The Office: Niagara
I’m not sure there’s been an Office episode with quite so much riding on it as “Niagara” - having to deal with the twin spectres of the show needing a pick-me-up after a generally weak start to the sixth season and concerns that it may have lost its original spirit; AND the fact that it is, essentially, the episode that the entire show has been building up to in one way or another, given that it features, finally, gloriously, The Wedding Of Jim And Pam. Thankfully - although not without qualification - the season’s first double-length episode is up to the task, satisfying on the crucial two areas of laughter and plot development. Astonishingly, it even sidesteps the hurdle of being a “one where they all go to so-and-so” type episode, foregoing (with a notable exception, that we’ll come to) forced gimmickery and “wackiness” and concentrating on good character comedy.
A pre-credits sequence centred around group vomiting doesn’t bode hugely well, mind - partly because the attitude of the other office workers towards a pregnant Pam feels uncharacteristically uncharitable (one or two of them? Maybe. But all of them? Seems a bit mean), and partly because extended vomit gags aren’t really this show’s sort of thing. But as the cast begin to make their way to Niagara Falls, we’re back in “classic” territory once more, and the reason is clear - the Michael and Dwight dynamic is finally reestablished for the first time this season, and thus the show feels like The Office again. From Michael’s “Going to a Wedding” car decoration, to the mix CD, to the “online research” on the guests, to the room booking mixup (and “test”), the early part of the episode is gold, and a reminder of just what we’ve been missing with Dwight pushed into background and subplots, and the failed attempts to establish a lead pairing of Jim and Michael instead. Simply put - and it really should be obvious by now - Michael plays better off Dwight than anyone else. And notably, “Niagara” finally brings the wider supporting cast into play in a way not really seen so far this series. Perhaps it’s the longer running time that affords the opportunity to do more, but quite aside from the main wedding plot and “Michael and Dwight on the pull” subplot, we get mini-plots involving both Andy and Kevin, as well as moments here and there for just about everyone of note.
Not that it’s perfect - it’s a little disconcerting, for example, to see a complete change in the character of Pam’s mother - I understand that scheduling conflicts led to replacing the original actress from season two, but in the way that she speaks and acts, she’s clearly not the same person. A shame, for a show that’s always done well with keeping its character development consistent. And if the episode really falters, it’s with that final set-piece - as nice an idea as it is to have a “big moment” featuring the entire cast, it just feels too stagey and forced (not to mention strange how keen everyone is to celebrate Jim and Pam, considering the attitudes towards them mentioned earlier). Basing it on a recent Youtube viral would seem to date it horrendously - and despite being explained within the episode, it’s still somewhat baffling to those of us who’ve never seen the original.
And yet, with everything that’s gone before, you almost feel that “Niagara” has earned the right to be a little self-indulgent. This isn’t an ordinary episode, nor is it one designed to be the funniest in the show’s history. It’s about Jim and Pam finally reaching the point that they were always meant to; and splitting off their wedding into two distinct sections, with their getting to spend time alone together while also allowing the office - the people who’ve surrounded them throughout the development of their relationship - to join in in their own (or, well, some other people on the internet’s) way feels somehow apt. Certainly, on a plot level, this is the first episode of season six to entirely hit all the right notes; and thankfully, while not at top-notch form, there’s enough comedy in there to keep us happy as well. Not that I’m without lingering misgivings about the season so far, but… it needed this.
“Awwww” factor Spectacularly high, of course. This was everything we wanted from a Jim and Pam wedding episode, with so many utterly lovely moments, and somehow none of them coming off as too cheesy. The mental pictures, the cutting of the tie, Jim’s speech at the rehearsal dinner, buying the boat tickets as a backup plan, and of course that lovely shot of the pair of them on the boat in newly-wedded bliss. Absolutely the emotionally satisfying resolution this plotline always demanded.
Don’t you want to earn Schrutebucks? Strangely, despite my issues over the Youtube video parody, I have no such problem with another internet meme reference earlier in the episode - Dwight wearing the “howling at the moon” t-shirt actually makes sense, as well as providing the punchline of his improved prowess in attracting women. And yet, strange as his success is, it’s not entirely out of character - I’m thinking of the basketball players in “Night Out” - so maybe Dwight really does just have some unique, unfathomable charm.
The wisdom of Michael Scott “When Mary was denied a room at the inn, Jesus was born. When Michael was denied a room at the inn… we don’t know what happens, because that story hasn’t been told yet.”
Best moment I’m actually going to plump for a “soft” moment rather than a funny one here, with Jim’s rehearsal dinner speech - perfectly encapsulating the pair’s relationship. Although there’s also something pleasantly surprising, and amusing, about the fact that it turns out to be him that puts his foot in his mouth over Pam’s pregnancy. As he puts it, “is there something about being a manager that makes you say stupid things?”