The Office is back for 2009 and off to a solid start.
The best thing about “The Duel” was that I genuinely felt that the stakes were high. Watching the whole gang walking on egg shells for the first act was truly awkward, and not in the comic way that the show usually embraces. Once Michael spilled the beans, I was ready to expect anything. There was more riding on Andy’s initial reaction to this news than there was to say, finding a desolate Earth; which speaks volumes about the talent in front of and behind the camera on The Office.
The most impressive thing about the episode was that the battle between Dwight and Andy for Angela’s hand was perfectly balanced. It was never too much. With those two characters, I often feel like we get more than we really need; but they never crossed from the comic absurd to the patently ridiculous.
I loved that, despite the focus on Dunder-Mifflin’s two biggest fools, “The Duel” was really an ensemble episode as well. Lots of people had moments to shine: Kevin attempting to sass Angela, Meredith calling the loser, Oscar’s conversation with Dwight in the break room.
The only thing that didn’t work was Michael’s trip to New York. I understand that they had to find a way to get Michael out of the office. It certainly felt in character that Michael would want no part of the duel, but his conference with Wallace was so much less interesting than what was going on back in Scranton. Sure, it had its moments (the never-ending sentence, Michael not taking the cue to leave), but that shoddy green screen work in the last confessional ruined everything for me.
All in all, a great episode. I hope there’s more like it this season. It’s this post-Super Bowl episode I’m worried about. If the rumors I’m hearing are true, I think we’re all in for a little shark-jumping on February 1.