Marking its ninth season on the air, NBC’s hit comedy The Office premiered to its lowest season-opener ratings ever on Thursday, a 46% drop from last year. More notably, the series’ last first episode began to breed speculation on how the mockumentary is going to end its successful run.
But after nine years of used material, what could possibly be left for a show that should have ended four seasons ago?
The premiere episode seemed to provoke more questions about the final direction of the comedy than it did answers. Here’s what we do know: Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan (BJ Novak) are gone (they moved to Ohio, which Kelly hilariously mistakes for Florida when she misidentifies Miami University). Robert California (James Spader) is all but a distant memory. And Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) is still the man in charge at Dunder Mifflin.
While not much was set up plot-wise during Thursday’s premiere, there seems to be hints about major story and character arcs to come. The speculations have since become confirmations that Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) will depart mid-season to begin work on his Office spin-off The Farm. Since there was no mention of his exit in the premiere, something will have to happen soon if the eccentric salesman is to be motivated to return to his beet farming ways. But exactly how they’ll segue Dwight into his new show is still a complete mystery.
One of the most fascinating storylines that’s worth speculating about is that of the adorable fictional couple that is Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer). During the episode, we see Jim agreeing to take part in an exciting business venture away from the office without consulting his other half first. On top of that, we get the sense that Jim is feeling restless in the monotony of marriage and fatherhood. There’s already a lot set up here for dramatic moments, and perhaps even a not-so-happy ending for Jim and Pam. Everything for them has been going extraordinarily well up until this point, and while not giving them the Rachel and Ross à la Friends finale that most might expect, it may be refreshing for the pair to not have a blissful sitcom ending.
And while everything is still speculation right now, exciting things seem to be on the horizon in Scranton. New customer service reps Clark Duke and Jake Lacy might bring opportunities for interesting alliances. Stephen Colbert is set to make a guest appearance, and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston will direct an episode entitled “Work Bus” to air in October.
So while making nine seasons of any show might produce stale results after a while, The Office still has the potential to wow audiences like it did back in 2005 with its signature one-liners and its unmatched attention to character. Until then, we ought to enjoy the time we have left with America’s favorite paper company.