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.)
Season 3, Episode 14
From the beginning of “The Office,” there was no better partner in crime than Pam for Jim’s antics. By Season 3, even Pam and Jim knew that — but circumstances had conspired to keep the couple away from each other. And although Jim and Karen Filippelli had chemistry, in “The Return,” Karen’s not keen on Jim’s plan to hide Andy’s cell phone — and drive him nuts by continually calling it. Pam, however, was all in on the prank. Karen had already suspected that Jim hadn’t worked through his unrequited feelings for Pam — and to his credit, when Karen confronts him on it, he quietly cops to it. This wasn’t the end of Jim and Karen, but it continued to set the stage for an obvious break between the two, and the eventual return of “Jim and Pam” as a thing.
Season 3, Episode 20
Not only does this episode feature perhaps one of Krasinski’s funniest ever moments on the show — the cold open, in which Jim’s flawless impression of Dwight sends the latter into a fiery rage — but later scenes spotlight Jim’s ability to put aside his occasional annoyance with his co-workers and find room for empathy. The final beats of his storyline with Andy, who’s just received some devastating news about a relationship he thought he was in (with a high school student), reveal Jim’s innate compassion, as well as a pretty decent singing voice.
Season 3, Episode 23
In the episode previous to this one, “Beach Games,” an empowered Pam tells off most of the Dunder Mifflin staff while saving most of her ire for Jim — noting that she called off her wedding because of him. But what hit Jim the hardest was Pam’s admission that she missed their friendship. Now, in “The Job,” it’s Jim’s turn to make a grand gesture. Interviewing for a management position in New York, Jim realizes that he has no interest in moving with Karen (who was also a contender for the gig) to the Big Apple. Instead, back in Scranton, he asks Pam out for a date. It was the end of Season 3, but the start of a whole new storyline for Jim and Pam. Krasinski is even seen with a new haircut — which he had gotten for a movie role but also worked as a signal that a new Jim was here, and that “The Office” was done playing games: “Jim and Pam” was here to stay.
Season 4, Episode 6
Jim has limits, and though it’s not often we see him as a buzzkill, it’s important to note that Jim isn’t willing to be a jokester at the expense of someone’s feelings. Dragged to Utica by Michael and Dwight, the trio is out for vengeance after Stanley gets poached by another Dunder Mifflin branch. That means taking on Jim’s ex-girlfriend, Karen. Obviously, Jim doesn’t want to go at all, but he stays with the team in order to keep the two loose cannons in check. “This is the dumbest thing we’ve ever done,” Jim says, and later, he’s forced to explain himself to an angry ex, colleague, and superior. It’s a deserved moment for Karen, who disappears without a trace after Jim and Pam get their happy ending, even if Jim doesn’t fully deserve the scolding. Krasinski plays embarrassed and scared for peak hilarity, but it’s his reunion with Pam after returning home that really emphasizes the kind of man Jim is: a good one.
Season 5, Episode 1
Jim as a character was all about the big dramatic gestures, which is why his proposal to Pam in the Season 5 premiere came as such a surprise, as he simply gets down on one knee during a rushed rendezvous at a roadside gas station. But even when filmed from a distance, through the rain, Krasinski is able to sell all the pent-up passion and love he’s been carrying with him for years, making this moment not just a cathartic one for romantics, but for anyone who had come to care for Jim as a character.
Season 5, Episode 28
In an episode with Idris Elba, Rob Huebel, James Urbaniak, and the triumphant return of Amy Ryan as Holly Flax, it takes a lot to break through. Jim and Pam masterminding a plot to get everyone home early by setting all the clocks forward (2009 was such a simpler time) comes close, though, as does Pam’s smirking reveal that she can play a little volleyball. The kicker, though, is another classic season-closing Jim/Pam moment, as the two of them find out that she’s pregnant. Jim finding out is a lovely beat, sold by a lovely bit of wordless acting from Krasinski and Fischer. That big grin and those welling eyes tell more than any cheesy line of celebratory dialogue ever could.
Season 6, Episodes 4 & 5
Here, Jim gets the girl in an hour of television that runs the gamut from tears to laughter to dance numbers to happily ever after. It’s not a perfect wedding, thanks in no small part due not just to the expected antics of the Dunder Mifflin family, but Jim blowing his and Pam’s big secret (that she’s already pregnant). However, he recovers nicely from that massive slip-up with two weddings for the price of one — emotionally, anyway — capped off by one of Jim’s most romantic talking head moments: “I bought those boat tickets the day I saw that YouTube video. 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.”
Season 7, Episode 6
Jim doesn’t do Halloween costumes. Prior to Season 7, his most elaborate look is Three-Hole Punch Jim, followed closely by the time he wore a name tag with “Dave” written on it. But when he finds out Danny (Timothy Olyphant) never called Pam back for a second date because she was “too dorky,” he realizes why it’s so important for her to have a man in full Popeye costume standing next to her Olive Oyl. Jim earned never-ending good boyfriend points over the course of the series, but this example from late in the game introduces a tinge of jealousy to the proceedings, as well as another mature move from a character often perceived to be childish.
Season 8, Episode 13
What “Jury Duty” does as an episode that feels relatively essential to Jim’s arc as a character is the reveal of just how awkward he initially found family life. After choosing to lie to the office about why he was absent for a week — his “jury duty” lasted half a day, and he spent the rest of the time at home helping Pam with the kids — Jim tries to orchestrate a cover-up with the help of Andy. But his final gambit backfires when he brings his two young children into the office, and we see that as often as smooth as Jim can be, when it comes to fatherhood he’s still more than capable of helpless floundering.
Season 9, Episode 11
When Daryl comes to interview at Jim’s sports startup, it’s our first glimpse into the Philadelphia office, but more importantly, it’s our best look at what Halpert’s professional future looks like. Happy, excited, and creative, Jim operates with confidence and a “real Facebook energy,” as Daryl describes the office vibe. Jim’s busy, sure, but he’s thrilled to be busy instead of beaten down by the work. It’s necessary for the audience to see what a difference a good environment makes for Jim’s life; after all, this is the company Jim and Pam move to Austin for at the end of the show. He wants this, and viewers needed to see why.
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