New Girl was a pleasant surprise last season, growing stronger throughout the season as it moved away from “Zooey is dorky!” towards a balanced approach to telling stories about the four main characters (and CeCe, of course). The finale was a bit of a bumpy affair, but I was nonetheless excited to see the show return, fresh off The Summer of Schmidt (who garnered a well-deserved Emmy nomination for his first season antics) with a two-pack of episodes to launch two new shows in FOX’s comedy line-up, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project (reviews of those will be up later today).
‘Re-launch’ is exactly what a comedic season premiere should be – it manages to tell a well-constructed story that not only provides a lot of comedic moments, but some new avenues to explore with these well developed characters. Jess losing her job at the school keeps her out of her comfort zone, paralleling her lost boyfriend in season one with her lost boyfriend in season two. Thankfully there is a lot less crying this time around, as Jess mostly embraces the unemployment, and moves forward with the expected amount of perkiness and enthusiasm.
What makes the episode click, however, aren’t the episodes many funny moments, be they Winston’s pointless, but hilarious transformation when under the influence of Nick’s fruity concoctions he made in college. It’s when it pauses for a moment to really establish some of the things these characters are struggling with. In ‘Re-launch’, both Jess and Schmidt are pretending to put on a good face for the sake of not falling into a pit of depression – and even though I still have some sour feelings about the Schmidt/CeCe break up in season one, it’s clear the show isn’t done with the pairing just yet.
Having a new boyfriend is clearly just a fill-in to give some kind of weight to Schmidt’s frustrations – plus he gives reason for Schdmit to call him things like “The Commoner” and wonder if the guy is the lord of Winterfell. I appreciate the show giving CeCe a little grounding and putting her with a regular Joe (remember her DJ boyfriend in season 1? One of the show’s earlier low points), but I don’t see the character being around long enough, especially with Schdmit’s penis cast out of the picture. I just hope the show doesn’t fall into will they/won’t they for the life of the show, and give some kind of finality to their relationship sooner, rather than later. But the looks in CeCe’s eyes scream “TO BE CONTINUED IN FUTURE EPISODES,” so I suppose we’ll all find out soon enough.
‘Katie’ was a terrific follow-up, although a lot more Jess-centric than ‘Re-launch’, which wasn’t a lot more than a hilarious celebration of Schmidt’s blossoming popularity and a big reset button for Jess. ‘Katie’ is about Jess embracing that reset button, and taking the chance at a less-than-desirable job for her, into an opportunity to live outside herself for a night. Of course, her embracing the identities of Ivy, Kate, and Jess lead to three different men courting her, culminating in one of the more embarrassing bathroom scenes anyone might experience in their adult lives. It does bring David Walton (who I enjoyed quite a bit last year on Bent) into the picture as Jess’s possible new love interest, something we can’t really invest until we learn more about who he is besides Jess’s new sex toy.
The second episode also gives us a fun little Nick sub-plot, where he comes face to face with an old man who claims to be Nick from the future. Turns out he’s a crazy guy who keeps a cardboard box and space hat out in the alley way, but he does play an important part in foreshadowing a possible season finale: he warns Nick to apologize to Jess now, because he’s going to do something terrible to him later. New Girl isn’t done playing with the will they, won’t they of the Jess/Nick pairing just yet, and I think putting in a scene like the one in ‘Katie’ could be a dangerous move. If we know something’s going to come between them (or are suspecting it), how much can we be expected to invest in them in the future?
These are questions for later on – last night, ‘Re-launch’ and ‘Katie’ were fun episodes that occasionally reached for something deeper – Nick’s continued self-explorations and his conversation with Jess about the ebbs and tides of life. Get ready for a season of “pure, unadulterated friendship” … and hopefully, a few games of True American along the way.
‘Katie’ : B+
– I agree that Schmidt’s concentrated forms of nipple play should be off-limits.
– Jake Johnson’s physical talents are on full display in the episode, whether he’s crossing his legs or doing ‘The Cricket’. For all the Schmidt love I have, Nick is far and away my favorite character on the show.
– Parkey Posey as Jess’s fellow shot girl felt underutilized: she can do so much more than say ‘stupid jerk’ over and over again, though it was still amusing.
– Bearclaw felt like New Girl‘s version of young Jonah Hill – wasn’t a huge fan of the character, who felt a little too broad among the various quirky personalities among the show’s minor recurring characters.
– Schmidt’s time travel sex list is almost as funny as Winston and Nick singing Dee-Lite to bookend ‘Re-launch’… but not quite.
What did you think of last night’s two episodes? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!