A review of tonight's New Girl season finale coming up just as soon as John-John redecorates the White House…
New Girl as a rule benefits from keeping things simple. The more characters, and the more plot, a given episode has to deal with, the more the seams start to show on a series that's most comfortable sitting and back and letting its five regulars riff. Just look at the contrast between the bachelor and bachelorette party episodes a couple of weeks back: the one with so many guys struggled to deal with them all, while the one that was just Jess, Cece, and Aly had room to go off on many hilarious tangents.
So the two-part season finale – which brought back Reagan, Coach (and Coach's girlfriend May), Tran, Schmidt's parents, and Cece's mom, along with continuing the Jess/Sam and Winston/Aly relationship stories, all while anything and everything went wrong between the end of the rehearsal dinner and the much-belated wedding ceremony – should have been an overcrowded mess.
Instead, it felt chaotic in that way New Girl hits when it's humming along at peak efficiency, and turned out to be a sweet, charming, and frequently funny summary of the series to date. Though renewal was always likely, “Wedding Eve” and “Landing Gear” could have functioned as a decent end to the series, with one last round of True American, Coach's return, and the use of the Douchebag Jar as the traditional broken glass at a Jewish wedding as a touching symbol of how much Schmidt has grown since the pilot. That it leaves things up in the air for Jess and Nick wouldn't have been ideal for a series finale, but keep in mind that their coupling was much more interesting in theory than it was the first time the show put it into practice.
Still, the two episodes did a nice job of juggling the bigger-than-normal cast. Sam and Aly both disappeared after the first one – Sam because he had of course chosen to be with Diane, Aly because she's still sick with food poisoning from Tran's cooking at the rehearsal dinner – while the writers wisely didn't try to give Coach his own subplot, just letting him react to what the other guys were doing. (Though the joke about how he never yells in New York because he's always in museums was a nice callback to the fact that the only thing of note he did in the pilot was to yell.) Everybody got their moment at some point, but by the time we'd reached the second episode, the only stories that mattered were whether the wedding would go off okay – which it did and didn't, with everyone enjoying the reception, but the ceremony itself being held much later at the loft because of Schmidt's budget airline fiasco – and what would happen with the Jess/Nick/Reagan triangle.
Jess's speech to Reagan about why she should give Nick a shot did a nice job of explaining why Jess herself should do so, given how miserable she was for most of their first attempt at couplehood, and in many ways, the current iteration of New Girl is better suited to those two being together than the show was in season 3. Back then, there was still a token effort being made towards realism and grounding the gang's adventures, but the creative team has long since accepted that New Girl works best the stranger, more absurd, and more minimalist it gets. Of course the Jessica Day of a few seasons ago would chafe at trying to build a life with an insane wreck of a human like Nick Miller. The Jess now, though, would probably just go along with all his idiocy, and hopefully be plenty crazy in her own right. Just look at Nick's attempts to help Schmidt rewrite his vows in “Wedding Eve,” where his methods seemed completely ridiculous until they wound up working perfectly. With any luck, that'll be Nick/Jess round 2, whenever that begins.
Not everything the show did this season worked, but it's the most consistently I've laughed at, and enjoyed, New Girl in several years, and this was a very satisfying conclusion to that.
Some other thoughts:
* Somehow, we made it through a wedding episode without learning Schmidt's first name. At this point, probably better that we don't learn it, as the ultimate answer would likely disappoint.
* The running gag in “Wedding Eve” about how everyone in the loft has had sex in Jess's bed had a funny/sweet payoff when a weeping Cece said, “I don't know why I'm crying in here. Jess's room is meant for sex!”
* That Winston texts Reagan every day about what's going on in the loft not only spared us from a scene where Jess had to repeat everything that's happened in the last dozen episodes, but fit in well with all of Winston and Reagan's interactions during her time in the loft.
* Coach's first name is Ernie (as in Pantusso), and now Jess's boyfriend Sam runs off with a woman named Diane. How many other Cheers character names can this show smuggle in before the end? (Google reminds me that Clark Duke's character back in “Valentine's Day” was named Cliff.)
* I'll be curious to see how much either Megan Fox (who's having another baby) or Nasim Pedrad (who has a sitcom pilot in development at FOX) are available to appear next season, and/or how the show works around their absences. Reagan is pretty easy to deal with if Fox can't return: just have Nick come back from New Orleans after things didn't work out. But things seem both serious and relatively stable between Winston and Aly, so if that relationship's not going to continue, Pedrad and the show have some work to put in to make a break-up feel natural.
* The Douchebag Jar hasn't appeared a lot since the show's early days, but it did turn up as recently as this season, when Schmidt's dad noticed it upon his first visit to the loft.
What did everybody else think?