'The Office' review: last-season premiere

In the first episode of season 9 of

In the first episode of season 9 of "The Office," Dwight (Rainn Wilson) spends quality break room time with the new guy nicknamed Dwight Jr. (Clark Duke). (Credit: NBC)

THE SHOW "The Office"

WHEN | WHERE Final-season premiere 9 p.m. Thursday 9 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Summer's over and the employees of Dunder Mifflin are back from whatever it was they did the past few months -- besides work. Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) ran over a turtle in the parking lot; Dwight (Rainn Wilson) made a new type of juice from beet runoff; Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) have their new bundle of joy; Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) is heading to Miami, but not in Florida; and Andy (Ed Helms) was shipped off to Outward Bound by new company owner David Wallace (Andy Buckley) so he could pick up some management skills. Meanwhile, two new guys have joined the company. Nicknamed the New Jim (Jake Lacy) and Dwight Jr. (Clark Duke), their youthful enthusiasm reminds everyone of their namesakes ... who are at first enthusiastic, then ambivalent about them.


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MY SAY Early in the episode, Pam directly addresses the camera crew. She says something to the effect -- don't you have enough already? Funny line -- to which a crewman responds, we just want to see how everyone ends up.

There's something both sad and absurd about that because most everyone here -- Michael (Steve Carell) excepted -- pretty much completed their life journey before the first season. They are all glorious characters preserved in amber -- the cramped space of Dunder's Scranton outpost. These past eight seasons have merely offered variations on their tics.

But Thursday's episode promises that the ninth and final season actually may offer completion. Those new guys are the clue -- so young, fresh-faced and not entirely guileless, they are flashbacks to a younger Jim and Dwight. That fills the older characters with remorse and self-awareness. Maybe it is time to change. (But will they?) Or will Andy ever learn how to be a boss, or Creed (Creed Bratton) ever figure out exactly what product he sells? Who knows, but tonight promises we'll get considerable pleasure in finding out.

BOTTOM LINE Greg Daniels returns as showrunner for the final lap. The results so far are very (very) funny.

GRADE A-

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