The past few episodes of New Girl have been full of firsts. Not firsts like "first handbell squad to play Eye of The Tiger" or "first mural of an asexually charged zero gravity tea ceremony" because New Girl has the market cornered on those.
I'm talking about more traditional firsts, things that have been done by many other sitcoms like "first hookup between two main characters" or "first meta episode." Whether you like the new, more standard storylines that the show is pursuing or not (I’m still torn*), the most recent episodes certainly represent a more consistent, more mature New Girl.
Last week, I mentioned that this show has become more of an ensemble piece rather than just a Zooey Deschanel vehicle. I’m all for this, especially considering what a great job the writers have done in developing the supporting cast. Sometimes it seems that New Girl becomes a little overwhelmed with all of the characters it’s juggling, but not this week. "Bully" pretty much nailed everyone’s story.
Continuing with the "Jess is a real person and not a fluffy bunny" idea, we see her at work for the first time. Surprise! Her classroom isn’t covered in polka dots. What’s not a surprise? That Jess tries to solve a student’s bullying problem through song. There’s still an echo of the Jess Day from the pilot that stumbled out of her ex-boyfriend’s house covered in laundry, but now we’re seeing a more grounded kind of quirky rather than her earlier screwball behavior.
Do you like the new Jess? Personally, I miss the Jess that sang her own theme song and thought wearing overalls was sexy. I don’t think that mature Jess and madcap Jess are mutually exclusive – they can both exist within the same character - I just don’t want Jess to become a watered down version of her former self.
While New Girl’s quirk may have mellowed, it certainly hasn’t disappeared. Despite Jess’ newfound maturity, she’s still not able to handle 12-year-old Brianna (Joey King) making fun of her. Jess irrationally responding to Brianna's taunting by breaking the little girl's science fair project kept Jess real and proved that she hasn't totally grown up.
Schmidt and CeCe are still carrying on, although very secretively. CeCe is ashamed of Schmidt, and she’s not afraid to admit it. Visit the New Girl quotes page to see what I’m talking about. Schmidt takes her disregard in stride because he’s head over heels for her, and I don’t see their relationship staying a secret much longer. Their elaborate methods of sneaking around allowed the show to work in a little self-awareness and acknowledge the absurdity without going over the top. To wit:
Jess: Why do we care about a crescent moon?
Winston: I don't know, but I'm gonna live there some day. Permalink
With CeCe taking the girlfriend spotlight for the moment, it’s so long to Julia! I know a lot of you weren’t too fond of her, so rejoice! Julia had a lot of potential to shake things up around the gang's Los Angeles loft, but her character kind of lost steam after her showdown with Jess. I won't miss Julia, but the absence of Lizzy Caplan's salty sarcasm will be felt.
Julia's departure also makes way for the Nick/Jess hookup you’ve all been waiting for. I don’t expect to see that this season, but right now it seems about as inevitable as Schmidt and CeCe shacking up (i.e. it’s happening, people). Uncharacteristically, Nick’s response to Julia breaking up with him was to become more cheerful and reflective. He even acknowledged the sad face he makes all the time (without actually making said sad face)! But cheerful Nick was even scarier than grouchy Nick because you know that sooner or later his “happiness mask” (as Brianna put it) will shatter.
Even though Winston didn’t have his own plot this week, I felt like the writers have finally found his sweet spot in the group dynamic. He also gets his first flashback (a tactic that New Girl has been using more and more), and we see that Winston was a bully! With a catchphrase!: Brown Lighting. Because he could bestow purple nurples faster than any other playground menace? It remains unclear, but what is clear is that Winston should get more screen time. Watch out, Schmidt!
- *I’m torn because New Girl felt really fresh and unique to me when it first premiered, mostly because it wasn’t rehashing old plots. In fact, the early episodes only had the slightest trace of plotting, and instead launched from one absurd situation to another, rebounding off of Deschanel’s masterful timing and physical comedy. I’ll be the first to admit that without any larger plot, New Girl would have become an unwatchable slapstick mess, but I still miss the ridiculousness of those first hours.
- Winston’s character of Theodore K. Mullins was hilarious.
- Brianna having two moms felt like an odd detail that was left hanging. I don’t think New Girl was trying to suggest that Brianna is a bully because she isn’t growing up in a “traditional family," but I don’t understand why the writers decided to call it out.
- Rachel Harris is back as Jess' principal, Tanya! If Jess' workplace is now fair game, I'd love to see more of Tanya.
- Schmidt’s elaborate sex cheese metaphor was so aggressively weird. I love that Max Greenfield plays it so straight!