgic. Sure it’s not original, but at least it’s what works. Andy using Toby and Nelly’ names as synonymous with screw-ups was a nice touch and a great throw back to when Andy tried the same strategy way back in season three when he was trying to marginalize Dwight – you know, the good ol’ days.
Though we didn’t get much from new guy Pete except to serve as a catalyst for Jim’s mid-life crisis, we did get plenty from Clark. His resistance to his nick names was amusing as was his exchange with Dwight whom after discovering he’s not the father of Angela’s baby (then promptly vomiting his blue beet run-off power drink onto Angela) was beginning to feel quite paternal with “Dwight Jr.” That is until Clark made a play for Dwight’s leads which immediately awoke the competitive Dwight we all miss so dearly. Watching the two of them banter was entertaining and reminded me of the ol’ Jim/Dwight dynamic which may be all but dead by this point. Again, not original, but at least it’s a back to basics I can be comfortable with.
Speaking of Jim, he seems to be at the center of my biggest gripe with this new season. Right from the get go in his talking head with Pam I knew I’d be rolling my eyes a lot at Jim this episode, if not this season on the whole. Apparently Jim is now feeling like his courtship and relationship with his wife, the births of his children, his accomplishments with the company, and everything in between, amounts to nothing. This feels random and out of character. Though at the beginning of the series, and when he wasn’t with Pam, Jim expressed discontent with his job, since getting together with Pam he’s been nothing if not gung ho about his lot in life whereas Pam was the one to actively strive for something more when she attended art school in New York City (until she didn’t). Anyway, now she’s the one who’s happy with her “boring life” and Jim is the one suffering from a life crisis. I’m not saying this couldn’t be a potentially interesting story arc, but knowing that it will mainly serve to simply drive a wedge between Jim and his family for the sake of inserting drama into an otherwise boring pair of characters makes me less than enthusiastic to watch it play out. I’d much rather see the characters just be funny and play off each other like they did for the first five seasons.
Other than that we saw that Oscar is totally banging Angela’s husband and that’s in no way funny at all. Seriously, not at all. It’s just sleazy and I hate it because Oscar is above such behavior but apparently that’s what we’ll be watching for a while.
Also, Kevin mutilated a turtle. Though his repair/destruction/re-repair of the turtle’s shell was kind of funny in an utterly macabre way, it really just reinforces Kevin as genuinely developmentally disabled which also isn’t funny or realistic compared to his behavior in the first half of the series.
Creed is also apparently experiencing full-blown dementia, or he was just on shrooms – either way is more consistent with his character so I guess I’m okay with it.
So what does the ninth and final season of The Office have in store for us? Romantic drama (booo!) but a couple funny new characters (one anyway, I’m not sold on Pete yet) to replace the tired ones that decided to jump ship (yay?) and hopefully a reduction of that which really dragged the series through the mud last season (no Sabre and less Nelly? YUP!) and a return to some fundamentals (the CFO CEO dealing with the branch manager antagonizing the human resources representative and Dwight being defensive and crazy until he leaves to start The Farm).
Plus, good news for all the citizens of the Colbert Nation – apparently Stephen Colbert will appear as the oft alluded to Broccoli Rob of Here Comes Treble in the Halloween themed fifth episode.
I just hope this series gets the send-off it deserves. Here’s hoping…
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