Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Office, Season 8 Episode 6 – "Doomsday"

One major thing that separates Robert California from previous overly intense bosses such as Charles Miner and Evil Ryan is that, while intimidating and occasionally short or manipulative with people, he's never really been an antagonist. "Doomsday," while structured around a gimmick with all the realism and believability of Community's zombie apocalypse, was funnier than the last couple episodes and interesting in how it dipped its toe into the waters of making Robert an obstacle to be triumphed over for the first time.

The real villain was Dwight, of course, or at least his more or less science fiction doomsday device. But Robert was the one the office was afraid was going to fire them all, and he was the one who Jim was sent to impede the progress of on his secret mission. While I don't think that The Office is by any means a show that needs a "big bad" to thrive (although, as I've mentioned before, I did really enjoy the Charles Miner arc), I do think that, in these perilous post-Carell days, it's good to have some kind of tension hanging over the narrative.

Again: The doomsday device, as a premise, is stupid almost beyond belief. One, it's science fiction. Two, if they actually have software that instantly detects any error made anywhere in the office, why not use that software to simply point out the errors? But I suppose we were asked to accept Michael's film having professional-looking dolly shots in last season's "Threat Level Midnight," so whatever.

In terms of laughs, the episode, while not great, wasn't starving. Kelly's "P.S. We should kill him." at the bottom of her email about Robert; Dwight digging a horse grave; Jim hurling Robert's iPhone across the racquetball court; Stanley singing "Closing Time." What issues existed were less in the setups and punchlines and more in characterization and believability, but still, actual laughs alone boost this episode over "Garden Party."

The warehouse subplot was a drastically mixed bag: On the one hand, I think Craig Robinson is great and I'm always up for a little Darryl action. I also like that they've apparently maintained the new warehouse lady Val's existence across more than one episode, because you never know. But on the other hand, Gabe, like Creed before him, doesn't really work for me as a character with his very own subplots. I sometimes like him as this creepy dude who hangs out at the edges of the narrative doing and saying creepy things, but he hasn't earned full episode spotlights the way that Erin has.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that there seems to be some kind of funny NBC synergy going on here, as both Chuck and The Office contained protracted racquetball sequences a matter of days apart. Maybe with Chuck's impending finale we can take this crossover all the way and bring in Adam Baldwin as the new Sabre CEO in The Office's inevitable season nine.

Funniest Moment: Catchphrases are often called a detriment to comedy, but I have to admit that the return of Stanley's "and shove it up your butt!" took me completely off guard and made me sputter in wonderfully juvenile laughter. Mostly because I didn't think that was ever going to come up again, I think.

Final Grade: B-

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