It’s never good to have pre-conceptions about an episode before it’s even begun, but sadly I did. And most of my predictions about the episode were true.
I am really not a fan of the magical relation plot device that so many shows feel comfortable in trotting out whenever they feel like they’ve run out of material. So, to hear that Jess was getting a sister was aggravating as not only a fan of New Girl but as a fan of television and good writing in a general sense.
After two and a half seasons we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief to such an extent that we believe that her sister would have never been brought up before? We aren’t supposed to wonder why she was absent at the Thanksgiving episode that introduced Jess’s parents? We’re supposed to assume that she wouldn’t have been in Nick’s birthday video? Is it going to be a surprise sister? Are the guys going to know about her? Was I the only one who just assumed that Jess was an only child due to her sibling-like relationship with Cece?
How will the show plausibly explain the character’s absence and in a way that won’t leave me and like-minded people irritated.
The episode had a lot of potential to be very funny but they were too thinly spread and their plots didn’t get the time or effort that they deserved.
It was broken into three different groupings this week which worked since all of the actors have a nice chemistry with one another, it would have been nice to linger on it for a while.
Jess and Abby:
Jess’s storyline with her sister Abby, played by Linda Cardellini is the one that takes the most prevalence in the episode. At the start of the episode, Jess receives a phone call from her mom telling her that Abby has managed to get herself into trouble and is in jail and she needs Jess to go bail her out. Once Jess has done that, she’s supposed to place her on a plane and send her home. Jess plans to do just that in order to keep her away from Nick.
None of this goes as planned when Jess gets to the jail to grab her when Abby insists on inserting herself in Jess’s life. She uses guilt tactics to make it work and tells Jess she wants to meet Nick. Jess’s idea is to bring Abby back to the apartment without any interference, pretend Nick has gone away doing something else and won’t be back in time to meet her and then put Abby on the plane.
It begins as planned. Aside from one awkward run-in with Cece and Coach the sisters seem to be actually enjoying each other’s company as they drink wine and talk about their mom. It’s nice, but also builds up a very typical tension between the two. They’re a competitiveness between the two they undercuts the relationship and while it’s something that surely many siblings feel, it’s also very cliche for a plot device. One feels like they aren’t as appreciated as the other. One is put on a pedestal, one is baby of the family and one is the screw up. It makes for good motivation to move a narrative forward, but it’s obvious.
Their enjoyable evening comes to an end when Abby realizes that Jess has been lying to her and walks out.
Jess, after a sobering call from her mother which gives her perspective on Abby’s mindset, goes after her sister and finds her in a hotel lobby drinking. Abby had wanted to have something to hold over her head, but it an adult move Jess tells Abby that she knows she read the text where she said Abby does have a tendency to mess everything up. But now she’s here and she’s taking Abby back to her apartment and they’re going to make things right.
The storyline between the two ends in a way that’s open for growth and developing storylines. However, the problem is that this was only a portion of what happened and despite it not having a great amount of screen time, it took away from two other plots that could have been far more amusing.
Schmidt and Nick
Firstly, anytime that Max Greenfield and Jake Johnson get the opportunity to work together one-on-one I’m immediately a fan. Their comedic chemistry is fantastic. They know how to give and take, rather than one of them chewing up all of the space. So the promise was already there.
Then add in Nick being Schmidt’s wingman at a Bar Mitzvah. This should be comedy gold and it is…nearly.
Again, there simply wasn’t enough time to fully land the joke. Schmidt wants to figure out an elaborate plan to get Rachel to like him, however he’s having a difficult time getting Nick’s attention. Nick is too preoccupied with what’s going on with Jess and worrying about her being ashamed of him.
Schmidt takes offense to this, saying that Nick is making it all about him when he was there to help Schmidt. He says it was nice when Nick would actually be there for him.
Nick apologizes to him and says he didn’t mean to get so distracted and promises to still help, and Schmidt tells Nick that Jess is ridiculous if she’s ashamed by anything about Nick.
So they get to work. Nick is supposed to go and start making trouble with an older woman and allow Schmidt to intervene which will make him look good in Rachel and her father’s eyes. Nick goes in for the steal and begins making out with the older woman—to the woman’s apparent delight—but before Schmidt can display his heroism another man steps in and punches Nick.
Nick goes home, sees Jess and explains the black eye. Then, he tries to figure out why she’d been lying. She says she was never ashamed of him but her sister, who’s a pretty big train wreck currently. Nick says that Jess should never have worried about that, considering his own family, but Jess couldn’t help it. She says that Abby might have to stay for a while and then goes in to catch up with her sister some more.
If any storyline suffered the most it’s the dinner party at Winston’s girlfriend Birdie’s place. Cece and Coach end up being the only ones who show up and rather jarringly it turns into a sexual tension standoff between the two of them. They begin arguing about their one random make-out session that never had any resolution and they end up outside, against another wall, trying to recreate it.
It doesn’t go as smoothly before.
It seemed like it was a one-time instance that worked within the heat of the moment as they’re incapable of finding the same effortless chemistry that they had. I enjoyed getting to see Hannah Simon indulge in a bit of physical comedy but once again it’s Winston that gets the shaft, being used as a set piece for Coach and Cece. There could have been some fantastically uncomfortable moments at the get-together but Winston is only allowed a line or too before Coach and Cece have run out.
It was nice, however, to see the two have a legitimate resolution as they decide to just try and be friends.
It’s a shame that the episode couldn’t allow both that moment and a little more time for Lamorne Morris to flex his comedic muscles a bit as well.
It’s not a very satisfying feeling to be proven right—especially regarding a show that I enjoy watching each week. But the introduction of Jess’s sister was sloppy, unnecessary and I fear a continued presence could be detrimental to the overall quality of the show. As much as I like Damon Wayans Jr. and think he’s a strong comedic presence, the show still hasn’t managed to effortlessly ease him into the pre-existing dynamic, nor have they managed to write him anything that could justify the character’s supposed relevance.
Just because he’s funny and has a good chemistry with the group, doesn’t mean the character adds anything.
Considering the weakly written archetype for Abby’s character this week, I can’t imagine anything better on her end.
Which is a shame because if there’s anything I would love to see on the show it would be a stronger female presence. For a show that’s led by a woman and written by a woman you’d think the female presence would be stronger, but more often than not the male characters are the ones given the more interesting or outrageous bits—mainly because none of the males on the show fit any archetype, they break them.
Abby right now is a cliché.
I hope that if Linda Cardellini is sticking around, she either has a continued presence or as a guest star they’ll figure out a way utilize her sardonic delivery and chemistry with Zooey Deschanel in a way that enhances the storyline rather than depriving the show of character moments that we care about. There are plenty of shows that manage to juggle large casts in a way that works and is beneficial to the characters, I’m just not so sure that New Girl is one of them.