Nine years is a long time: It’s nearly a decade. It’s at least two presidents. It’s the difference between an infant and a fourth-grader. It’s enough time for a brand-new car to rack up close to 100,000 miles. In other words, it’s a significant chunk of time no matter who you are—but if you’re a network sitcom, it’s an eternity.
The problem with The Office, the same one Jim and Pam confronted in this week’s episode, is that the mystery is gone. The will-they-won’t-they tension that used to be the driving force behind the show is ancient history. At this point, Jim and Pam have been together on the series for almost three times as long as they’ve been apart, and since that fateful season three finale when Jim asked Pam out, we’ve seen a marriage and two babies. It’s sweet and realistic, but that doesn’t mean it makes for good TV. “Will they or won’t they?” has been replaced with “they did,” and there isn’t nearly as much fun in that.
That’s what makes “Roy’s Wedding” a bit of a bummer. The producers of The Office promise that this final season will shake things up in Scranton, and last week’s premiere introduced several major, compelling arcs, but episode two felt like a wasted opportunity. The premise (Jim and Pam attend her ex-fiance Roy’s wedding) is full of potential for both comedy and drama, but instead it never really goes anywhere. Roy seems to be happy and doing well—he’s got a big house, a bride and a gravel company. He surprises his wife by playing piano and serenading her. On the car ride home, Pam’s struck by Roy’s small act of spontaneity and laments that she and Jim already know everything about each other. Jim, who has secretly started a new company against his wife’s wishes, can only nod, shrug and give worried glances to the camera.
The problem here is that Jim and Pam aren’t the only ones who know each other too well. After eight-plus seasons, we know these characters, and we know exactly how this will all play out. Their arc will definitely be a test of their relationship, but they’ll ultimately pass. There’s no way The Office will end in divorce.
The two subplots this week were equally predictable. Dwight and Nellie try to outbluff each other after Dwight (who wants to try to raise money for the Taliban because he doesn’t believe in charity) attempts to live under Taliban law in the office and Nellie insists he must chop off her hand for stealing his pen. It was a funny gag for about a minute or so, but it dragged on too long and never really went anywhere. Meanwhile, new guy Clarke tries to lure Erin to his apartment by promising her he can get her a job as a newscaster, but other new guy Pete smells trouble and convinces Andy to tag along. Andy gets sucked in and caught up in his own apparent broadcast journalism dreams (because why not?) and tells Pete to take Erin to get a burger. Cut to the pair giggling together at a hamburger joint, and once again it’s glaringly obvious how this will play out.
Ultimately, “Roy’s Wedding” feels a lot like the cleaver Dwight held threateningly over Nellie’s wrist: the potential for some serious, life-changing effect is there, but we all know it’s a bluff. Instead, it just looms, and we wait patiently for the hand that wields it to either work up the courage and do it already or grow tired and give up.
-If Roy can afford a $50,000 sports car, why does he have to have his wedding in his backyard at 8 a.m. on a weekday?
-”When you use a ridiculous font, no one thinks you have a plan.”
-Did anyone else find the whole “trick the dumb girl into doing sexy things at your apartment by exploiting her desire to better herself” plot to be just way too icky and unfunny?