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A poignant finale episode closes out ‘The Office’

With 'bestest mensch' Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) his side Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) prepares marry series finale 'The Office.' |

With "bestest mensch" Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) at his side, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) prepares to marry on the series finale of "The Office." | Chris Haston~NBC photo

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Updated: May 17, 2013 9:30AM

Good comedies make you laugh. Great ones also make you cry.

“The Office” proved why it belongs in the latter camp with a series finale full of the poignancy you’d expect from a comedy that was never afraid to show its heart.

Thursday’s 75-minute sendoff wasn’t the funniest episode, but it didn’t have to be. It was meant to provide closure for a deep bench of memorable characters viewers came to know over the last nine seasons. Its purpose was to tie up loose ends, something it did with all the dexterity of the Scranton Strangler.

The show got off to a rocky start as it brought everyone up to speed on what’s happened in the past year since the world’s longest-in-the-making documentary, “The Office: An American Workplace,” finally aired on PBS.

Stanley retired and moved to Florida. Angela and Dwight were about to get married. In a move that felt strange, Dwight, who was running the Scranton branch with an iron fist, had fired Kevin and Toby. And Andy had become a public joke after his crying jag on “America’s Next A Cappella Sensation” inspired a viral video in the Philippines and a Bill Hader sketch on “SNL’s” Weekend Update.

Once the gang reunited for a panel discussion about the documentary, things picked up steam. A woman in the audience — played by Chicagoan Joan Cusack — stood up and announced she’s the birth mother of lovable foster child Erin. Of course, Erin was the last in the room to figure it out. Guest star Ed Begley Jr. revealed he’s Erin’s dad.

Just when you thought it was safe to put away the Kleenex, the moment we’d all been waiting — or hoping — for, happened. Steve Carell made a triumphant return as an older, grayer, and much happier Michael Scott. He showed up at Dwight’s wedding as a surprise orchestrated by Jim, Dwight’s “bestest mensch.”

After nine seasons of watching Jim and Dwight surprise each other, usually not in a good way, it was a lovely, symbolic moment. It also gave Michael the chance to deliver his best “that’s what she said” yet, when a stunned Dwight looked at his old boss and said, “I can’t believe you came.”

Michael didn’t say much in the finale, but his mere presence did. We find out he’s a father, and he got the family he always wanted. We’re happy for him, and he’s happy for his other family, the people he left behind at Dunder Mifflin.

“I feel like all my kids grew up and then they married each other; it’s every parent’s dream,” a jubilant Michael said at the wedding on Dwight’s beet farm, where bride and groom read their vows while standing in their graves — a Schrute tradition.

Steve wasn’t the only Carell to come back for the final episode. His wife, Nancy, who played a real estate agent early in the series, popped up toward the end in another heartstring-tugging moment. She helped Pam surprise Jim by selling the house in Scranton so the couple could move to Austin, where Jim would work at his dream job.

One of the best parts of the show was seeing Pam sit behind the office’s reception desk one last time, answering the phone and saying Jim Halpert doesn’t work here anymore.

The finale managed to squeeze in some genuinely funny moments, too, like when Meredith’s son showed up as the stripper at Angela’s bachelorette party. Watching self-involved Ryan and Kelly run off into the sunset after Ryan dumped his Baby Bjorn and Kelly dumped her rich boyfriend was a humorous end to their twisted love story. Added bonus: Nellie got to swoop in and get the baby she’d been longing for.

The finale was written by Greg Daniels, who adapted the British version of “The Office” for American TV in 2005.

“I wanted to give endings to all the characters,” Daniels had said. “They don’t all get what they want … but I think the audience will find it makes sense for all of them.”

Maybe the characters didn’t all get what they wanted, but we did.

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