It’s nice to see that among the bevy of Michael send-offs, that The Office took a slight detour to give thanks to the rest of its fantastic cast. “Threat Level Midnight” is a self-indulgent love-letter to the cast that’s very generous with its humor and divvies up the best lines evenly among the current cast and even takes time to fondly remember some of the former performers, including a great cameo from Jan and creepily carnal lines from Pam’s mom and Karen (though the most disturbing one is Goldenface’s “I’m going to dig up Scarn’s dead wife and have sex all over her”).
Michael’s screenplay was first introduced wayyyy back in season 2, when the gang discovered it in Michael’s office and shut down work for the day to hold a reading in the conference room (the episode also had one of the best Michael-defining jokes of the series when it was discovered that Scarn’s bumbling sidekick was originally named “Dwight” until Michael did a search-and-replace to rename the character.
Unfortunately for the real Dwight, it didn’t pick up Michael’s misspelled “Dwigt”–it loses something in the explanation, but trust me, it was funny). I didn’t think there’d ever be more than a passing reference to it, if were ever brought up again, and that it’d go down as one of those things best left to the imagination, kind of like The Office’s own “Rules of Calvinball,” but run with it they did.
So Michael’s film Threat Level Midnight features the office filling in various roles from Jim’s “Goldenface” to Creed’s “Cherokee Jack” to Toby’s “Shot-in-the-Face Hostage” and many more. The plot involves, uh, Goldenface’s scheme to blow up a hockey rink with a bomb-rigged puck (which should make the hostages unnecessary, but the plot holes are largely the point), and so Scarn becomes a professional hockey player to infiltrate the game and save the day.
There’s some callbacks to Michael’s infatuation with Catherine Zeta-Jones, love for hockey, hated for Toby, and some explanations from Darryl and Jim regarding why they chose to partake, but they’re mainly callbacks for the sake of callbacks. They don’t provide any new insights to the characters or even take advantage of everything’s that’s changed during the film’s 11-year shoot (there’s so much more they could have done, it’s almost criminal), but I get the idea.
It’s not so much grounded in Michael’s character (the camera quality and lighting far exceed his competence) as it is in the writers and cast having a lot of fun–and adding some incentive for fans to pick up the DVD set of season 7, because you know the full version will be included in the extras (it’s already available for purchase on iTunes).
But the episode worked for me. I feel The Office has been scattered and scrambling this season, and it was nice to see the gang enjoy themselves and have a little fun with the show again. Yeah, this could have been one of the best episodes of the season, but it’s certainly not one of the worst.
The only major lag was the wholly unnecessary B-plot with Michael and Holly, which has been done way too many times already, offered nothing, and pretty much resolved itself as soon as it was brought up. Just felt like filler.
Stanley’s Shawshank Redemption voiceover
Every recorder needs a “Backwards” button
Is impaling Lincoln’s portrait on Darryl racist?
Is that Ryan’s Hobbit friend?
Is Andy channeling Bill Cosby? Or Patches O’Houlihan?