The Office had a perfect ending four seasons ago

Tony Gorder

Tony GorderEditor-in-Chief

Beware of spoilers!

It’s not often the perfect television series finale appears less than halfway into a show’s lifespan.

The Office is a few episodes into its seventh season. Even though I still find the show funny and watch it every week, I know that the show could and should have ended at the season three finale.

There are two good arguments for the show ending after season three. The first is allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about characters past that point, and the second is to avoid the inevitable and current “Flanderization” of the characters. I’ll start with the former.

The entire run of The Office up to season three came a climax with the season three finale. For three seasons, we watched Jim and Pam (who I argue are the main focus of the series, or at least the most identifiable characters) clearly both have feelings for each other but never following through on them for one reason or another. At the end of the finale, Jim turns down a high-level promotion in New York, leaves his current girlfriend, bursts into the office and asks Pam out. Pam simply smiles and the credits run. On top of that, a post-credit scene shows Ryan Howard, the temp worker who sat quietly in the office taking abuse from all his co-workers, get the promotion Jim turned down, becoming everyone’s boss.

I can’t think of a more perfect ending than that.

Did we really need to see Pam and Jim date, get married and have a baby? Sure, it was fun to watch, but in that moment when Pam smiles at the end and the screen cuts to the credits, I think our imaginations and assumptions about their future together are far grander than what the show could and has offered. It’s like the shark in Jaws. The movie is scary because we don’t see the shark; our imaginations filling in the blanks make that movie so impactful.

The second reason The Office should have ended then is because the characters would not have undergone Flanderization. Flanderization is a term coined on the website,, a site which categorizes and defines patterns and observations of that often appear in entertainment media. It refers to taking a character’s traits and accentuating them more and more until the character is consumed and solely defined by those traits, becoming a caricature of his or her former self. It’s named after The Simpsons character Ned Flanders, who started as a normal, good-natured, Christian neighbor to the Simpsons, but morphed into an effeminate, religious zealot.

The Office is no exception to Flanderization. Dwight started out as an overly obedient and rigid wannabe despot. Those traits have been exaggerated to the point where he can safely be described as a crazy person. Michael began as the obtuse boss who wanted nothing more than to be respected as a leader but also a friend at the same time, failing at both in the process. He’s become so incredibly stupid that he has driven a car into a lake because the GPS insisted he turn and holding a pizza delivery boy hostage. It’s a little over the top.

I still watch The Office and enjoy it, but I just don’t feel as attached to either the show or characters as I did in seasons one through three, and I never will. Steve Carell is leaving after this season, and the writers and NBC have no intentions of ending the series. My guess is the show will get worse, and go out with a whimper. But for those wanting a great finale, stop after season three. You’ll be glad you did, and it’s some of the best television the medium has ever seen.