Sitcom season finales are a finicky thing: expectations of the last thirty years of TV finales have conditioned viewers to expect more plot-heavy episodes, with dramatic twists and hooks to bring viewers back for a second season. Sometimes they work (Cheers first season finale ‘Showdown’) or they fail miserably (pretty much every Friends season finale after season 3). Most often, the best season finales stay away from the inherent traps of spending the last two or three episodes setting up for a finale crammed plot and challenges to the status quo (a great example of this is Frasier‘s first season finale ‘My Lunch With Niles,’ a subtle homage to My Dinner With Andre).
Unfortunately, New Girl was showing signs of setting up the less effective (and more common) style of season finale, with big plots building and big changes staring characters right in the face. The result of this is ‘See Ya’, which is charming and fun in its own right, but rushes through every single plot line at a pace that saps most of the situations of their logic. It’s not a terrible episode by any means, but every story thread is too large to be crammed into one 20-minute episode (c’mon FOX, where’s the double-length finale?), and suffers as a result.
‘See Ya’ is mostly about Nick’s expected freak out about moving in with Caroline, and the result of him finally facing the reality of re-committing to the women who led to that mess of a human we saw in last week’s video from the past. This story alone, combined with Jess, Schmidt, and Winston looking for a replacement, alone is enough material to fill two episodes, especially when the entire audience knows Nick’s revelations about Caroline are somehow tied into his feelings about Jess.
Thankfully, the show only gives Nick and Jess’s possible feelings for each other a few ominous glances and phrases throughout the episode, which was both necessary (because too much was going on to fit that in, as well) for the terms of this story and for the show long-term – if ‘See Ya’ made anything clear, it’s that Nick & Jess is the ‘will they, won’t they’ of this show (and dare I might say with Nick as a bartender, the first real contender for a good modern version of Sam & Diane?).
So instead of making big advancements on Nick & Jess, that potential screen time is given to a badly-paced Schmidt/CeCe break up, the real surprise plot line of the episode. In reality, it doesn’t make sense: Schmidt became attracted to CeCe because she was a model, and obviously, being the type of guy he is, knows what her daily work life is going to be life. It didn’t feel natural for him to be so up in arms about it. The situation is exacerbated by a poor story choice: a sexual-ish text from the model Schmidt saw CeCe rubbing on.
All of a sudden, what appeared to be about Nick is side-tracked by this bombshell of Schmidt breaking up with CeCe, after a heartfelt (but completely contrived) speech from Schmidt about ‘her being happy.’ Maybe I’m just mad they broke up the best comedic pair the show had going all for the sake of dragging tension over into season 2, but it all felt very rushed, and for someone like Schmidt, almost regressive (that “you hooked up with a guy like me” doesn’t sound like the Schmidt of the second half of this season).
The best moments of the episode come from the moments in the desert when the group is hanging out together, making jokes about Nick’s musical tastes and Winston’s fear of the dark (probably the funniest running bit of the episode). Those scenes were testaments to the great ensemble the show’s developed over the first season, a period of experiment and growth for both the writers and actors on New Girl.
It wasn’t the strongest finish, but New Girl has grown quite a bit from the show I reviewed back in September, and has a lot of untapped potential to break out in its second season this fall – but I’ll have more thoughts about that in my final season review later this week. ‘See Ya’ might’ve a swing and a miss, but it’s been fun watching New Girl improve throughout its first season, and ‘See Ya’ was a solid way to say farewell to some of my new favorite characters on TV.
– “Don’t touch me, there’s pee everywhere.” Winston, what happened out there in the dark?
– Winston’s really found his voice in the last group of episodes as the group’s voice of reason (though he’s just as nuts as everyone). It wasn’t the easiest thing to buy at first, but now that he’s one of the more stable characters on the show (steady gf and job), he can play the hell out of scenes screaming for everyone to regain their sanity.
– White Fang references are the shit.
– why were there Twitter hashtags all over the screen? Having #meepmeep on one side and #newgirlfinale on the other is a bit desperate, and really distracting.
– “I don’t want your dirty lolly.” Can’t believe it’ll be four months before another Schmidt-load of hilarious dialogue.
– great final scene with the Aerosmith song and everyone dancing in their rooms (except Winston, of course). Nice finish.
What did you think of ‘See Ya’? Leave your thoughts/comments below, and stop back later this week for the full season review!