Ambience of Media Rotating Header Image

The Office: Why Pam Didn’t Deserve a Sweet Goodbye with Michael Scott

I had a number of problems with Steve Carell’s final episode on The Office, “Goodbye, Michael”. There was the comedy void that is Will Ferrell’s guest starring role and everything revolving around that character. There’s also the lesser problem of the logistics behind Pam getting through security to say goodbye to Michael in the airport. That was a bit too much artistic license for me to embrace in 2011, but that’s minor. Still, I found myself more deeply troubled by that scene and I believe I’ve pinned it down to the characterization of Pam over the last couple seasons.

There was a time on The Office when Pam had some ambition. Initially this was in the form of her artistic pursuits, and Michael Scott was one of her big supporters here. When Pam had her first art show, Michael was the one to genuinely praise her work and give her a boost. Jim would of course also support her dreams, but Michael’s was more pure without the romantic angle coming into play. Pam’s artistic talents would pop up here and there, and overall she seemed to actually want to better herself. Eventually she would give art school a valiant shot only to come up short. No matter, she’ll soon be given the opportunity to try new things as a founding member of the Michael Scott Paper Company, where she found some small success in sales. After that short-lived side adventure, Michael would go to bat in order to bring Pam back to Dunder Mifflin as a full-fledged salesperson. This lasted for about a season until the writers figured out that having so many main characters have the same job didn’t lend itself to much story variety, so Pam determines that she’s largely failed at sales. She had apparently been making minimal commissions during this time and wanted more money. Side question: are we to assume she was a worse salesperson than Andy, who is consistently written as the most incompetent of the bunch?

Anyway, Pam needed a new job that keeps her in the office but she was all out of genuine ambition. She fabricated a bullshit job as the office administrator, which the office had gotten by without for years, and conned Gabe and other department heads into signing off on it, even to the point of giving her unearned wages. With that, she effectively returned to doing what she did as a secretary, minus answering the phone. She plans office games, procures odd pieces of equipment for the office, and negotiates new lease terms with the office park. But mostly, she finagled herself a job that the office never required before, all during a financial crisis to boot. Somehow she maintains a job that pays more and contributes less to the company. “Goodbye, Michael” features Pam supposedly going on a run to price out paper shredders, and perhaps she did indeed do that although I’m not sure why anyone has to leave their computer and phone to do that in this day and age. But the only thing the audience sees her do is skip work and go see The King’s Speech. Side note: at least she turns her phone off while in a movie theater. Seriously however, this might just be the last straw I have with her character. She’s not only settled into a farce of a job and zero interest in bettering her life in any way, but she’s also actively not contributing to her company. Granted, the employees of Dunder Mifflin waste a lot of time while on the clock, but it’s usually standard office environment distractions or under Michael’s misguided direction. Pam checking out and seeing a movie while claiming to be working is way too egregious for me. This is far, far from the Pam we fell in love with during the early seasons.

All this brings me back to the end of Steve Carell’s exit from the show. I wish Pam didn’t get to say goodbye to Michael. I don’t think she deserved it. Her con over her colleagues would finally not work out for her. She wouldn’t get to express her gratitude for a boss who gave her so many breaks and so much support that she ultimately squandered. What if she had missed this opportunity to say goodbye? It could serve as a wakeup call for how she’s wasting her life, wallowing in a meaningless and entirely expendable job without dreams of any kind. It might even motivate an actual story arc for the character. It can’t be worse than having her do the next-to-nothing that has occupied her time for the last year or so. Not having that goodbye would be sad from Michael’s perspective, and perhaps that’s not at all what this show – now or even in its early years – would do, but I think it would have been significantly more interesting. I just think the Pam and Michael relationship has lost its meaning in recent seasons and that wasn’t reflected here. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I buy that the current version of Pam truly appreciates who Michael Scott was to her. She’s affectionately supported him in his troubles with Holly, but I’m not sure that’s enough. I think Pam deserved to miss out on that sweet goodbye. She was asking for it with her downward spiral of indifference and apathy. Maybe that’s what she needed in order to remember his unconditional belief in her talent and potential. Maybe that would have lit something within herself, because the desires she once had have long since burned out.



11 Comments

  1. fuck off says:

    pam’s relationship with michael is unmatched. she cares for him immensely and knows him well enough to stop him before he goes through with his crazy antics. he cares for her enough to deserve the great goodbye he received. also, about your comments of her having a “farce of a job and zero interest in bettering her life in any way.” she bettered her life by getting a job that she’s actually good at. she has a family and can’t rely on her lack of commissions to pay her bills. yes “she effectively returned to doing what she did as a secretary, minus answering the phone” but that’s because she was replaced as secretary by erin (who i love as well.) pam’s new founded job helps the office tremendously by replacing equipment and bettering the office in general by being the woman behind the scenes to keep things running smooth. she only “fabricated a bullshit job as the office administrator, which the office had gotten by without for years” because she was doing the job for years without getting credit for it.

    anyways, i’ll get off my soapbox about pam. she’s one of my favorite characters on the show haha.

    on a side note, i do agree with your comments about will ferrell’s character whom i cannot stand. he has a few good moments where i try to give him the benefit of the doubt but then he goes and ruins it for me again. i cannot wait until they remove his character from the show.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you on your analysis of Pam. She has gone from being a weak individual in the beginning of the series to a strong character when she was a founding member of Michael Scott’s paper company to a completely useless person today. On the flip side this past season of the Office has been funny. It is about time. Last season I only watched the show because I was hoping that the show would be funny each time I watched it. I almost wrote it off. I am glad that I stuck with it.

  3. Meg says:

    I disagree. The episode where Pam was upset after having failed so many things is important here – she’s come to terms that she’s not going to accomplish what she originally intended. BUT SHE’S STILL HAPPY. This is more of a real-world approach. Would you recommend that she now leave her child and husband for a time to continue art school? Should she sacrifice her salary to pursue an entry-level position in a new field? Most people in her position would say “no.” Her dreams have merely shifted, and that’s not a storyline cop-out. It’s a very real reflection of what most people in the that situation would actually do. And it’s almost heroic, especially in today’s job climate.

    As to the argument that she does not appreciate what Michael was to her, let us remember that the reverse is also true. This was a relationship with as many disturbing moments as sweet ones. Using the same logic, you could argue that Michael did not deserve a goodbye with Pam. But the spirit of the show allows incredibly flawed characters to catch a break once in a while – whether you’re a Michael or a Pam.

  4. Irony says:

    You wrote an essay criticizing a fictional character for her lack of ambition and contribution to society? Mmmhh…

  5. Martlet says:

    your analysis of this episodes draws on too many of your opinions about Pam’s role on the show. If you look back on the previous six seasons as a whole, you’ll see that Pam has an unwritten allegiance to Michael. She knows him better than anyone, except maybe Holly. He supported her though everything, however awkward. In the real world, this sort of relationship is so rare because they’re too often ended with awkward hook-ups.

    In my opinion, this last episode was Steve Carrell’s pure wit. He said good-bye to each character perfectly. The episode left me wondering “what the hell did he really say to Pam?” I almost died with his reaction to giving Oscar the doll. Priceless.

    You can analyze Pam as a character, but you have to look at the past she’d had in the office. Think if you knew Michael Scott, for better or for worse, as Pam did. Wouldn’t you buy a refundable ticket for a flight 6 hours later, go through security, say good-bye to Michael, and then get your refund for the ticket? I know I would. And she was adorable running after him holding her heels.

    In all, I think of this episode as Steve’s goodbye to the show. I would guess he had a lot to do with the scripting. I would also guess personal dynamics played a huge part in it as well.

  6. RU4real says:

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW, what a group of losers. i want you to step back and think ” how much of a loser am i writing this fanboy bullshit” you can not be happy with your life.

    1. Justine says:

      Yes, but you read it, didn’t you?

  7. you suck says:

    Everyone disagrees with you and believes that that could buy was a beautiful part of the episode. I personally believe that was a very touching scene. Michael in pan have an up-and-down relationship, he has sincerely Karen protected her and she has remain steadfast loyal to him and his one of his most trusted confidence.

    Your opinions are bad and you should feel bad. And stop hating on Pam

  8. Sarah says:

    I’d have to disagree. I feel like so much about Michael and Pam’s relationship revolves around the whole father/daughter bond. Obviously Michael isn’t really the perfect father figure but there are so many times when he comforts Pam and she truly appreciates it. The episode where they’re finding an office space for Michael Scott Paper Co. Pam has a major breakdown in the car and feels like a failure. Michael pumps her back up though and shows how he really cares about her. She then goes on to accept things the way they are and succeed in the company. If that type of relationship doesn’t “deserve a goodbye” as you say, I have no idea what would classify to you as deserving.

  9. Anna Parker says:

    Seriously? U wrote this long thing about a fictional character? That’s is so dumb! Plus, it’s a comedy!! It’s suppose to be funny that she goofs off to see that move! U need to CALM down!!!!

  10. Bitch McGee says:

    Fuck you. Fuck you, you little bitch. YOU ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE. I hate you. You are my nemesis. Fuck you.

Leave a Reply