The Office concluded its nine-year run on Thursday night, fulfilling many promises that the show brought forth in its final season. The show, through many changes including its writers and even its main star (with Steve Carell, playing Michael Scott, leaving after the seventh season), always remained the same, deriving its humor from its wonderfully realized ensemble and proving that a show can get by wearing its heart on its sleeve and making us laugh at even the smallest jokes.

People dismissed The Office after Carell’s departure, and I understand why. The last few episodes of that season were a mess, with Will Ferrell and James Spader being some of the many guest stars that moved in and out of the show’s tumultuous grounding of itself. The show felt lost, unsure of where it would go after losing its defining mark; everyone in the cast functioned around Michael Scott, all established as their own characters but never seen as the true focus of the show. That’s when it emerged, however: Jim and Pam.

Jim and Pam’s romance stands as one of the greatest television romances in history, one defined by true love and constant struggle but never challenged to the point that we can see them ending it. They’re too close to each other, too essential in the other’s life; it only became apparent in the series’ final season that their relationship would have to face a deep struggle as they moved on in life. Jim establishing his place in a thriving new company and their long-distance compatibility were put to the test, but they persevered and made it through. There were countless emotional moments between the two, but when Pam breaks down in front of the camera crew and seems lost as to where she should go, a pain swelled up in me that I couldn’t deny. I want these two to be together, really, really badly.

Another moment that spoke truths about these characters was Jim’s entrance into a vehicle to head off for the weekend, only to be stopped by Pam to remind him he forgot his umbrella. They look at each other for a few seconds, after going through weeks of couples therapy to revive their relationship (but facing tension in the previous scene), and Jim hugs Pam with all his might. She doesn’t return it for a long while, an infinitely painful look at this relationship falling apart. But then she does it: she returns the hug, they both smile excessively, and say, “I love you.” The Office wil forever be defined by the love we hold toward these characters.

Same goes for the payoffs for Andy, Dwight, and even Angela. Characters that started as one-note emerged as wholly realized, deeply emotional people in the show’s final season, grounding it in the elements that make it work. It’s a workplace comedy above everything else, but we relate to these characters on such a level because we exist in every one of them. Andy is the dreamer who is so blindly optimistic that he doesn’t realize he’s the butt of the joke a lot of times; give it up for the show’s finale to have him acknowledge that, embrace it, and share a moment with us. Angela has that as well, with her breakdown in front of Oscar saying she loves Dwight. We knew it all along, and no matter how annoying and ridiculous Angela can be, we want to see them together because they belong so.

And Michael Scott. Carell only says a few lines in the show’s finale, and it serves as another marking of how effective the show has remained since he left. These characters all thrived under his leadership, and Michael still stands as the show’s funniest, most sincere character in terms of how complex he is, but the show did just fine without him. He felt like a proud father, making an incestuous reference without realizing it; his painful awkwardness knows no bounds, but that line defines him. He’s a man who always says the weirdest things, grounded in human emotion that comes so deeply from his heart. It’s a sincere character, a sincere line, and a perfect presence in the finale.

The show was never perfect; no series ever truly is. The fact that people gave up on the show so quickly after it left showed that they weren’t truly invested in these characters from the start. For those who enjoyed the show, and at least understood the emotional groundings of these characters and the wonderfully realized storylines that concluded this season, it served as one of the strongest conclusions to any comedy I can think of in recent memory. 

I’ll miss The Office

Written by Eric Forthun