The Office “Free Family Portrait Studio” Review

The Office Free Family Portrait Studio Season 8 Episode 24 (1)

Season 8 of The Office came to a close tonight with “Free Family Portrait Studio.” In an attempt to collect a DNA sample from Angela’s child, Dwight had set up a portrait studio in the break room and invited the staff to bring their families for photos.

Originally, Dwight’s motives for setting up the portrait studio were unclear so his scheme played perfectly into Jim’s paranoia. I’m not sure if Dwight realized the effect this portrait studio was having on Jim, but Jim’s panic over Pam bringing the kids in was fantastic and their session in the portrait studio was hilarious.

Dwight’s DNA trap ended up being a great source of cut-away comedy throughout the episode. The rest of the staff took turns posing with their loved ones giving us little bits of comedy from everyone.

After failing to collect a hair or nail sample, Dwight settles for a dirty diaper to take in for DNA testing. “Operation Phoenix” was Dwight’s code name for the switch-a-roo he had coordinated with Mose to throw Angela off his trail. Initially, I thought the extended car chase was excessive by The Office standards, but the payoff when Angela realized that she had been chasing Mose made the whole sequence work.

Back at the office, Andy was making me want to strangle him because of his homeless janitor act. I actually love Andy Bernard as a character, and I liked him as the branch manager, but he was so irritating that I just wanted him to shut up and go home. Andy is a well educated, nice guy, and I suppose that part of me still doesn’t understand why he so desperately wants to keep that job at Dunder-Mifflin.

The upside of Andy’s weird homeless janitor act was the staff’s intervention when everyone realized that Andy was acting more crazy than usual. When Andy tried to tell them the truth, they all assumed that Andy had been hallucinating about David Wallace and I cracked up when Toby very seriously asked, “Do you see David Wallace in the room now?”

The return of David Wallace signaled the exit of Robert California. I still don’t know what to make of California coming up with a new name, “Bob Kazamakis, C.E.O.” and I definitely don’t understand what the heck happened in the meeting between Wallace and California. Not only is California making money on the liquidation of the Sabre properties, but Wallace is investing money in California’s strange “charity” to look for uneducated Eastern European gymnasts? I think a lot of the humor in this particular gag went over my head. The only thing I know for sure is that Robert California leaves The Office a creepier guy than the creepy guy he was when he first came to Scranton.

After some of the old warehouse workers had lost their lotto winnings in a bad energy drink investment, they came to Darryl looking for their jobs back. This plot line quickly became all about Darryl deciding to more aggressively pursue Val. I don’t mind the Darryl/Val relationship story, but I was confused as to why she would be invited to step into a “family portrait” with Darryl and his daughter. Val held his hand in the photo, but they’re not even dating yet, so her stepping into that photo just seemed completely strange to me.

Oscar was a crack up in both the cold open and the credits tag tonight. His attempt to make an “It Gets Better” video while his co-workers constantly got in the way was amusing and topical. Both Senator Lipton and Oscar were hilarious in the brief scene at the very end of the episode when Senator Lipton became upset with Oscar for not calling him. I love the little ongoing side plot revolving around Oscar’s obsession with confirming his suspicions about The Senator’s orientation. Of all the story lines touched on tonight, I might be the most interested in finding out where this one goes.

This season finale of The Office didn’t feel quite like a season finale to me. It felt a lot more like the episode that should come right before the season finale. While none of the storylines wrapped up conclusively, they were cut off too early in their arcs to feel like actual cliffhangers.

We had already suspected all season that Dwight was the father of Angela’s child. We know no more and no less about his paternity than what we knew going into the episode. We already knew that Andy had been working with David Wallace to take over Dunder Mifflin. The takeover was confirmed, but the office wasn’t suddenly left in a state of turmoil. Even though the season ended in the middle of a handful of story arcs, I’m not left with a frustrating desire for season 9 to start so I can find out what happens next. In that sense, this finale was somewhat of a disappointment.

I still consider myself a fan of The Office and I actually enjoyed most of the episodes in season 8, so I remain optimistic about the future of The Office even if this finale didn’t quite live up to my expectations.