Clearly Nick was never going to move out of the loft.
A few seasons down the road, maybe the New Girl roommates will strike out and get their own places. Or maybe the producers and writers will pull a Friends and shuffle everyone’s living situations, creating new scenery while maintaining a central location where everyone can get together and rag on Nick. But in the final episode of the first season? It’s not going to happen. The loft holds a certain magnetic pull for the main characters—a pull Liz Meriwether and company would be foolish to turn their backs on as they prepare for the second season of New Girl.
Of course, the loft is cozy and comfortable and well-appointed and all, but it’s nothing without the characters it unites. I spent some time this afternoon taking in the products of Fox’s massive publicity push for “See Ya,” and was struck by Meriwether’s statement that she always pictured New Girl as an ensemble piece. It’s easy to overlook, what with the cast changes and implied shouts of “Hey, movie star over here! Attractive movie star over here!,” but Meriwether’s vision of the show was present even in the earliest weeks of New Girl’s run. “Sooner or later,” I wrote in my review of episode two, “Kryptonite,” “the hangout show needs to start offering arguments as to why we want to hang out with these people.” And, thankfully, it did: Jess gained perspective, Nick found room for a sense of humor in his melancholy, Winston occupied the loft’s authority vacuum, Cece developed complicated emotions, and good ol’ Schmidt became one of the TV season’s best new characters. Though it’s necessary to retain a central location that all five of the principals can share, they can function temporarily outside the loft; “See Ya” demonstrates that the rhythms and ribbing that make it fun to hang out with the New Girl gang can be just as easily transposed to a makeshift campsite in the back of a moving truck.
It’s in getting that truck to the desert where the wheels start to loosen. The fallout of Nick’s decision to shack up with Caroline is a development that needed to be saved for the season finale. However, 22 minutes is an extremely short span of time for putting a character through the emotional gauntlet Nick runs in “See Ya.” It was a bout of capriciousness at the end of “Tomatoes” that got him in this fine mess, but to go from definitely moving out to definitely freaking out to talking things out with Caroline to returning to the loft requires the cutting of too many corners. Not to mention the bits and pieces of the episode that are pushed aside by the Nick Miller Regret Express: Winston’s fear of the dark; Thomas Lennon as Nick’s replacement, the Reel 2 Real-paraphrasing Neil; and the fact that no one is coping well with Nick’s change of address. If only Fox hadn’t wasted its last wish on the monkey’s paw to bring back Breaking In (before laying waste to its uncanceled corpse); “See Ya” could’ve benefit from the space afforded by an extra half-hour that wasn’t occupied by a New Girl rerun.
The dissolution of Schmidt and Cece’s relationship is the one storyline “See Ya” grants a proper amount of time. It comes out of left field—I thought those crazy kids were going to ride into the summer sunset together—but Schmidt’s sidelined dick obviously gave the couple some time to consider its priorities. And when the end comes, it’s not because of Schmidt’s Jack London-inspired epiphany about caring so much for Cece that he has to let her go. Instead, the wedge is driven by Schmidt’s snoopy jealousy, a paranoia planted by Cece’s chiseled co-model that leads to an unrecoverable violation of trust. (Glancing at a text message isn’t exactly opening Cece’s mail and burning anything with a dude’s return address, but it’s still not cool.) Schmidt and Cece helped New Girl relieve most of its will-they/won’t-they tension, and the characters were good together while they lasted, but establishing a romantic relationship within the show’s surrogate family so early isn’t just incestuous—it’s also limiting to the world of the show. (And as Lizzy Caplan and Dermot Mulroney’s arcs on New Girl showed, outside romantic prospects can help this show tremendously.) The breakup is quick and painful, all the while presenting Hannah Simone the chance to simmer with barely suppressed rage while Cece scores a “calling Schmidt on his shit” punchline one last time.
That breakup helps reinforce “See Ya”’s strongest notion: While we’ll miss Schmidt and Cece’s banter, we’d miss the Jess-Nick-Schmidt-Winston roommate setup even more. The truth in “See Ya”’s comedy is the difficulty in transitioning from one stage in your life to the next. The reactions here are exaggerated for comedic effect—unless I’m mistaken and the deserts of California are littered with keys to new apartments, pregnancy tests, college acceptance letters, and winning lottery tickets—but they’re grounded in the reality of our natural resistance to change. Nick doesn’t end up stranding his friends in the arid wastelands because he’s running away from Caroline—he’s running away from the change the move represents and the opening of a new chapter in his life. Of course, he’s been participating in a new chapter this entire season, and his true happiness with that change is the revelation Jess catalyzes by pretending to toss her keys into the brush. It would’ve been a bolder choice for the writers to let Nick complete his move, but it wouldn’t have been the right choice for New Girl. (Besides, Schmidt calling it quits with Cece scratches that itch for a major season-finale development.) Sure, we can all say we knew that Nick wasn’t moving out. In the end, however, the only person who truly knew he was staying was Jess.
- On a season-ending note, I’m really pleased that the promising New Girl pilot I watched last fall grew out of its awkwardness and found the entertaining, funny show—the one that started to poke through in “Wedding”—chugging away underneath all those “adorkable” labels. It was touch-and-go through November and December, but the eventually show found what worked about its characters on an individual and ensemble basis. I wish the first season could’ve ended on a stronger string of episodes, but I’m pleased the second half could turn up some real winners like “Injured” and “Normal.” Thanks for watching and reading along with me, and I’ll see you in September!
- Two aspects of “See Ya” keeping me from giving the episode a higher grade: The coyote and the dance sequence. The coyote was a good way to test Jess’ mettle while also displaying her (platonic?) devotion to Nick, but its appearance is too self-consciously zany for an episode with such a down-to-earth essence. The dance sequence, meanwhile, betrays the bonds formed by the principal cast. If the season has to end with everyone shimmying to AC/DC, they should’ve done so together, not in their own little compartments/bedrooms.
- Nick’s faux-radio-show mix tape provides another intriguing glance into the character’s audio-visual past. Somewhere between his imagined career as a teenage DJ and his all-too-real video distress signal as a twentysomething Howard Hughes, Nick must’ve left behind an embarrassing LiveJournal and/or Open Diary.
- Because Mad Men’s “Far Away Places” has me hearing Pet Sounds all over my TV, I like to believe that Nick’s cry of “Caroline—no!” is a Beach Boys allusion.
- Schmidt is, of course, an avid reader of Success Weekly.
- Winston and Schmidt have big plans for their lives without Nick: “What am I going to do with all that extra money I have now that I don’t have to cover for you anymore? Maybe I’ll buy a city.” “Oh, and you can open a mall and call it Winston’s Corners!”
- Nick’s Rube Goldberg contraption for solving the loft’s mouse problem—a Mark Twain ventriloquist’s dummy attached to a pulley-powered hammer—could use some revisions: “He’s not fooling anyone. You think just because he’s a snappy dresser the mice don’t see the hammer?”
- I’d say the whole word next time, Winston: “I’m worried about Schmidt. He’s a Jew in the desert—I don’t want him to wander.”
- The things Schmidt sees at Cece’s military-themed shoot are difficult to unsee: “What the hell war is this?” Related: “It was hard to tell where you stopped and Goggles McHardbody began.”
- The writing was on the wall for Schmidt and Cece for some time: “This isn’t another one of those ‘merlot is the whore of the vineyard’ talks, is it?”