5
Nov
2011
The Office: Season 8, Episode 6
Doomsday
Michael Richardson
Let's talk about Dwight"¦

There's a moment in this episode that's very telling. Dwight is in a talking head segment, talking about how people think he's some kind of Bond villain, and eventually convinces himself he is. Later, Oscar implores him to "be human." Dwight isn't just an unrealistic character, which would be fine. He's crossed the line into camp. Hank Scorpio was a more fully formed character that Dwight at this point. Why isn't he fired? How is he a member of society?!

This isn't nitpicky. This is the fucking soul of the show. If one of your main characters is so batshit insane that he can put together a machine to ruin everyone's life, you're not making a slice-of-life comedy. You're making fantasy, or science fiction or something. I don't even know. I'm not sure I can defend this show anymore though, I know that. This was an exquisitely awful half hour of television.

It represents the culmination of everything the Office does poorly: wildly exaggerated, one-dimensional characters; nonsensical or unfeasible plotlines; unfocused structures. It's a tour de force of incompetence.

Ok, breathe. It'll be all right. Let's parse through this episode to see where it all went wrong. The plotline starts like this: in order to curb the amount of mistakes the office denizens make in any given week, Dwight offers a solution. So far, so good. His solution, implemented without the knowledge of anyone, is to implement the titular Doomsday machine. After five mistakes, the machine will automatically email an unfavorable consultant report and any hostile emails the gang has ever written about their new boss. This makes me think - how is this machine calculating this error? If the machine knows, then why can't this machine just do the work itself? You could definitely get rid of the accounting section, at least. But I digress.

The office must come together to either avoid mistakes (no way) or help end Dwight's plan for domination. After failing to hack into his computer, Andy, Pam and Kevin go to Dwight's farm and help him dig a horse grave, in the hopes that he'll stop the program willingly to help the people who are nice to him, every so often. It makes very little sense, considering how callous he has been for 7 seasons, but we need a heart-warming moment, if at all possible.

The B story involves Gabe and Darryl going after the same new girl at the warehouse. Darryl is his typical laid-back charmer, while Gabe acts like a coked-up insult comic. It's not flattering when you put your best character against one of your weakest, and this week it shows. The mismatch has potential for comic elements, but I still get the sense that the writers struggle with Gabe. He was always a sycophant, but now they're trying to turn him into a catch-all weirdo. On one hand, it's nice that they are trying to define his characters, and a list of quirks is certainly not enough. But they've chosen as broad a character as possible, and the result is a bit of a mess.

This was not a good episode of the Office. It may be one of the worst I have ever seen. Can it come back from this? I'm hopeful. But if that's going to happen, I think the producers of this show are going to have to press the proverbial reset-button. The problem is that it seems each episode must out-do the last, which leads to such ridiculous story lines. The old, character-based stories got lost, and have been replaced by bloated scripts that try to fit everyone and everything into each episode. The show desperately needs to pare down the excess; to bring the limits back in and show how much there still is to offer from the office setting itself. I think that's still possible. I think there still might be a couple of good episodes to come out of this season. But it's getting harder to stay optimistic.


Grade: D+

Miscellaneous:

I laughed once: Stanley bringing back his "Shove it up your butt" catchphrase. Truly challenging comedy.

James Spader's character desperately needs some development, because he's still just sort of a side attraction. He never really inserts himself into the story, except when his affection is used as that all-important macguffin.


Tags: The Office
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