There was a lot to like in last night's two-part, hour-long The Office, from the snap of the dialogue to the long-awaited union of Andy and Erin to the interesting twists with Dwight, who is weirdly good with the ladies. It was also something to take a step back and realize that Pam and Jim are now parents, and that this show has definitely become something different than its predecessor, both in terms of story completion and general optimism. I doubt NBC has plans to do away with the show any time soon -- their Thursday comedy block is the strongest thing they have, and Jay Leno's return to The Tonight Show is still pissing off Team Coco (click on the "Tags" tab) -- but it's clear that the show and the characters have come a long way, and that the birth of baby Halpert is a sign that the whole series wouldn't be harmed by wrapping sooner than later.
The first half dealt mainly with Pam's fears of impending motherhood as manifested in her increasingly irrational desire not to go to the hospital until her contractions were much closer together. Jim and Pam had originally wanted to hold out to midnight to try and get an extra night's hospital stay out of their HMO, but Pam's labor accelerated ahead of schedule. As is often the case, the best moments happened in the Dunder Mifflin office thanks to the chemistry and speed of the ensemble. Kevin's joy at getting to share extra-meal moments with Pam was adorable, and little moments snuck up with small but nicely timed jokes. (When Michael begins frantically packing for the hospital and asks if he should bring a dictionary, Oscar doesn't miss a beat and replies, "The hospital will provide dictionaries. Bring a thesaurus.") It was also great to see Jim getting increasingly "frazzled," in his own words. His growing nerves were perfectly normal, but Jim's usually so even-keeled that it's a fun departure for him to so totally lose his cool and begin to panic.
The second half spent its time in the hospital as Jim and Pam struggled to figure out how to feed their new daughter, Cecilia, and their minor freakouts were an accurate depiction of that growing realization among parents that they now have to take the kid home and feed it and not drop it. Forever. However, though they weren't terrible, the hospital scenes felt like they were done out of necessity, a nod to the parenthood that will soon make itself known to Jim and Pam but that hopefully won't dominate the show.
The B plots were fine, too. Michael's misplaced pride in bringing Jim and Pam together led him to set up Erin and Kevin, though that fell apart soon enough, and eventually, finally, Andy asked her out. Thank goodness. I was starting to wonder if it would be held until the series finale. The other story dealt with Dwight's odd yearning for a baby for business and personal reasons, leading him to strike a business deal with Angela to produce an heir, though she was more excited about the possibility of a relationship than he was. Plus, Dwight ran an errand to Jim and Pam's house and spotted mold and then decided to remodel the kitchen on a whim, which is in line with his obsessive nature but a bit too generous for him. Isabel, one of Pam's bridesmaids and a friend of unknown/forgotten origin, came by and visited the couple in the hospital and then ran into Dwight at their house. He turned on the old Schrute charm, and his wifebeater and weird reference were apparently enough to make her forget that he'd screwed her over and kicked her in the face at Niagara Falls last fall. Which, good for him? At this stage, though, I'd rather see him get back with Angela.
Overall, though, a solid episode, and certainly one of the better ones this season. But too many plots have come to nothing this year -- I can't believe Jim went from co-manager to manager to salesman in 22 minutes -- so it'd be nice if the relationship tangles introduced last night had some mileage on them. If not, well, no shame in wrapping this party up.
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