Well, the long-awaited wedding episode of The Office, "Niagara," has come and gone, and it was one of the strongest episodes to date. There were plenty of vintage awkward moments, sexual shenanigans, thwarted ambitions, broken hearts, and the same small underlying sweetness that's been there all along. It was faux-cheesy and genuinely heartfelt all at once, and stretched to an hour, full of great character moments only possible when a show has come this far.
The cold open was intentionally shocking, a reminder that even in a potentially goopy episode, the show isn't pulling any punches. When Dwight refuses to eat his boiled eggs in the breakroom to spare Pam's pregnant and jumpy gag reflex, she retorts by calmly puking in her trash can and sliding it back to him, which sets off a chain reaction of barfing around the office. (Except for Creed, who kept shoveling noodles into his crazy old mouth.)
But once everybody got to Niagara Falls for the wedding weekend, the whole episode started firing on all cylinders, thanks to a script by co-creator Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling with directing from frequent contributor Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks). From a real-world perspective, Jim and Pam probably would have been happy if no from the office showed up, but the show's nature is such that this group only really works when they're all together, bouncing off each other's erratic personalities. The rehearsal dinner offered plenty of fantastic little moments, like Dwight's lecture to the kids' table about "Jim, the Bad Man," as well as Andy's desperate attempts to get close to Erin. And the whole sequence involving Jim inadvertently revealing Pam's pregnancy during his toast was a classic Office example of puncturing sentimentality at its peak, from his fumbling recovery to Michael's impromptu attempt to distract everyone with a frank discussion of the sporadic use of condoms. His line, "Frankly, it's just a different sensation," was killer, especially considering he delivered it to Pam's disapproving Meemaw. And I loved the brief chat Michael and Jim had afterward, when they were able to commiserate almost as equals because of their professional titles. Their exchange was priceless, too:
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Jim:"Is there something about being a manager that makes you say stupid things?"
Michael:"I have not found that to be the case."
The ceremony itself was nice, too, and Jim and Pam's abrupt decision to get married on the Maid of the Mist let them do their own thing before getting back to the church for the full-on insanity of the wedding. The recycling of the wedding dance and Chris Brown's "Forever" by the bridal party was stylistically perfect, too. The Office has always featured people trying too hard to be cool by latching onto dated fads and phrases, like Michael's "That's what she said" or "TMI," and reusing the track from a viral video hit from several months back is the perfect continuation of that. But it was a chance for Jim and Pam to sit back and laugh kindly at the people in their lives, and a moment that started out embarrassing turned into something bigger and better. By the end of the procession of friends and family down the aisle, there was a genuine joy on screen, and it was wonderful to see.
Random thoughts: This script was packed with great lines, though I'm partial to Pam's description of a wounded Andy: "He is in my room, icing his balls." And of course Andy's creepily endearing (and Scrubs reminiscent) statement that Erin smells really good, like his mom. Really, the whole episode was dead-on, from Michael's breezy ineptitude to Dwight's jaw-dropping skill with the ladies to a sweet and true ending. It's a common complaint, and often a correct one, that getting the male and female leads together can kill a series' momentum. But Jim and Pam have been together for a couple years now, and the show's only gotten stronger. This is just the latest piece of evidence that it's got plenty of life left.