“New Girl” didn’t start out as a risky move. It was the opposite: a cashing-in on a budding, beautiful movie star’s brand of comedy. The title, the twee theme song, and the “adorkable” label were all signs of a methodical, machine-like approach to putting butts in the seats and churning out the chuckles. Then something happened. Jess became increasingly self-aware, Nick was less of a sad sack and more a sarcastic, self-loathing yet clever cynic, Winston escaped the shackles of “replacement” and gave the loft a necessary injection of responsibility and Schmidt became iconic: a sensational blend of douchey and neurotic, charming and sleazy, “that guy” and an enigma of manhood we hadn’t seen since Ron Swanson came into his own.
All the elements that had us poised to resent this show are still there, but since the pilot the evolution has been profound. Instead of a peculiar set of men with their world thrown off-kilter by an exceptionally quirky girl, they’re a exceptionally quirky bunch of roommates whose world has been thrown into a new orbit now that they have each other. It’s still a sweet tart at times, unbearably lovely, but it has had its darkness buried beneath. All four of them are hopelessly childish in the face of adulthood and their ineptitude at coping with the harshness of life is astonishing, but it’s not like we’re any better at it. They’re just a hell of a lot more lavish in their freakouts.
In the first season’s finale, we see how far the show has come in establishing the essence of New Girl. It’s Jess-ence doesn’t define it, it merely comprises a quarter of its self. What this rookie series became was an ensemble show that might blow “Friends” out of the water one day. It’s already brandishing a more sophisticated humor, as well as a patience and deliberateness for going to the “let’s have these two hookup” well. Also, lives have suffered under the burden of choice, a self-sabotage that gives it a distinctly present viewpoint.
Yes, I’m sure you fellow viewers never bought Nick was going to bolt for a new place with Caroline. It would mess too much with the success. This show would need a season or two more of praise and clout before they could tinker with the formula like that. But as “New Girl’s” prone to do, it took us on a treacherous journey before these people could know what they knew, but refused to acknowledge.
Nick sits the rest of the gang down with cookies and confidence and states, point blank, he’s moving out. Schmidt and Winston makes jokes about how they’ll spend the money which they aren’t funneling into his recoveries, whereas Jess is more distraught. I was extremely relieved this didn’t end with a kiss. I’m so grateful that the grounds for her concern were genuine, and only selfish to the degree that she needs him to be the friend he’s been through her rough patches. Again, somewhere down the line they could get it on, but not now. The timing is not on their side and gimmick is something this show needs to fully reject or it loses its appeal and becomes corporate instead of a rambunctious bunch of twenty-somethings resisting the finality of growing up.
Schmidt and Winston continue to deny their grief by interviewing a new candidate named Neil (frequently seen Thomas London) who would add a remarkable awkwardness to their dynamic, but not a welcome one. Jess tries to scare him with threats of feminist rants, but Schmidt and Winston talk her off the ledge and say they need to act like it doesn’t hurt them as much as it does to lose Nick.
Since Nick’s departure is just a smokescreen, the topsy-turvy change comes from Schmece. After a visit to a photo shoot where she rides a missile with the hunky Gino, Schmidt’s insecurities that he’d been suppressing rise again. He’s convinced he’d be holding her back asking her to stay with him, even though last week saw a huge breakthrough for their emotional intimacy.
Nick says his hurried goodbyes, and Winston and Schmidt come along for the move-in. On the way Nick’s assuredness leaves him and he turns abruptly onto the highway where he mocks his own predictability. “Nick’s having a freakout, what else is new.” After a 140-mile detour, they’re in the desert, and Nick is panicked that his loneliness has made him too hasty. Now he’s so terrified of the situation he’s locked himself into, he hurls his keys to the truck into the ravine. I thought it was a nice touch that Caroline was so understanding. Though she seemed to treat him awfully before, maybe she has changed. But the issue is Nick hasn’t, and he isn’t ready to leave his protective nest where he relishes in his fellow lost souls.
When Jess arrives to save them, she tosses her own keys dooming them to a night in the desert. Winston has a nervous breakdown, terrified by the prospect that he might be eaten because of their foolishness. The gang makes the best of it though and they tailgate the moving van and listen to Nick’s deliciously embarrassing collection of tapes from adolescence. Schmidt reads a suggestive text message from Gino that sends him into a insecurity tailspin. He confides in Jess that he wants to “White Fang” Cece. At first grossed out, thinking that was some kind of violent sex act no doubt, Schmidt clarifies he means “White Fang” the novel. He admires the main character’s sacrifice where he releases the wolf because it is wild, and to be free is what’s best for it. So when the wolf won’t go he tragically throws stones at it till it leaves. It’s a shockingly mature outlook for Schmidt, but I could tell it was rooted in his own feelings of worthlessness and not righteousness or selflessness.
There’s a silly little event that takes away from the emotional stakes by adding symbolic drama to their night in the desert. A coyote that Winston had feared would come—oh yeah, Winston is afraid of the dark and it’s somehow hilarious; and the petrified, girlish scream startled thing is a good look for him—stops Nick and Jess in their tracks. Besides Jess’ “Meep, meep” Road Runner impression that freed them, the best reveal of that segment was how Nick immediately put his hand over her mouth and pulled her in tight. It was the most genuine affection and chemistry I’d seen from them and showed an admirable amount of restraint that they didn’t go for the “big moment” kiss.
When Schmidt confronts Cece, we get the ups and downs of the character. He has his glorious moment where Cece catches him in the act of White Fanging her—its the only book on his Kindle—and he still puts on the show of trying to make her scram like a loving animal. “Go on, git” and all. Then things get heavy when he tells her why he’s pushing her away. His peeping of her phone is absolutely not okay, and Cece should be mad. But when Schmidt drops the bomb, “You slept with me, that doesn’t say much about your taste in men,” it’s a heart wrenching nose dive. I both like and am frustrated that there wasn’t more resolution. It would seem like they’re done, but she just walks away. Maybe they could play with time a bit and the premiere is months later. Because it’s also unclear if Nick and Caroline are kaput too.
Speaking of, once Jess and Nick have the critical talk about what she really wants for Nick, she’s able to endorse his move-in if it is what will truly make him happy. Nick says the poignant line, “But I think you’ll need me too much,” which sounded like, “But I need you.” Jess then comes off surprisingly clear-headed with, “I’ll be okay because I met you.” Again, control and restraint to not go for the jugular, but still cutting deep was expertly done by these writers. In the morning, we learn Jess never threw the keys and just wanted her heart-to-heart with Nick to be sure he was being thoughtful about his decision. They drop him off at the new place and Schmidt Fredo-kisses him! Such a great callback to “Injured,” a superb episode where that concept was first established—That reminds me of another callback; when Nick first left and the creepy landlord Remy appears to lament with Jess, saying he’ll miss the way Nick smelled.
Then in the final scene we see how well these characters have been defined, in their separate rooms, but we also see how it’s strange to not see them thriving together. Winston is trying to overcome his fear of the dark, Schmidt is reading his Success Weekly, and Jess is in her jammies shutting the shades when she sees the moving van parked in the street. Then Nick appears in his old room and blares his tape of “Shook Me All Night Long,” a signal that he is back. The dancing from each is wonderfully poetic as well. Jess does her adorkable thing and whips her hair while jumping on the bed, Schmidt does elegant bed acrobatics, and Winston claps for a time, then bangs on the wall annoyed. It bodes well that the show ends on this note of solidarity that also showcases their separate eccentricities.
It’s a hell of an angle for this show going into next season. Now that we have this golden gang, let’s help they grow apart now that they’ve grown together. For instance, while Winston has had his spectacular instances, he’s been stunted a bit because the rest of his roommates are so much more flamboyant with their problems. Winston still hasn’t carved a notable niche since returning from Latvia. Who will he become? Jess’ romantic life has been a bust, will she find some solace by herself or will her destructive habits continue? Schmidt and Nick grew the most, but they both sabotaged their potentially true loves out of fear. Can those couples recover or are they back to the drawing board? The answers are unimportant, I’m just glad we’ll get to see these kooky kids do it together.
“New Girl” surprised us all by becoming a hangout comedy as opposed to a cutesy fest that would give us cause to strangle ourselves. It not only developed lovable characters, but it discovered a voice richly filled with pop culture references, a cynical yet refreshing tone and an edgy wit that not many expected. From a rousing game of “True American” to the douchebag jar, it’s been a run that could have easily collapsed, but got second wind in 2012, now there’s no end in sight. Do you “Girl,” do you.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– Schmidt’s homage to Tyga’s “Rack City: “When Nick leaves, i’m just gonna hire a plumber and throw cash at him while he works. Fiddies, and hunnids, hunnids, hunnids.”
– “What is this a carob chip? Are you trying to buy our love with hippie chocolate, ya idiot?”
– Ah, the penis injury. Not much time spent on it, but Schmidt remarks on his bandages being removed: “The Washington Monument is ready to serve his nation. This horse is ready to become a unicorn.”
– Prospective roommate, Neil: “I had the unique experience of having to let myself go. I did not take it well.”
– Schmidt’s bandage removal doesn’t go well, so his junk gets a hard cast. Ironically, now he can’t get hard——Schmidt: “Say something hot to me.” Cece: “Fresh, pressed linens.” Schmidt: Nope, not an inch. It’s like a swaddled baby.”
– “What the hell war is this? Am I supposed to want to buy a missile? Just pounding the drum of war. Did nobody listen to Eisenhower?”
– “How’s the new apartment? Does it smell like new paint and compromise?”
– “I’m worried about Schmidt. He’s a Jew in the desert I don’t want him to wander.”
– Winston: “The werewolves come out at night, man. I don’t want booby to eat me. I hate thick thighs, and I got a fat ass.”
– “This isn’t another one of those ‘Merlot is the whore of vineyard’ talks is it?”