I love the second season of any show, good or bad: after taking the first batch of episodes to figure out characters, sophomore efforts tend to show a new found confidence in tone and narrative, able to insert characters into plots and explore dynamics between people in more interesting ways (and succeed in doing it). That’s pretty much been the story of New Girl‘s second season: with their major characters nailed down, the writers could invest in a long-term seasonal arc for their characters, all of which paid off in tonight’s ‘Elaine’s Big Day’.
Now, do all these payoffs work? I’d say yes, save for the case of the couple getting married during the episode. CeCe’s been relegated to background status most of the season, and because of that, her change in perspective this episode feels more convenient than grounded. Obviously she’s not going to marry Shivrang: they haven’t even tried to make him a regular character on the show, so how are supposed to invest in him (or even believe that we’re supposed to)? The arc for CeCe is certainly there, but it’s so barebones that her emotional moments felt more like a check list being crossed off than an organic turn for the character.
But outside of her and Shivrang (who exits by way of silly, tacked-on Taylor Swift cameo… it’s not terrible, but it doesn’t really add anything), the rest of the episode handles its major characters and their emotional arcs well. Winston’s is obviously the funniest, as his season-long failures at engineering pranks comes to a hilarious end (releasing a badger into the wedding as a way to ‘sabo’ it with Schmidt). His time spent in the air duct was a clever bit of meta-reference to their treatment of him during the season: he’s always funny, he’s always tied up in some sort of adventure meaningful to him, but it’s often disconnected from the rest of the group, more Winston doing things on his own than being integrated with the activities of the rest of the crew in a meaningful way.
As expected, ‘Elaine’s Big Day’ nails the arcs of its three main protagonists: Jess, Schmidt, and Nick, who finally reassures everyone (and himself) that he’s not growing up to be the same guy his father was. As a rabid Winston points out, Nick’s father ran away from families, responsibilities, issues… anytime something got messy, his father ran away and grabbed the nearest bottle to help him forget about it (what Nick was about to do after ‘calling it’ with Jess).
What I really liked about the Nick/Jess material is how they handled their interactions. There was no definitive moment of emotion, or overly played theme of destiny or “we won’t get this wrong” (I’m looking at you, Friends): both of them realize what a mistake ‘calling it’ was. Sure, there’s a chance things won’t work out – but that’s the chance you take with anyone, whether they’re someone you’ve known for a decade, or a person you met five minutes ago. That’s the beauty (and the horror) of it all; you can always talk yourself in or out of taking a chance – but none of it means shit unless you actually take the leap.
And that’s where season 2 ends – with Jess and Nick driving off in a car together, arguing about where they should go. Schmidt’s MIA, unable to make the choice between Elizabeth and CeCe when they both force it upon him, which is a smart move on the writer’s part: having him pick CeCe in the season finale would throw away all the great stuff they’ve done with his character over the past few months. Shivrang gets Elaine, and Winston (hopefully) get himself an ambulance.
Despite a few weak points, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Elaine’s Big Day’ (Winston was particularly funny this week: LaMorne Morris has grown into his role well, and the writers have also grown to understand Morris’s talent better), which did what season finales should do: wrap up the major arcs, tease a few new things – and ultimately, have a ton of fun, which tonight’s episode certainly was.
Season 2 Grade: A-
– Nick would love Cotton-Eyed Joe.
– speaking of that song, Jess finding the CD and initially blaming Nick showed Jess’s changing attitudes towards Nick, especially after she forgave him, finally realizing that he’s not as much of a helpless child as his life, possessions, and occasional behavior might suggest.
– Winston’s got a girl’s butt, according to Nick.
– I wish Nick had worn his original washed out Miami Vice outfit. The super-wrinkled jacket was such a perfect touch.
– as always, thanks for reading my reviews through the second half of season 2. I’ll definitely be back in the fall to cover New Girl through its third season in the fall.