TV fans looking forward to watching “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” might have had one big hurdle to overcome: believing that one of our nation’s most savvy intelligence operatives could be played by that guy who used to prank his co-workers on “The Office.”
But really, “The Office” contains more than a few glimpses at the full potential of John Krasinski as a performer. In the show’s early years, Steve Carell’s manic energy made him into a star, but Krasinski’s quiet, goofy confidence kept him central to the show’s emotional arcs. “The Office” showcased not just his long-simmering romance with Pam (Jenna Fischer) but also the sort of existential woes that a lot of Americans might find more than relatable.
Below, IndieWire spotlights 16 key episodes that revealed the full range of Krasinski as a performer, from romantic lead to pure comic relief — all of them moments that led to the development of a character who might be easily described with the label “everyman,” but after nine seasons defined himself as something pretty extraordinary.
Season 2, Episode 3
When Michael Scott leaves the office to close on his new condo — and brings Dwight along with him — it allows the rest of the Dunder Mifflin crew to cut loose. In a bid to impress Pam, Jim comes up with the “Office Olympics,” using office supplies to run the staff through absurd challenges. Pam is indeed impressed, as the Office Olympics are a key early illustration of what he’s capable of when he’s excited about a project. But it’s also a reminder that Jim, at this point, is stuck in a dead-end job and not making much of an effort to pursue his true potential. Mike Schur wrote, and Paul Feig directed the episode, which was seen as an early example of how “The Office” had succeeded in finding its own voice separate from the British original.
Season 2, Episode 4
Jim may not be the most memorable character in the episode (Dwight breathlessly chanting the beginning of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” seals the deal here), but it’s one of the early examples of the show hinting that there’s more for him than languishing somewhere below middle management. Taking charge of keeping his co-workers occupied after a fire alarm pushes them into the parking lot, Jim still can’t help letting a little bit of his judge-y side through. But even as a new fling is developing with Katy (Amy Adams), those dormant feelings for Pam bubble up to the surface when a careless Roy doesn’t pick her during a game of “Who Would You Do?” Jim’s last look before he gets in the car with Katy at the end of the episode is an ideal example of him being able to allow himself some happiness, while still pining for an out-of-reach dream scenario.
Season 2, Episode 7
Get past the blatant invasion of Michael’s privacy and the “Threat Level Midnight” table read is one of Jim’s shining early moments. Getting the office to be productive at anything other than work is a Halpert specialty, and roping Dwight in to play the Michael Scarn role is an unintentional bit of sabotage once the group discovers the infamous “Dwigt” typo. Later on, Jim and Pam have their first “date,” sharing some rooftop sandwiches as the boss toils away at a Chili’s meeting. Lest anyone thinks Jim is anything but a smooth operator, his “At least I didn’t leave you at a high school hockey game” is a crucial early example of how the future Jack Ryan was also just as capable of shooting himself in the foot.
Season 2, Episode 11
In the long courtship of Jim and Pam, the Dunder Mifflin “booze cruise” is a major turning point. A terrible idea by Michael Scott to create a team bonding experience on a boat gives Jim a chance to finally confess his true feelings to Pam. But after an awkward beat, Roy announces a wedding date with Pam, and Jim — stunned by the turn of events — breaks up with Katy, whom he had brought as his date. Jim later admits his true feelings about Pam, but to Michael — who tells him not to give up. The realization that he wasn’t being fair to Katy and the pep talk from Michael (of all people!) were major catalysts in Jim’s decision to up his game and turn his quiet pining for Pam into something he would actively pursue.
Season 2, Episode 22
This is…how do we put it…one of the greatest episodes of comedy of the past decade and a half? Part of that comes from Michael’s one-two punch of, “I considered myself a great philanderer,” and “I hate so much about the things you choose to be,” (a pair of lines from an episode that boasts Carell as the credited writer). But much of the episode’s enduring legacy is in those last few confessional scenes, culminating in Jim and Pam’s first kiss. Even knowing that the two of them happily made a life together, Jim’s unburdening of his feelings seems like a pretty selfish move. But it’s that brutal honesty that paves the way for the season-long tension that kept them apart during the Stamford era.
Season 3, Episode 12
Though Mike Schur, Lee Eisenberg, and Gene Stupnitsky’s episode circles around Dwight and Andy’s budding rivalry, it’s a sneaky episode defining one of Jim’s critical attributes: competency. The office jokester clearly isn’t dumb, but viewers would be forgiven for wondering how he got as far as he did — making a good living, getting promoted, earning strong performance reviews from the higher-ups. Moreover, how he ever could have successfully sold paper with Dwight at his side (and vice versa) is a question begging to be answered. This episode illustrates exactly how these two found a groove as sales partners, including Jim’s tolerance of Dwight’s psych-up routine and his acceptance of Dwight’s ultra-aggressive sales style. In the room, Jim is the professional to Dwight’s eccentric; out of the room, Jim entertains himself by continuing to prank Dwight, knowing it won’t detract him from their mission. There’s a reason these two are lead salesmen, and we see that here. (Also, Jim owning up to Karen (Rashida Jones) about his crush on Pam is another fitting maturation point.)