Hmm … oh, gosh.
I know that this is a recap of a 22-minute network sitcom about a group of wacky friends finding love — and laughter! — in their oversize L.A. loft and not my social-justice blog, so I will keep this focused on the merits of “Par 5” as an episode of New Girl. With that said, there is a pretty big elephant in the room, and New Girl has been skirting around it since it sent Winston to the police academy. Tonight’s episode attempted to confront it head-on, but man, was the timing poor.
Of course, network schedules are set months in advance, and there was no way for Fox or the New Girl showrunners to know that the video of the abhorrent shooting of Walter Scott, yet another unarmed black man who fell victim to a broken law-enforcement system, would break last night.
It was poor timing, no question there. So, the bigger question remains: Was there ever going to be a good time for New Girl to address police racism and brutality?
In writing that sentence, I think I realized the answer is a soft but firm “no.” New Girl has trouble figuring out the roots of conflict between its own characters; I hardly think it has any big answers to offer on the topic of American race relations in the 21st century.
New Girl has about as little bite as any show on television, and I like it that way. I have long been adamant that it functions best as a once-weekly mind vacation with as little forward-moving conflict as possible. Given those parameters, much of what it had to say about perceptions of the police force was actually handled fairly well. In particular, the scene where Nick tries to take a strong stance on police brutality only to be shut down by Winston and Coach served as a funny and smart metaphor for the best ways to be an ally in the fight against racism.
There is a lot that needs to be said on a broad cultural level about the topics raised in tonight’s episode of New Girl, but I am not the right person to say it, and this is not the right place. For now let’s talk the fact that, as an episode of television, “Par 5” was just not very good.
Why does New Girl ever split its characters up? As soon as any of the loftmates are paired with a secondary character, you may as well start playing Candy Crush and wait for The Mindy Project. This is especially true of characters like Fawn Moscato, who are fine in doses but become grating once required to exhibit humanity.
Fawn giving Schmidt a sexual evaluation (“This is like porn set in an HR department”) is a super-fun character moment, as is the revelation that she never wears underwear in networking situations because “power emanates from the vagina.” But forward plot motion requires change, and a character like Fawn can’t — and shouldn’t — change.
I’m getting ahead of myself, but only because I could not care less about the circumstances that lead to Jess attempting to connect with Fawn Moscato, City Council, since we all know, empirically, that she will only be in the picture until Schmidt dumps her for Cece in the season finale. Obviously.
So, yes, Jess accompanies Fawn to a networking golf event for high-powered L.A. women, where Jess hopes to cozy up to the president of the school board in order to get new computers for the school. Jess is bad at networking! But in the end, just being herself is what helps her accomplish her goals. It’s a revelation straight out of season one. Also, I didn’t buy for a second that Fawn would just “forget” that she wasn’t wearing any underwear and bend over in front of the press in her impossibly short golf skirt. Fawn is far more calculating than that. If she were going to flash the press, it wouldn’t be an accident, it would be a Sharon Stone–style power move.
Meanwhile, Coach and Nick take Winston out to help him work on his game, which is off, to say the least. The fact that he once took a girl on a date to a cement plant to see how rocks are made is funny on every conceivable level. So when they go out to a café and he immediately meets KC (Kiersey Clemens from Transparent), it’s pretty inconceivable that she is charmed enough by him to give him her number within seconds of stilted chatting. When she reveals that she’s heading to a police protest, Winston tries to hide his job from her (see: the first six paragraphs of this recap). Ultimately, he wins her over, which is great and all, but Aly is still in the picture. Are we headed for a KC-and-Aly love triangle? Even though Winston, like Fawn, works best when used sparingly for weird one-off jokes?
Could you hear my eyes roll through your screen?
Speaking of rolling my eyes, when Fawn demands that Schmidt get a tan, Schmidt enlists Cece’s help to rub bronzer on him. This is an absolutely normal request for a man with two perfectly good hands to make of the ex-girlfriend with whom he still shares a great deal of sexual tension, nope, nothing wrong with this picture at all. Only Schmidt accidentally bought the kind of bronzer with glitter in it, which is actually a real problem that people who compulsively purchase drugstore cosmetics (and oh, we are legion) know all too well. Schmidt’s attempts to undo the glitter damage (since Lord knows glitter does not come off) turn him into a “wood carving of himself.” It’s funny as a joke, but it adds absolutely nothing to the inevitable reunion of Shmeshme, the couple name I just made up for them and will use in all further reviews.
The parts of “Par 5” all seemed fairly disjointed. We are a few episodes away from the season finale, and it doesn’t seem like we are building towards anything. Obviously I am of the opinion that it would be ideal for New Girl to commit to just being a show about nothing, but as there’s no way that’s happening, the fact that there seem to be absolutely zero stakes for any of the central character relationships (Schmidt obviously won’t end up with Fawn Moscato; she’s got the warmth of a tundra and the moral compass of Robert Durst) is kind of baffling.
But the good news is that on the whole, season four is going to end having aired more good episodes than bad ones. This was a quality dip, but when it comes to New Girl, I am eternally cautiously optimistic.