The Office: Episode Review
After a powerhouse season opener, The Office gets down to the season’s plot arc with last night’s episode The Meeting.
Dunder-Mifflin president David Wallace shows up at the Scranton branch for a mysterious conference with Jim, which has the clueless Michael biting his nails over what’s going on. Meanwhile, Dwight and Toby play sleuth with warehouse worker Darryl’s injury claim.
I’m conflicted over this episode. On the one hand, I found it totally compelling and shared Michael’s curiosity: What the Hell is going on? The episode writer, Aaron Shure, does an excellent job of keeping both the audience and Michael in suspense; on the other hand, the episode’s just not that funny.
Once the reason for the meeting’s revealed, Michael, in his characteristic fashion, screws everything up. He tries to fix things, and ends up screwing up more. And then he’s too cowardly to fess up.
It worked last week in Gossip when it was a peripheral character’s life that Michael was screwing up, but this is Jim and, hence, Pam: We care about them too much for it to be funny. Michael doesn’t elicit those delightfully awkward cringes so much as outright resentment. The B plot with Dwight, Darryl and Toby wasn’t funny either—save for the superbly directed moment when quiet, reserved Toby boils over—contrast the sequence where Toby loses control, which works, with the one where Michael loses control, which doesn’t.
Here’s the thing: Michael’s getting away from this show. The Office is starting to become more like a drama than a comedy, and that’s making Michael’s antics seem more and more misplaced, like he exists in some other world. That worked when the tone of The Office was lighter, but when it’s serious, yeah, I do kind of want to punch him, and in this episode, I didn’t just want to punch him, I wanted to make him suffer—I wanted him to feel real pain. If the writers aim to take their characters seriously, they’re going to have to do the same with Michael. I’m not asking that they alter the character, but we need another episode where he sweats. Something to make us sympathize with him. Otherwise, this clown’s getting the hook.