Two fantastic New Girl episodes in 72 hours? You better believe it: “Prince” and “Exes” continue the fantastic third season of New Girl in extravagant fashion, thanks to a cushy post-Super Bowl spot and a poignant follow-up Tuesday night. And although they’re two very different episodes of the show – the former a genius bit of stunt casting, the latter an outlandish, goofy half hour – both of them progress the season’s main story line (Nick and Jess) in major ways, a narrative that continues to impress with each week.
It comes at the expense of the other characters a bit, spending so much time focused on the changing dynamics between Nick and Jess: but for the purpose of these two half-hours, there is plenty of great comedic material to be found, be it the fake stories the guys make up to get in the Prince party, or everything coming out of Schmidt’s mouth as he describes his apartment in “Exes”. It’s really to the show’s benefit that the emotional stakes for these other characters are kept to a minimum: when “Prince” does take some time to check in the on the CeCe/Schmidt relationship, it’s more of a wasted opportunity to draw parallels between the two couples (like trusting someone enough to love them, when you know about all the shit they’ve done/gone through) than anything else.
But when both episodes focus on the predictable dramatics of Nick and Jess’s growing relationship, “Prince” and “Exes” turn into something special. “Prince” does it thanks to its titular character, using its uber-famous guest star as an integral (and syrup-y) part of the episode’s resolution: for all intents and purposes, Nick and Jess profess their love for each other thanks to the (possibly magical) steps Prince took to bring them together. Without him, they’re still stuttering to say the most romanticized phrase in the human language – and thanks to the episode treating Prince like a real human being (at least somewhat), it elevates the episode above its gimmick into a genuinely touching moment between the most Tumblr-friendly television couple in recent memory.
“Exes” is even better: like How I Met Your Mother‘s been doing for the last few weeks, “Exes” allows its humor to go broader (just look at how much yelling is in this episode), but not at the sacrifice of emotional resolution, which has been coming in waves during New Girl’s third season. In “Exes”, this cathartic resolution is two-fold: not only do Jess and Nick get to move forward with their relationship, unencumbered by the past, but Caroline gets to move on, too, finally able to let go of the resent and uncertainty she had with her sudden break-up with Nick back in “See Ya”.
Of course, the Nick and Jess relationship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and while the focus is directly on our two lovahs, New Girl isn’t completely leaving everyone else behind: “Exes” in particular takes advantage of their relationship to point out how none of the other guys on the fourth floor are getting any (except Winston, I guess), turning Schmidt’s Bang Spot into everybody’s Bang Spot (including Bertie!!!) – and then nobody’s bang spot. While Nick is enjoying a renissance of daily sex and meaningful conversation, the other guys are getting lonely and restless – none more so than Schmidt, who is crumbling under the heavy silence in his new apartment, left with only his grapes to keep him happy.
Yes, there’s not a lot of time spent on the actual feelings these guys have in “Prince” and “Exes”, but their presence and behavior in the two episodes can be attributed to more than plot convenience or empty jokes. This new relationship is having a serious ripple effect on the group, sending Nick’s friends into a desperate frenzy to score with women and forget how lonely they are (again, except for Winston, who is unsurprisingly the comedic highlight of both episodes), or chase the one happy couple they know to the party of a famous person (under the guise of “saving” Nick, a mediocre excuse at best). Sure, it makes for easy comedy – but there’s real emotional pathos to the stories of these three lonely guys beyond “they’re horny”, another example of the show’s fascinating explorations of masculinity.
In short, New Girl is kicking some serious ass this season: but now comes the real test. Will New Girl be able to avoid the overwrought drama that ended seasons one and two (both of which were about Schmidt/CeCe and Nick/Jess, which it looks they will be again)? I’d like to think the last handful of episodes suggest it can – if anything, these two episodes show New Girl is learning how to mix drama and spectacle in a more engaging, rewarding way, a promising sign heading into the season’s third and final act.
– Nick at a farmer’s market = bull in a china shop.
– Schmidt gives out free subs to Winston and Coach to get them to visit; Winston’s offhand comment “I think I’ll get ham” made me laugh harder than anything in either episode.
– Ok, Prince was awesome, even when the show went meta and did the pancake joke.
– Scriptures + cursing = Caroline’s really, really pissed.
– Hey, Adam Brody! Yes, I loved The O.C. – it wasn’t perfect, but it holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. So seeing him is always great, even if it’s only for a few scenes of petty ex drama.
– Schmidt: “I don’t just leave mail out… this isn’t a small business!”
– second-funniest joke: Schmidt talking to his grapes.
– “This is how a black dude says it: pull yo’ pandees down.” “This is how a white guy says it: pull your panTees down.”
– “Don’t point those [finger guns] at me… they might go off.” Prince is smoother than your average 55-year old.
– “Wait… where’s CeCe?”