Review: New Girl “Sister” – Hello, Hot Cocoa

new girl 3.16

Nothing makes for good comedy like sibling dysfunction, so knowing New Girl was bringing in the always-fabulous Linda Cardellini as Jess’s sister Abby obviously had me excited for the comedic possibilities. And as the first act of the Abby Trilogy, “Sister” mostly does that – but does so most poignantly with the other ‘siblings’ dealing with change in their relationship, Nick and Schmidt. And although it addresses the changing dynamic of their relationship well, their plot (along with the others) never really comes to any kind of recognizable resolution, seemingly ending before reaching natural resolutions.

Of course, next week’s episode is called “Sister II” (and I know Cardellini will appear in at least three episodes), so this might be a minor gripe – but it feels like “Sister” isn’t confident in how it wants to explore Jess and Abby’s relationship. Jess tries to hide her from Nick, causing him to question whether Jess thinks of him as an embarrassment – in reality, “Sister” is less about their actual relationship than it is a minor misunderstanding between boyfriend and girlfriend, a farce that’s introduced, but never really played out to any end.

We never get a great feel for Abby, either, beyond “party-crazy-random-girl”, a simple game of ‘polar opposite’ that only gets interesting when Abby realizes how much Jess and her friends (especially CeCe) look down on her, even though she’s technically the ‘big sister’ between all of them. Again, there isn’t a whole lot of meat to this: it’s a predictable character to introduce, an archetype that makes it hard to find an honest moment between her and Jess beyond “look how fundamentally different they are!” Admittedly, this is kind of the point, but “Sister” doesn’t do a whole lot to avoid cliche, even though it does find some entertaining comedy between them (Abby pointing out how annoying Jess’s acapella singing was a particular highlight, a little bit of meta commentary that feels wittier than most of the material surrounding it).

Nick and Schmidt’s trip to the Bar Mitzvah is slightly more entertaining, if only because it turns Schmidt into a long, monologue delivering machine, expressing his frustrations and fantasies in lurid fashion. It does approach a fundamental change within the loft dynamic (well, the fourth floor dynamic): just a year removed from “Tinfinity”, Nick’s grown in ways Schmidt hasn’t – while one wing of the winged-man flapped his wings, the other flopped around, waiting for a girl he dumped to come running back to him. If anything, Schmidt’s changed the group dynamic, his attempts to approach Jon Lovitz’s crazy daughter looking more desperate and self-loathing than we’ve ever seen them.

Again, “Sisters” sidesteps diving into it deeper: the entire thing boils down to Nick making out with an old lady, and getting punched in the face. Nick and Jess have their weekly episode-closing convo, and it’s suggested that Abby is going to throw a wrench in the works for the time being. There’s certainly somewhere “Sisters” is trying to go – I just don’t think it gets there in this episode, reaching to tidy up the shorter stories without much regard to working through the issues presented with much nuance. The more characters New Girl adds, the faster it has to be getting from point A and point B: that strain is visible in “Sisters”, a hilarious episode that doesn’t seem to realize it needs to wrap things up until the episode’s over, losing any potential resonance in a flurry of rushed, underdeveloped resolutions.

Grade: B-

Other thoughts/observations:

– ok, this episode of New Girl basically throws up its hands and says “We don’t know what to do with our minority characters!” Seriously: it’s Bertie and the three non-white characters having soup dinner with CeCe’s fantastic ladles (Winston: “This one is deeeeeeep.”)

– Schmidt: “Oh good God… is that a common barber’s comb???”

– I could not stop laughing at Outside Dave doing his taxes. It’s such a dumb joke, but I was borderline hysterical. It’s the little touches sometimes.

– I love how Jess’s mom calls getting wasted “getting stoned”.

– Winston: “Hey guys, the Fisherman’s Bisque has just the right amount of Tang in it… that’s Tang, right? That’s Tang.”

– Nick has an uptown butt, and Abby wants to see it in ski pants, whatever that means.

– not sure what this episode was trying to convey with CeCe and Coach… that was the weirdest bit of all of them. “Can we just be friends now?”

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