Although ‘Chicago’ is an undeniably flawed episode, it redeems itself by having its heart in the right place with the most important characters (Nick and Jess). Where it missed on giving Nick more interesting back story (thanks to placeholder family members), it hits when it comes time for Nick to give a eulogy to his father, a quiet moment that doesn’t reach too much, integrating itself nicely with the season’s overall structure.
Nick’s almost in the background for the episode as he furiously plans his father’s funeral (and then disappears to get drunk), but they absolutely nailed his character in the scenes we see him. Since we’ve only met Nick’s father once, I was worried the show was going to dive too far into what Nick’s father meant to him, that the show wouldn’t be able to handle or explain in a 22-minute window. Instead, Nick’s just struggling to deal with the news, refusing to write a eulogy and burying himself in busy work so he can ignore the conflicted feelings he’s having. Walt may have been a prick (and a fraud), but he’s still his father, and he honestly doesn’t know how to feel about that. “I don’t know if he was a good guy, or a bad guy,” he says during his eulogy, “I just know he was my dad, and I’m going to miss him.”
The writing staff did a terrific job handling that kind of delicate material – and even more so, found meaning in it, reinforcing the notion that Jess is invested in the growing relationship between them. They’re still figuring out what they mean to each other, but that kind of awkward tension was mostly removed from ‘Chicago’, and for a good reason – it allowed Jess to truly be there for Nick, and not be selfishly concerned with her own feelings (which would’ve threatened any of the good scenes between them tonight).
There are plenty of weak spots – Nick’s cousin and brother (Nick Kroll) are empty guest spots, as is his grandmother, who mentions pot twice and that’s it (by the way, hasn’t that old woman been the pot-smoking grandmother in everything for the last twenty years?). His mother isn’t much of a character, either; she’s mostly hostile towards Jess for the sake of having some sort of dramatic/comedic tension (funerals are reflective and/or celebratory affairs – we don’t know Walt, so either of those wouldn’t have worked for story lines), and doesn’t have much else to do but give us exposition on the random things Walt would do. But the show continues to defy my expectations in how they handle Nick and Jess, and it makes the second half of ‘Chicago’ much stronger than the first.
– I could leave or take Schmidt’s material. It’s not all that funny, but it gives Winston a chance to impart wisdom. Arguably the best minor development in New Girl‘s second season is how Winston’s become the wise father of the household, easily the most stable.
– It would’ve helped define Nick’s family members more if they had gotten into how much Nick really did for his family. It’s kind of hard to believe the height of his responsibility was 15 years ago.
– by the same token, his moment of calmness before breaking down in a scream over the death of his not-father Walt was the funniest moment in the episode.
– hey, Jess’s Elvis suit got really small and fitting all of a sudden!
– Bonnie: “is she a Spanish?”
– “Long Island, SON!”