- M.C. Thomas
Jim and Pam: The Greatest Love Story Ever Written
I've watched through The Office more than a few times. It's one of the funniest, most quotable shows of all time. Steve Carell as Michael Scott gives a legendary comedic performance, and is front-and-center throughout the first seven seasons. But another major part of the show is the epic romance between salesman Jim Halpert (played by John Krasinski) and receptionist Pam Beesly (played by Jenna Fischer). Thanks to the natural chemistry between the actors and a well-written arc that spans all nine seasons of the show, my opinion is that Jim and Pam have the greatest fictional love story ever written.
Some might read that and think, "He must be exaggerating. It's not a better love story than Casablanca or Romeo and Juliet."
I'm not exaggerating. The Office takes us on a full journey from their initial friendship to their wedding, and then deep into their years of marriage and parenthood. It's a story that truly has it all from lighthearted flirting to deep conflict and character growth. Here are ten reasons why Jim and Pam's romance stands above the rest:
10) Their friendship
"We're just friends."
From the start, Jim and Pam hang out more than any other two characters on the show (except maybe Michael and Dwight). They have natural banter, know countless random facts about each other (Pam's favorite yogurt is mixed berry), and they pull pranks on co-worker Dwight (my favorite is when they team up to convince Dwight that Jim has telekinetic powers).
Even though viewers can easily see the romantic tension between them, Jim and Pam are believable as close friends. How many times have you heard someone say, "I want to marry my best friend"? In Jim and Pam's case, they are undeniably best friends long before they become a couple.
Many times, a close friendship makes a great foundation for a romantic relationship, and the show does well at establishing their friendship first (rather than quickly pushing them together as a couple).
9) The pacing
A lot of shows make one of three mistakes when having two of their main characters form a romance: They get together too soon, they get together too late, or they're on-and-off throughout the whole thing. The Office makes none of these mistakes with Jim and Pam.
In season 1, the show doesn't use words and dialogue to portray the attraction between Jim and Pam. It doesn't need to directly say they are interested in each other. All it needs is little moments like Pam falling asleep on Jim's shoulder, or Jim giving a subtle smile at his desk when Pam's mom comes in and asks, "So which one is Jim?" This is a perfect example of showing, not telling, and season 1 effectively sets the stage for what's to come.
Their relationship is paced perfectly throughout each season. Jim confesses his love for Pam in season 2, she reciprocates in season 3, they start dating in season 4, they get engaged (and pregnant!) in season 5, and married in season 6. The show effectively and efficiently pays off everything it builds up. It's a well-paced, naturally-progressing romance.
8) They overcome internal and external obstacles
Any great story needs obstacles and conflict, and this romantic story has a major obstacle in the form of Pam's fiancé, Roy Anderson.
Roy is big, brash, and dominant, which contrasts Jim's unassuming, mild-mannered nature. Roy and Pam had been engaged for three years, and given how much he takes her for granted, every viewer asks, "Why does she stay with him?" Because at this point in the show, Pam has insecurities, is fearful of change, and doesn't stand up for herself.
As for Jim, you can see how painful it is for him to watch Pam and Roy together. The most heart-wrenching moment was on the booze cruise (Booze Cruise-s2 ep 11). He tries to confess his feelings to Pam just as Roy announces an official wedding date. Jim had earlier been asked a rhetorical question (during a safety seminar) about who he would save in a fire. He jokingly responded with "the customer," but in a rare moment of distress and anxiety, he says this to the camera:
Jim isn't a confrontational character, and Pam won't initially stand up to Roy, which is what makes Roy such an effective foil and source of external conflict. This love triangle also forces Jim and Pam to overcome their own internal conflicts: Jim learning to step outside of his comfort zone and Pam learning to be more assertive.
7) Character development
Neither Jim nor Pam rely on their romance to grow as characters. They have to grow in order for their romance to happen.
Jim spent three years being complacent with both his work and personal life. He was fine being a mid-tier worker who messed with Dwight and flirted with a woman he couldn't be with. He had a tendency to avoid problems rather than confront them (for example, planning a trip during the weekend of Pam's wedding rather than being honest about why he doesn't want to go). It took two seasons of working up courage, a pep talk from Michael Freaking Scott on the booze cruise, and a leap of faith for him to finally confess his love for Pam (Casino Night-s2 ep 22). While she didn't immediately reciprocate, this confession was what led to her calling off her wedding with Roy.
Pam has one of the best cases of character development I've ever seen. She starts as a receptionist who dreams of being an artist, is timid around everyone not named Jim, and doesn't have an assertive bone in her body. She learns to stand up to Roy, as well as everyone around her. In the beach episode (Beach Games-s3 ep 24), she's invigorated after walking across the burning coals that no one else would attempt. She then confronts her co-workers who take her for granted ("Why didn't any of you come to my art show?") and even confronts Jim, who's dating Karen at this time. Pam stepping out of her comfort zone in this scene is what sets the stage for her and Jim to finally get together.
While "He/she makes me a better person" is a common relationship phrase we hear, I love that the show makes Jim and Pam better people before the actual relationship.
6) They support each other's dreams
Pam's dream is to be an artist, and Jim is passionate about sports.
In season 5, Pam decides to go to art school in New York, even though it means being away from Jim for three months. While Roy had scoffed at the art school idea early in the show, Jim was immediately supportive. Throughout Pam's time in New York, we see how increasingly tough it is for her and Jim to be apart. They talk to each other through video chat and earpieces, but it isn't the same. When she fails one of her classes and mentions having to stay another semester, we can see in Jim's face how devastated he is. He could have told her to come home and forget art school. But, for her, he quickly pulls himself together and encourages her to make the decision that's best for her.
In season 9, Jim pursues his own dream of co-founding a sports marking company in Philadelphia called Athlead. It's increasingly tough on Pam, who is taking care of their kids while Jim is away more and more often. It's the first time in the show that we see real tension and arguing between them, but they handle it in healthy way. Particularly when Jim wants to go to Philly on Valentine's Day to avoid an argument. Pam says, "I think you should stay, and I think we should fight," to which Jim agrees. This shows a willingness for the both of them to prioritize the health of their marriage over everything else. Jim later leaves his dream job to make Pam happy, but she encourages him to go back.
There are very real dilemmas and conflicts the two have to face, but it never gets to the point of toxicity, and we clearly see that both Jim and Pam are willing to support each other and make sacrifices for one another.
5) The wedding
The wedding episodes (Niagara-s6 ep 4/5) are the absolute best. This is the grand payoff for everything the viewers have wanted since season 1. There's a great mixture of humor and emotion, especially with that iconic "Forever" dance down the aisle.
From Pam ripping her veil to Dwight playing a song on the "no play" list, it was easy to guess that the wedding in the church wouldn't go as planned. Love prevails when Jim cuts his tie to comfort Pam after she rips the veil. They take a quick trip to Niagara Falls to get married on a boat, and it might be the most breathtaking moment in the entire show.
"I knew we'd need a backup plan. The boat was actually Plan C, the church was Plan B, and Plan A was marrying her a long, long time ago. Pretty much the day I met her."
4) This scene
The moment when they find out Pam is pregnant is something special (Company Picnic-s5 ep28). The actors depict so much genuine love and joy in such a short amount of time. I like how we as the viewers aren't outright told what's happening, but we can easily guess on our own. There's not much else I can say. It's a flawless scene.
3) We get to see every phase of their romance
It's rare that we can follow two characters from courtship to marriage to parenthood, but that's what we get with Jim and Pam.
The show takes us on their romantic journey, where we experience every high and low along with them. We laugh when they pull pranks on Dwight, we're nervous when Roy confronts Jim, we tear up when Jim drops to one knee and says, "I couldn't wait."
Jim puts it best when interviewing with the documentary team in the last episode: "Imagine going back and watching a tape of your life. You could see yourself change and make mistakes and grow up. You could watch yourself fall in love, watch yourself become a husband, become a father. You guys gave that to me. And that's an amazing gift."
2) Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski's chemistry
The Office has one of the best all-around casts on television, and the characters all interact off each other so well.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski are incredibly talented actors who can effectively balance humorous and dramatic moments throughout the show. They are so convincing as a couple, that many fans wish they were together in real life. Fischer herself had a pretty cool response to this on Twitter:
The writing for these two characters is great in itself, but the performances from these two actors elevates the romance to a whole new level.
1) Beauty in ordinary things
Perhaps the best quote in the entire show is the very last line in the finale.
Pam: "I thought it was weird when you picked us to make a documentary. But all in all, I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"
This line captures the very essence of The Office, and the essence of Jim and Pam's relationship. There's no grand adventure across a fantasy land, and no prince rescuing a princess from a dragon-guarded tower. Just two ordinary people with an extraordinary love for one another. This romance is special because it's relatable. We've all felt that fear of putting ourselves out there for someone we love. The Office shows us what can happen if we take that brave leap like Jim during Casino Night or Pam during Beach Games.
What is your favorite Jim and Pam moment? Let me know in the comments!