Television

Of Friendship, Love and Weirdness: A Fond Farewell to New Girl

New Girl spoilers through the series finale ahead.

My first foray into New Girl was looking up and reading the pilot at the prompting of a TV businessperson back in June 2014. I’d had a brief conversation with him about a spec I’d submitted to a TV writing contest, and one of the things he urged me to do as an aspiring TV comedy writer was to read as many pilots as I could. Luckily for me, New Girl was one of the few he suggested.

At the time, I’d heard of the show but had little to no knowledge of it other than the fact that it starred Zooey Deschanel. The series was created by Liz Meriwether, and according to the pilot she wrote, the working title was Chicks and Dicks. It was one of the few instances in which I read the script before seeing any episodes, and I was captivated by the characters and the comedy right off the bat. Of course, with any pilot, there are many differences between an early draft and what eventually ends up on screen. I loved catching all the changes made to the dialogue, the story and even to some of the characters. Still, at the core of it all, it was clear who these characters were: quirky and passionate and warm and funny and at a point in their lives where they’re still very much fumbling their way through adulthood.

After watching the pilot, I was hooked, and I set out to catch up on the rest of the series. Instead of starting at the beginning, I decided to check out the most recent episodes available, which at the time were the last few episodes of season 3 and primarily dealt with the aftermath of Nick and Jess’ breakup. Prior to the start of season 4 when I started watching the show live each week, I read articles in which the writers explained how they wanted to reset the show by returning the focus to the group. The season 4 episode, “Background Check,” is one of the funniest episodes of the entire show, a mostly bottle episode that takes place in real time and has a lot of antics and amazing one-liners from these characters and their crazy close friendship. While much of the show’s comedy revolves around navigating the dating world, at the root of it all is, as Liz herself has described, the main characters being “too good of friends.”

I find the co-dependent dynamic between each of the loftmates both captivating and endearing in a way that sets New Girl apart from other ensemble shows. At the start of the series, upbeat school teacher Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) has just gotten out of a six-year relationship after learning her boyfriend, Spencer, has been cheating on her. She moves into a loft with three single guys—grumpy bartender Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), womanizing and larger-than-life Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and cocky personal trainer, Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), who, due to the actor’s unavailability, is replaced in the following episode by former Latvian basketball player turned goofy and lovable Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris). We’re also introduced to Jess’ best friend, Cece Parekh (Hannah Simone), a fashion model who takes none of the guys’ BS—especially Schmidt, who takes a shine to her immediately. Luckily for him, Cece slowly comes to feel the same way, and they go on to become the core couple in the show’s later seasons while the rest of the group continues to bumble through relationships before ultimately ending up with their true loves as well.

While I have a love and appreciation for each of these characters, Nick happens to be my favorite because he’s got a lot of depth to him. He’s the glue that holds the group together, as evidenced in the season 1 episode, “Injured,” when he has a health scare and everyone worries about losing him. He has his fair share of flaws, namely anger issues, being childish at times and having trouble expressing his feelings. He admits to being a little bit broken, and he’s often too much in his own head—something I, myself, do all the time, though I’m learning to break out of that.

When I finally went back to season 1 to watch all the episodes in order, I couldn’t help but become the most invested in Nick and Jess. Their relationship has been described as the heart of the show, and I couldn’t agree more. The two of them are polar opposites in terms of how they view the world and live their lives on a daily basis, but they have a natural spark between them that only grows throughout the series. At the start, Nick is also coming out of a long-term relationship, and through his heartbreak, it’s evident he and Jess share a bond that goes beyond friendship but isn’t quite romantic just yet—even though it’s later revealed that Nick fell in love with Jess the moment she walked through the door.

Some of the most memorable moments of the show are Nick’s grand gestures toward Jess to show her how much he cares about her. In the pilot, he bails on a party and the opportunity to potentially reconnect with his ex to rescue Jess from being stood up. He proceeds to lead Schmidt and Coach in an impromptu serenade of the Dirty Dancing theme song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” and the moment is both heartfelt and hilarious, embodying the tone of the show. Another favorite of mine is the end of the season 1 Christmas episode, “The 23rd,” when Nick misses his flight back home to cheer Jess up by driving to a residential area she’d earlier mentioned that lights up at night. When they arrive too late and the area is surrounded in darkness, he gets out of the car and yells at the homeowners to turn on their lights, and Schmidt, Winston, Cece and Jess all chime in until the area is beautifully lit up.

That said, the buildup to Nick and Jess becoming a couple is, to me, the strongest arc of the entire series, starting with the scintillating, epic kiss they share in the season 2 episode, “Cooler” (to this day, my favorite TV kiss) and culminating in them getting together at the end of the season 2 finale, “Elaine’s Big Day.” Though the heat between them noticeably cools after they break up toward the end of season 3 and go on to date other people, it’s clear neither of them can let each other go altogether. In the season 4 finale, “Clean Break,” they each secretly sneak to the trash can to retrieve a mug symbolic of their time together—only for them to discover it’s gone, thus both Nick and Jess thinking the other is the one who took it. By the season 5 finale, “Landing Gear,” Jess realizes she’s still in love with Nick, and by the season 6 finale, “Five Stars for Beezus,” the two of them reunite romantically at long last—thankfully, this time, for good.

New Girl consistently had the most phenomenal season finales, not just for all the wonderful Nick and Jess scenes but, of course, for showing how strong the love is between each of these characters. The season 1 finale, “See Ya,” is also among one of my favorites, in which Nick plans on moving out of the loft after reconciling with his ex, Caroline. The roommates all end up stranded in the desert, reflecting on their friendship, and by the end, Nick decides to stay in the loft. He turns on his old mixtape, and each one of the roommates privately celebrates his return by dancing like buffoons in their rooms to “You Shook Me All Night Long.” It’s one of the many moments that has stuck with me as it perfectly captures the joy and eccentricity of these characters, much like when they did a slow Chicken Dance at the end of the season 1 episode, “Wedding,” to “A Groovy Kind of Love.” I was moved to tears when the song reappeared during Nick and Jess’ wedding in the penultimate episode of the series.

Arguably even more profound than Nick and Jess’ relationship is the relationship between Nick and Schmidt. Their bromance is truly unlike any other and, frankly, my favorite on TV. Schmidt’s unabashed love for Nick goes far beyond platonic friendship what will all the Fredo kisses and his constant concern for him, and even Nick admits during Schmidt’s bachelor party in the season 5 episode, “Road Trip,” that he’s like his husband and his wife. It’s only fitting that Nick finally tells Schmidt he loves him in the series finale, even though the words didn’t need to be said for us to have known that all along. They even celebrate their 10-year anniversary of being roommates in the season 2 episode, “TinFinity,” and there’s a great article I read a while back that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the New Girl writers re-breaking the story for that particular episode.

I admire this show’s writers for all the clever concepts they embed throughout the series, whether it’s Schmidt’s douchebag jar, Winston as the self-proclaimed Prank Sinatra with his pranks being either way too big or way too small, all the classic Cece and Winston mess-arounds, or the beloved, made-up drinking game, True American, with its purposely vague rules. Above all else, this show highlights the true meaning of friendship, that it’s okay to be weird and silly and that, at the end of the day, all that matters is being there for the people you care about and that you never stop trying in life. The characters all helped each other grow and pushed each other whenever someone needed it, especially in their professional lives and, in some cases, romantic pursuits. It was Cece who suggested to Winston that he become a cop, and it was Nick who suggested to Cece that she start her own modeling agency. It was Jess who helped Schmidt get his job back at the marketing company, Ass. Strat. It was Schmidt who helped Nick realize the second time around that he’d been in love with Jess from the moment he saw her, and it was Jess who helped Winston propose to the love of his life, his police partner, Aly Nelson (Nasim Pedrad).

Flash forward to season 7, which features a roughly three-year time jump and consists of a final eight episodes, shifting away from the series’ premise of four single people living together in the loft. We now have three happy couples in new phases of their lives: Schmidt and Cece married and raising their 3-year-old daughter, Ruth, Winston and Aly married and expecting their first child together and Nick and Jess in love and back home from a European book tour for Nick’s young-adult novel, The Pepperwood Chronicles.

Gotta take a moment to praise Ruth Bader Parekh-Schmidt (played by twins Rhiannon and Danielle Rockoff) as an excellent addition to the cast in the show’s final season. Her standout moment, to me, is the sibling rivalry-esque dynamic she has with none other than Nick. He’s jealous of her since he used to be Schmidt’s little girl, and she’s sassy and outspoken and definitely way more mature than Nick and his ridiculous antics. As Jess says, Cece and Schmidt made such a cool kid. Props to you, Ruth. Ruth gonna do what Ruth gonna do.

Throughout the final eight episodes, we get to see some cameos of notable recurring characters, such as Outside Dave, Nadia and Tran, Nick’s mute, wise, elderly friend whom he randomly met in the park back in the season 2 episode, “Menzies” and has a perfect and even ominous sendoff in the penultimate episode, “The Curse of the Pirate Bride.” The breezy final season builds up to Nick and Jess finally getting engaged and married. We get to see how far they’ve come as a couple and how much they’ve grown, how they used to be scared of being vulnerable with each other, but they’re not anymore because all they want to do now is have a weird, wonderful life together. As Jess notes, “This is not puppy love. This is old-ass dog love.” Nothing about their relationship is perfect, and that’s the beauty of it.

The series finale, “Engram Pattersky,” brings all the roommates back to the loft one last time as Nick and Jess prepare to move out after receiving a final eviction notice. The only thing is, everyone but Jess has long since moved on from the loft and let go of any remaining emotional attachment they once had to it. However, Jess can’t seem to part ways with the loft quite yet without encouraging them all to take a trip down memory lane with her. Appropriately, there’s one final game of True American, and in a blissful flash-forward sequence, we get to see the gang playing a kid-friendly version of the game with their children. Nick and Jess have a son, Winston and Aly have more kids and Schmidt and Cece have a second child, a boy named Moses. When it cuts back to the present, the five former-roommates stand on a single cardboard box together in a still, silent moment, followed by a brief exchange similar to the one in “Injured” (both of which being reminiscent of the pivotal play, Waiting for Godot), “You ready?” “Let’s go.” And they don’t move.

In the final scene, Winston reveals that Nick and Jess never had to move out at all, as he was behind the whole thing: “Engram Pattersky,” the alleged name of the management company who bought the building, is actually an anagram for “My Greatest Prank.” It’s a brilliant reveal, and while the characters chastise Winston for his way-too-big prank, Jess can’t help but comment, as if in heartwarming reflection, “I don’t know. I think it was just right.” I have to agree. It marks the end of this chapter of their lives, as they all pile into the moving truck with Winston’s big “Gotcha!” picture on it and head to Nick and Jess’ new two-bedroom place. Saying goodbye to the loft as they set out on their new adventure is truly the perfect way to cap off this amazing series. All I have left to say is thank you to everyone who worked on New Girl. We fans have had the time of our lives.

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