If you binge-watch the first two seasons of New Girl in three weeks like I did (causing all my sweaters to break out in polka dots), the series plays like an extended romantic comedy wherein Nick and Jess, two friends who drive each other crazy, realize they are (plot twist) crazy about each other. Here’s another unexpected twist: Despite my better judgment, I am as all-in on their relationship as they are.
We have this romantic notion that the affection that transpires between two dissimilar people constitutes an especially meaningful attachment. Realistically, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters in You’ve Got Mail are probably too different to coexist in a healthy romantic way. Not to mention the chasm separating Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s points of view in When Harry Met Sally. And are you shitting me with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman in Kate and Leopold? He’s a literal time traveler. It’s preposterous.
What I mean to say is — and it pains me to admit this — I don’t think Jess and Nick are right for each other.
Eventually his negativity, shiftlessness, and rustic home improvement style have got to wear her down. Otherwise her relentless, be-sweatered optimism will become more than his cynical nature can bear. He’s a little bit (Judd) Apatow; she’s a little bit (Wes) Anderson. I just don’t see them working out in the long run. Sometimes people with opposite personalities complement each other, with one’s strengths covering for the other’s weaknesses. More often, though, such adversarial temperaments rub against each other in shrill, irritating ways until they wear each other down to dust like the treads on the inner thighs of corduroy pants.
But these are problems to worry about down the line. For now, Paradise Nick and Paradise Jess are coasting blissfully through the Paradise Phase of their relationship (as long as Paradise Nick isn’t getting thrown in resort jail, which is actually not that bad, or neglecting to carry an apartment key, or doing any of the other charming/maddening things that make Nick Miller Nick Miller). And I’m rooting for them to keep it up. Nick and Jess have so much fun together. They care about each other. And it seemed like they had really great sex the first time, which in itself is a minor miracle.
Like Nick, who tries to keep Jess in Mexico in an effort to avoid their problems back home, I don’t want their figurative honeymoon to end. I can’t take more bad news from fictional characters I care about this week. (Side note: Why does Nick always respond to relationship crises by living out of the back of an open vehicle?) In spite of logic and experience, I very much want Nick and Jess to stay together. So when he vows to start carrying a house key, and she promises to carry one for him, my heart fills with the hope that they’re going to make it work. I just want them to take impulsive vacations and have fully clothed television sex in cars forever and ever. I’m so nervous about what will happen when they come back to Earth/Los Angeles.
While Nick and Jess flee to Mexico, Schmidt finds himself best-friendless in a moment of need. Surrogate best friend Winston is ill-equipped to assistant manage the Jamba Juice of lies that Schmidt has built. Granted, Nick may have shut down if Cece pressured him for the truth about Schmidt’s love life, but he certainly would not have freestyled an alibi as gross as: “I needed your underwear to sew into my underwear.” Somehow that assertion is weirder than if he’d told her he wanted to make a Silence of the Lambs skin suit out of her.
Schmidt has always been a douche, but this Cece/Elizabeth escapade seems like it’s going to end in heartbreak for someone … or three people. Schmidt’s anxiety over deciding which woman to be with brings his general neediness into sharp focus. Whether he’s relying on Jess to procure him a party bus or Nick to unclog the sink, Schmidt needs everyone in his life to drop everything at a moment’s notice, as he explicitly tells Winston. This is a good thing. Like all well-written characters, Schmidt thinks he’s the focal point of his own story.
One of my favorite aspects of New Girl is that every character seems immersed in his or her personal journey. Jess loves teaching and is searching for a passionate and long-lasting love. Schmidt is trying to balance love and sex while balling so hard it makes everyone around him uncomfortable. Cece is proud of her modeling career but needs to find a partner her parents approve of. Nick just wants to figure himself out.
Winston is the outlier. He doesn’t have a greater sense of purpose; he’s the ultimate rom-com best friend, an accomplice on both wedding-ruining pranks and soul-searching trips to the zoo. As a character, Winston is defined primarily as a best friend. He’s more quirk than man. We know lots about him; he’s wildly competitive, great with difficult kids, inarticulate around women, and, as we just discovered, color-blind. Winston loves puzzles and apparently sometimes wears sweatshirts as pants, but I’m not sure what he wants out of a relationship or career. He gets some of the episode’s funniest jokes (saying his sneakers are “as brown as money,” raggedly reassembling Nick’s passport) but few memorable story lines. His closest friends all forget his birthday, for goodness' sake. Winston deserves an adventure of his own. Hopefully he gets it this season.
As viewers, we got the happy ending we wanted from last season’s finale. Cece called off her marriage to Shivrang, who immediately lined himself up as fodder for guest star Taylor Swift’s next album. Winston got to hang out with a badger. Most important, Jess and Nick got together. Now that the opposites are done attracting, though, they have to live with each other. They have to transcend their unmediated passion for one another and learn how to be in a relationship. I think that would be a fascinating direction for the show to take, to let the whack-a-mole rotation of significant others fall away and show two young-ish people come into their own as adults and partners to one another. Otherwise they’re embarking on a less popular narrative, where Harry and Sally grow to resent each other over time. In a movie, the hero gets to ride off into the sunset. On TV, she wakes up and has to deal with where she slept the night before.