New Girl Review: Reality Check
This week’s episode, "Jess and Julia", could have marked the end of days. The New Girl apocalypse. The episode where New Girl’s skewed world - full of hand bell jam fests, school bus stripper poles, and former pro Latvian basketball players - met reality. But, to my surprise, my TV didn’t explode.
As it turns out, adorkable Jess does live in the real world, and she has to deal with real problems, not just how-to-defrost-a-turkey-with-body-heat problems. Problems like someone hating her. Leave it to Lizzy Caplan to bring the first real bit of bite to this sitcom. Spurred by insecurity in her romance with Nick, and the suspicion that Nick and Jess might have a thing for each other, Julia says some pretty harsh things to Jess. Check out the quotes page for a refresher of exactly what went down.
At first, I was resistant to the idea that New Girl was going to confront the criticisms of Jess’ character - her quirks are just affectation, her character is undeveloped, she’s really annoying! – because I really liked the alternate world where New Girl seemed to take place. It was a universe of magical realism where normal people existed alongside ribbon-hat wearing, singing self-narrators such as Jess.
Once Julia confronted Jess about her quirks, I was worried that Jess would be forced to rationalize or change her behavior, and New Girl would lose its uniqueness. If Seinfeld had held its characters responsible for their own moral deficiencies, the show would have been over. In fact, that’s how the series ends. But “Jess and Julia” worked because Jess didn't rationalize or change anything. She stood up for herself, showing that she can be tough and smart while still serving up cupcakes and hosting crochet circles.
It doesn't hurt that Jess has some really supportive friends. CeCe lovers rejoice! After a surprsingly CeCe-free episode two weeks ago, she's back and ready to jump to Jess’ defense. Her loyalty to Jess was touching, and she also rocked the ribbon hat.
But, as it turns out, CeCe’s indignation wasn’t necessary. Jess’ unswerving dedication to all things polka dotted and kitsch swayed Julia by the end of the episode. If New Girl is now taking place in a world where idiosyncrasies are acknowledged, then I have a hard time believing Julia would have a change of heart so quickly. Sadly, Lizzy Caplan is only sticking around for one more Tuesday, so I doubt we'll see much more develop between Julia and Jess. Here’s hoping she has a great send off.
While Nick’s latest love interest is assumedly going to fizzle out, Winston is trying to reignite a former flame. Apparently, spending several years in Latvia really hurts your game, because his first attempt to woo Shelby was terrible. Still, it’s good to see his character reaching out in new directions.
In many ways, "Jess and Julia" was new territory for New Girl. Normally, the show relies entirely on the strength of the laughs, rather than characters and story development, to carry you through the episode. This week the sitcom flexed its dramatic muscles, and it was a surprisingly strong effort. Still, I can’t help but miss the blissfully unaware New Girl that bounds through each week with uninhibited enthusiasm and not a care in the world.
- Schmidt's part was small this week, but he delivered the only laughs of the episode. Where do you think Schmidt wears his Irish walking cape? Just out for strolls around L.A.?
- I know guys wear each other’s clothes (come on, don’t lie, I know who you are), but, seriously Nick? Sharing underwear? Over the line.
- There’s already a replica of the Douchebag Jar, so clearly there’s a market for New Girl memorabilia. Jess' ribbon hat would be a hot item. Who wants in?