So last night, on what is presumably one of the last episodes of New Girl, the writers finally resolved a long standing plot point. No, I don’t mean Nick finally breaking up with Reagan so that he and Jess can reunite. I mean this:
Schmidt’s long withheld first name is Winston. OK.
I’ve been hard on New Girl for the past, say, four seasons or so. But it’s only because I loved so hard in the beginning. The come down has been rough, and at this point, I’m just desperate to put the show on a train to San Diego and call it a night. So the fact that the writers botched an explanation which three seasons ago would have been amazing is really hammering home how much this isn’t what it used to be. It’s like they’ve forgotten what makes the absurdity of someone having to change their name because someone else has it funny. And here’s a hint: it isn’t that they proceed to physically fight poorly. It’s this:
Or more specifically, it’s Nasim Pedrar’s Aly delivering the line, “Yet somehow all the Michaels in the world manage to deal with this everyday.” Absurd by itself isn’t funny. Absurd barreling into the normal, and then kind of convincing normal to go along with it is funny. It’s what New Girl season two knew that they’ve apparently forgotten. Russell playing True American was funny not only because it was a ridiculous, made-up game with unclear rules, but because he knew it was ridiculous and went for it anyway. Schmidt only listing different kinds of cheeses in order to seduce Cece — not funny. Cece knowing that it’s weird to seduce someone with cheese, and being upset with herself that it worked — funny. Nick using the inheritance from his father to buy a mall photo shoot — not funny. The fact that the photos kind of worked — very funny as evidence by this background photo.
Which is precisely why it’s gotten so hard to watch the last few seasons of New Girl. There are still flashes of greatness. Like when Schmidt and Winston try to brawl, and Cece asks Aly what’s happening. Her answer? “I used to live by myself.”
Or this exchange between Nick and Jess’ dad
Mr. Day: Let me ask you a question. You’re in the ocean with Jess, and a shark starts coming toward you. What do you do?
Nick: Which ocean?
Mr. Day: I don’t know. Pacific.
Nick: What type of shark?
Mr. Day: What the hell difference does it make?
Nick: Well, if it’s a hammerhead, you just tickle it between the sideways eyes, and you have a companion for life. Then you’ve got tiger sharks, you’ve got whale sharks, you’ve got trumpet sharks which I believe are a thing. If not, it definitely should be.
Mr. Day: It’s just a regular shark. You know what? Goodbye.
Nick: OK vague premise aside, I don’t know what I would do.
That’s awesome, and mostly back to form. But the writers ruin it in the next lines both by forgetting how the absurdity clause works, and by forgetting how normal human beings talk about and to each other. What exactly does it mean that Jess’ giant heart is part-compass and part-flashlight? Is Nick in love with Jess because she’s very good at spelunking? Or a haunted house enthusiast? I think the writers were trying to come up with a way of explaining that Jess’ personality makes Nick feel both secure and brave, and this doesn’t do it. This just makes me wonder if Nick knows what a heart looks like.
To the show’s credit, they seem to fully realize that they need to tie up all of the loose ends. They’ve set up all the proper plot points to write a justified finale. Given that next week’s season finale is most likely the series finale, we’ll at least get to see the Jess-Nick love affair settled, and everyone live presumably happily-ever-after. It’ll be a mostly fine ending, just not the one we fell in love with.