The Office Writers Considered Killing Off Meredith In The Season 4 Premiere

The power of "The Office" to stay as culturally relevant and popular as it has, even nearly 20 years after its premiere, is nothing short of extraordinary. The workplace comedy has had an extremely strong hold on the American psyche for years, with many of the characters and running jokes of the show becoming culturally mainstream. The show's combination of sardonic, sometimes cringe-inducing humor and its genuine heart appeals to a wide swath of viewers, from comedy aficionados to just about every person who uses a dating app.

A colossal strength of "The Office" is its extremely strong ensemble cast, every single one of whom brings something unique and irreplaceable to the show. One of the show's tertiary characters is Meredith Palmer, portrayed by Kate Flannery. Meredith begins the show as little more than a glorified background character, just serving as one of the many people working at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

As the show continued, however, Meredith, like all of her other co-workers, began to become more of a fleshed-out personality. The single mother's socially inappropriate behavior and comments became more prominent, as well as her sexual promiscuity and possible implied alcoholism.

However, Meredith almost didn't get her chance to develop fully. According to Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey's Office Ladies podcast, there were apparently discussions among the show's writers to kill off the character at the beginning of the fourth season, an uncharacteristically dark move.

A dark turn

Despite its popularity, "The Office" isn't quite "Game of Thrones." It's not a show where characters tend to be killed off very often, especially not in somewhat gruesome fashion. The final cut of the show reflects this, as the season 4 premiere of "The Office" begins with Steve Carrell's Michael Scott, the desperate and offensive regional manager of the group, accidentally hitting Meredith with his car. In the show proper, the scene is played extremely for laughs, with Meredith humorously crashing into Michael's windshield, clearly hurt, but not in grave danger.

According to the Office Ladies, however, the show's writers considered making the incident far more deadly. This story was brought up by Kate Flannery herself, who guested on the podcast episode, where she reflected on her first thoughts upon reading that episode's script.

"OK, I literally said, 'Does she live?'" Flannery recalled. "And then, like, I've been reading later that, like, there's been articles saying that one of the writers decided that, you know, they wanted to pitch that Meredith didn't live and then they thought that was too dark. Greg thought it was too dark for Michael to have killed one of the employees of Dunder Mifflin."

It certainly would have been an unexpectedly dark turn for the show to take, even in its slightly bleaker early seasons. The character of Michael Scott is meant to be a well-meaning doofus, and killing one of his employees may have been a bridge too far for the character to get his redemption.

Even worse than you thought

According to Fischer, however, the idea was almost even darker. "I got to the bottom of it. I was e-mailing with Greg Daniels and Justin Spitzer, and they told me that yes," said Fischer, referring to some of the show's head writers. "They spent one evening pitching on this idea that maybe Meredith died, but it's more than that. It's not just that Meredith died."

To co-host Kinsey's horror, Fischer explained what almost happened between Michael and Meredith. "He said that the pitch was that Michael would accidentally hit Meredith with this car and then thinking that no one could see him, he didn't want to leave any witnesses, and so in one pitch, he backed over her to make sure she was dead."

Michael Scott accidentally killing one of his employees is one thing, but gravely injuring one and then finishing her off so to avoid consequences is definitely far more evil than I think "The Office" was ready to handle. It's a good thing they didn't end up going with that idea, because as Kinsey said on the podcast, that would have been extremely hard to come back from.

Ultimately, "The Office" is a pretty nice and optimistic show in its view of its characters. Even when the characters have been meant to do bad things in the past, actors have fought back on some of what was written. Michael Scott murdering a person in cold blood feels out of place on a show that took such care to understand and foreshadow the lives of their characters. So let's all be thankful that Meredith lived, and we didn't have to watch a season of Michael Scott going full "Dexter" on us.