Season finale review: ‘New Girl’ – ‘Elaine’s Big Day’

“New Girl” just concluded what’s been a terrific second season. I spoke to creator Liz Meriwether about the finale, and about some big decisions along the way, and I have a quick review of the finale coming up just as soon as we make some pasta and really listen to my Coldplay bootleg from Rotterdam…

I wish the finale had not aired during Upfront Week, so I would have the time to properly write a big-picture overview of why I’ve loved “New Girl” season 2 so much. Maybe that’ll come in the summer, or when season 3 starts, or perhaps when we get to Best of 2013 time in December. But the Meriwether interview gets into a lot of what worked, particularly in the second half of the season as Nick and Jess – a couple I had never had any interest in the show exploring before the show actually explored it – gave the writers, and the show, a focus it didn’t entirely have before. It would have been the easy and safe thing for them to walk away from each other in the finale so we could get six more iterations of Jess pining for Nick, Nick pining for Jess, etc., before they inevitably hook up again in season 4. Instead, Jess, Nick and the writers took a leap, and I think based on what we’ve seen so far, the idea of these mismatched knuckleheads trying to make a go of things should be a lot of fun next season. We’ve seen how good Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson are together in romantic scenes like the one at the end, but we haven’t really scratched the surface yet of elfin optimist Jess making decisions with angry screw-up Nick. So much potential there.

Speaking of things I didn’t want to see, but that the show pulled off to my pleasant surprise: Schmidt and Winston’s sabotage of Cece’s wedding. Comedically, that story spun on Winston, but emotionally it relied entirely on Max Greenfield convincing us that Schmidt was doing this because he genuinely believed Cece wanted to bail on the wedding – which she did – and not because he was eager to ditch Elizabeth and win her back. Coming at it from that place gave the show license to get pretty ridiculous with all the sabotage (my favorite was Nick unconsciously fist-pumping as “Cotton-Eyed Joe” blasted), and that in turn set up a scenario where Elizabeth and Cece were being mature and strong enough that any decision Schmidt made – other than running away like a coward – would have been survivable for the loser. (It also helped that Shivrang was so eager to run off with Taylor Swift Elaine, which let Cece off the hook on that end of things.)

Meriwether talks a bit about how they’re still looking to crack The Winston Code, and that they spent a lot of this year just throwing crazy things at Lamorne Morris and trusting him to do something funny with it. That’s not the way you build a coherent or recognizable character – and I’d probably rather be done with Winston taking pranks to violent extremes – but at least it shows there’s talent there to be utilized when/if the writers finally lock in on a consistent take on the guy. (The plan to try him out in a more interesting romance makes a lot of sense to me, given how much of this season was driven by Jess’s various relationships, and by Schmidt and Nick’s, whereas Winston’s two girlfriends were mainly afterthoughts.)

What did everybody else think? Who should Schmidt choose? Would you rather Jess and Nick had remained called? What’s to be done with Winston? And how did you feel about season 2 as a whole?