Grading the Season Finales 2013: New Girl

Title Elaine’s Big Day (2.25)

What Happens? It’s Cece’s wedding day, but Schmidt infers from an accidental look at the bride that she may not want to go through with it after all. Claiming to be working as her friend, he plans to “sabo” (aka sabotage) her wedding with the help of Nick and Winston. However, Nick is initially against this plan, not wanting to upset Jess and hoping to prove her father wrong about his immaturity. However, Nick is betrayed by his own “Cotton-Eyed Joe” CD; when it’s played during the ceremony, Jess assumes Nick is in on the plan and tells him he acts like a child. Feeling hurt, Nick decides to help Schmidt and Winston with the next phase of the sabotage operation, but things take a turn for the worse when the badger they plan to let loose escapes in the air ducts.

As Jess climbs into the ducts to try to stop the madness, Nick confronts her about her concerns about a relationship between the two of them, and Jess admits that a part of her is afraid that he’s too much of a mess to have a functional relationship with her. Their talk is interrupted, though, when they fall through the ceiling and literally crash the ceremony. The destruction seems to allow Cece to finally speak her mind: She doesn’t want to marry Shivrang because she’s in love with someone else (Schmidt). As for Shivrang, he has a secret love of his own named Elaine.

With the wedding officially called off, Nick and Jess do some calling off of their own, deciding that the one night they had together was enough, although it’s clear neither of them really wants to walk away from whatever they have. While Nick goes to drown his sorrows at the bar, Winston emerges from the air ducts with a nasty wound and some sage advice: Drinking and running away were the moves Nick’s dad always fell back on when things got hard, but they’re not the only moves. Schmidt seems to have never gotten that memo, though, as he runs from the room when faced with the choice between Cece and Elizabeth.

Unlike Schmidt, Nick doesn’t want to run away anymore. In fact, he’s ready to run to Jess, who he finds standing outside in tears over their decision to end whatever was happening between them. She asks Nick if they can un-call it, and he replies with a smile and a kiss. Laughing and bickering, the two drive off into the night towards a destination neither of them knows yet.

Game-Changing Moment While Nick and Jess’s relationship has been the driving force behind most of this season, the real emotional journey has been Nick Miller’s development from a man paralyzed by anger and fear to a man who can embrace uncertainty and hope. That arc found beautiful resolution in Winston’s speech about Nick not having to use his father’s moves. For much of Season Two, we’ve seen how Nick’s father and his abandonment had such a profound impact on his life and his decisions even after his father’s death. So it was hugely important for Nick to make a stand and show that he’s not his father; he’s better than his father ever was. There are other moves—better moves—and Nick is finally ready to choose another move. That moment of deciding to run towards Jess instead of running away signified a huge leap forward for this character we’ve watched grow all season. It was the culmination of a truly wonderful arc, and it hinted at even more growth to come next season.

Finale M.V.P. I say this every week when I review episodes of New Girl, but this was honestly so difficult to choose. Once again, I think the writers did a brilliant job of playing to the strengths of each actor and showcasing a number of different dynamics and relationships in a way that really brought all of the emotional threads of this season together. However, if I was forced to choose one standout performer from this episode, I would have to choose Zooey Deschanel. I think “Elaine’s Big Day” was one of her best episodes to date because of the range she had to show throughout it. She was able to show some of her great comedic talents, but the true strength of her performance in this episode was in her natural interactions with everyone around her. I loved Jess fighting with Schmidt in both the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” scene and the “Ducts!” scene. I thought Jess’s scenes with Cece were played with just the right kind of warmth to make their friendship feel real even in the short amount of screentime they shared. However, Deschenel’s best moments were (unsurprisingly) with Jake Johnson. There’s a kind of vulnerability between them in emotional scenes that’s different from any other interactions on this show. Deschanel blew me away in this episode with her subtly powerful reactions to the “calling off” of their relationship. Not many actors can evoke such strong emotion from simply trying not to cry, but she was able to move me to tears with the honesty in her famously big eyes. Her delivery of “Before you say no…Don’t say no,” was genuinely heartbreaking, and it was beautifully contrasted with her stunning smile after Nick kissed her. Everything she did in this episode felt real and honest, and that’s what I love most about New Girl.

Most Memorable Line “Look, I know you think we should call it, but I don’t want to give up on this—even if we don’t know what this is. I want to un-call it. Please, can we un-call it? And before you say no…Don’t say no.” (Jess)

What Didn’t Work I didn’t love how the Cece/Shivrang story was resolved. I wanted Cece to call off the wedding because it wasn’t the right thing for her to do—not just because she still had feelings for Schmidt. It felt a little too cheesy for a show that’s usually pretty good at staying away from overused tropes. I also didn’t love Schmidt sabotaging the wedding. While it led to some fantastic moments of comedy, I thought it was a little too much—even for Schmidt. It seemed to invalidate his relationship with Elizabeth, which made me sad because I’ve come to adore that character.

What Worked Can I just say “everything else” and be done with it? Because everything else about this episode felt right—it was a great way for this wonderful season to end. Everyone had something to do that was consistent with their characterization, and each actor brought their A-game to the table (which they do every week, so it didn’t surprise me at all). Max Greenfield owned all of Schmidt’s moments—from the way his face softened when he accidentally walked in on Cece in her wedding outfit to the hilarious way he paused to check which way was north when Winston told Schmidt which direction the badger was heading.

Speaking of Winston, he finally did something important this week! I loved that the big speech that helped Nick take that giant leap forward as a character was given to Winston. He’s Nick’s oldest friend, and he knows the extent of Nick’s emotional damage more than anyone. So there was a real sense of shared past and true friendship in that scene, which is something New Girl does better than any other show I watch. And as I’ve said before, the best thing about Season Two of this show (besides Nick and Jess) was Prank Sinatra, so I was especially pleased to see Winston’s terrible pranking skills get so much screentime in this finale. Lamorne Morris manages to bring a frantic kind of energy to all of his scenes that makes even the strangest things hilarious—from Winston’s obsession with badgers to his plea that we take better care of the earth. For as great as Greenfield and Johnson are, Morris shouldn’t be forgotten, and I love that this episode gave him more than a few moments to shine.

The episode’s best moments, though, belonged to the relationship between Nick and Jess. Deschanel and Johnson bring such genuine chemistry to every scene between them—whether they’re making me laugh or making me cry. I thought they both played the heartbreak of calling off their relationship perfectly—from the way Johnson’s voice broke when he said they only had one night together to the way Deschanel was trying so hard not to cry. That scene felt raw, and it felt real, which made the payoff at the end feel even more earned. Both characters know they’re not heading into a fairytale romance; they both see each other for who they really are. But they also know that whatever they have is worth fighting for, and it made me feel proud as a fan to see both of these characters fighting for their relationship—fighting for each other.

For so long we’ve seen this relationship through Nick’s eyes, so it was especially beautiful to see Jess be the one who was so open about wanting to give their relationship a chance. Every beat between these two has been hit perfectly this season, and this final step for Jess—being vulnerable with Nick and telling him how she feels even though she doesn’t know for sure what he feels—was done with such truth and care from both the writers and Deschanel. And then we see Nick take his final step—walking towards her with a confident smile on his face. He’s not scared or unsure anymore; this is a man who knows what he wants and is finally going to fight for it—because she wants him, even if he’s a mess and even if he’s broken. And that thought makes him happy; it makes him brave.

I think my favorite part of the episode, the part that left me smiling as happy tears formed in my eyes, was the way they both started laughing and smiling after that gorgeous kiss. (Is it safe to say one of the biggest surprises of this year in TV was Nick Miller’s kissing skills?) That’s what made this finale so special to me. It could have ended on a cliffhanger for them; it could have ended with angst and still been believable. Instead, the writers chose to end the episode with the two of them in a truly happy place. That’s what love is supposed to be—a happy place. It felt right, it felt real, and it felt earned. Watching them drive off with no destination in mind but smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices—the symbolism wasn’t lost on me. They might not know where they’re going, but they’re going together—and the journey is going to be a lot of fun.

Final Grade A. This was everything I could have hoped for in a New Girl finale. It was a fitting end for what was a phenomenal season, and it set up Season Three in a wonderfully hopeful way. “Elaine’s Big Day” had everything: physical comedy, Nick screaming like a little girl, another perfect Nick/Jess kiss, Schmidt making up words, Jake Johnson’s face, Jess looking beautiful in a sari, Winston offering sage advice while bleeding out from a badger attack, and just the right amount of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” If that’s not a recipe for success, then I don’t know what is.


8 thoughts on “Grading the Season Finales 2013: New Girl

  1. As always, you’ve said it all so well. I have so much to say in reply/agreement (starting with YES YES YES!) that I’m going to have to take a while to sort it all out. My heart is so full right now. This morning I was walking my pug (one of the many things I have neglected as of late because of my fangirling) and I was thinking about last night’s episode and when I remembered how Nick said “we had one night” with that catch in his voice I almost started crying in the street… I have loved this Season of Nick Miller so much. He has been so outstandingly good, both in terms of the material they have given the character and also what Jake Johnson has done with it. It has been so amazing. I hope Jake and New Girl get the recognition they deserve. I’ll be back later to gush in agreement about how awesome Zooey was in this episode, how amazing Nick and Jess were as a couple and how much I’m looking forward to seeing more of that, and all the stuff about Winston, Schmidt, Cece, Elizabeth – because this really was an all-star episode. Nearly perfect.

    • I can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts because my heart is still so full from this episode. None of the other finales I watched this season left me this happy. It was so nice to end such a positive season on such a positive note. 😀

  2. Loved the review, I loved this season finale too! Although it wasn’t as good as some other episodes from this season, it was outstanding.
    But there was someone I really missed: TRAN! He was Nick’s Guru, he should be there to see how Nick turned out!

  3. I really didn’t care for CeeCee at all this season. I want Schmidt with Elizabeth and hope next season they just focus more on the roommates in the loft. I do like the relationship between Nick and Jess but I don’t want that to dominate the entire season like it did this year. And also more Wintson! He is freaking hilarious and I wish they actually had episodes that focused on him more.

    • I thought Cece’s storyline was one of the few weak links this season. I just didn’t care about it at all. As someone who loves Nick and Jess and can’t get enough of them, I wouldn’t complain if they featured prominently in most episodes next season, but I actually think having them be in a relationship will allow the focus to shift back to the loft dynamics and the friendship between all of them. And that’s what I hope for next season. The chemistry between all four main cast members is excellent, so more scenes of all of them just being together in the loft would never be a bad thing. 😉

  4. This is going to be a mega-long comment!
    I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that they should watch New Girl because it’s a show that loves you back. They could have easily created a cliffhanger ending for this season that would have hurt their fans and left everyone feeling unsatisfied, but that wasn’t right for the show, the stories, the characters or the fans. Above all this show loves it’s characters, and ending the season this way was the best thing for the characters and their stories. (I think we have a happy respectful fandom because the show is so kind to its characters and its viewers)
    Zooey was amazing in every scene – as you said, she had to hit every emotional note, and she was spot on. I loved her relaxed happy couple scenes with Nick at the beginning so much. That’s what I want to see more of next season – them together, but not all about them being together. I want them to relax and be a couple because they are so adorable together. And then they can get back into the hijinks and shenanigans with the others.
    Jess and Schmidt were wonderful together too. I love their friendly/sibling bond. And Schmidt – he was just excellent. When I heard that he would sabo the wedding I wondered why he would, since he had seemed to honestly wish Cece well in Bachelorette Party, but I genuinely believe that he did it because of the “eye conversation” – when I saw gifsets of that scene, the way his face changed from delight at seeing her to a serious look of concern, I could believe that he really felt that Cece had been silently pleading for his help.
    I wasn’t thrilled with the Cece story this season, and I would have preferred her just to say “this isn’t really what I want” but setting up a love triangle made sense – it’s not really a cliffhanger to find Schmidt choosing between 2 women he loves, who both love him, since we already knew that. (Merritt Wever’s schedule will pay a big role in his choice, I imagine!) I liked Elizabeth’s reaction because she knew all along that Schmidt had feelings for Cece and it made sense to me that she would just demand that he make a choice. And running away seemed like the best move to me! Which choice is the right one for him? Elizabeth loves the “real” Schmidt, but does she accept that he has changed and it’s not all bad? And Cece loves the new Schmidt, but are they good for each other? I like them when they are friends – maybe they could bring out the best in each other. We’ll see. I’m guessing the show won’t resolve that for quite some time.
    Winston was great. I almost want Nick and Jess to move into a room together so they can bring in a new loftmate for Winston to relate to. Or something. But he was great in the ducts!
    The emotional climax with Nick and Jess was played really well. I loved that Nick revealed how deep they were with his “It’s not like we’re in love or anything” and how his voice broke on “we had one night” and the smile on his face after Jess’s uncall it speech was amazing. But mostly I was glad that Jess finally revealed how much she cared. Haven’t we (I?) been saying for weeks that she has been a bit unreasonable wanting Nick to declare himself when he has taken all of the big risks – even in QHC, which was all about her wanting him, it was Nick who had to lay it on the line and ask her flat out what she wanted. I feel like he has shown her time and again how he feels, even if he can’t say it the way she wants. And she hasn’t said it either! He needed to know that she was in as deep as he was, and she finally gave that to him. And in such a beautiful way. Their laughter and smiling and kissing was so perfect (as all their intimate scenes have been since Virgins) and the ending just left so much hope and potential and happiness that I hardly even mind waiting until September to see where they pick up. (Hopefully right away)
    My hopes for Season 3 are that Jess and Nick are allowed to coast in their supposedly “undefined” relationship for a while. To me it is not really undefined, because they are best friends, lovers, and they are together. They’re not going to date other people. And every look, every touch, screams “together” – so I don’t really think they need to define it. They are in a serious relationship, whether they know it or not. But being TV I guess that will come up sooner rather than later (I would prefer later). I guess in my own life I tend to fall into things without worrying about what it all means, so that is a bias I have.
    I just want to see them happily together, interacting with everyone, with all the usual hijinks. I don’t want another season of “Nick and Jess”. I just want them to be together now, and here and there we can have some angst about whose room to sleep in and Nick needing some direction in his life, and then we can move on.
    This episode was just so beautiful and the musical choices were excellent and the resolution of the Nick and Jess story and Nick’s emotional development were great. The whole thing left me loving the show and heaping blessings on everyone who made it and looking forward to next season with a big goofy grin on my face!

    • I love what you said about the show being good to both its fans and its characters. It’s one of the things I love most about New Girl, and this finale really highlighted it. Like you said, it could have easily ended on an uncertain or angsty note, but instead they chose to end it with a sense of happiness and hope—because it was right for the characters and they didn’t want to emotionally manipulate the audience. That’s kind of rare on TV, and it makes me respect the New Girl writers/creators a lot. I know they’ve been doing a lot of things by instinct this season, and I think their instincts are spot-on.

      I can’t wait to see what happens with Nick and Jess in Season Three. I think there will be a return to a greater focus on all four of the roommates interacting, and that’s how it should be. Yes, I love Nick and Jess, but what made me fall in love with this show was the dynamic between all four main characters. With a lot of the questions and big “firsts” between Nick and Jess already out of the way, I think there are a lot of fun times to come for the loft as whole next season, and I can’t wait to watch!

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