After the end of season 6, New Girl exchanged what would have been a perfect and perfectly romantic end to the series for one last run of episodes that essentially acts as a coda of sorts to the long-running story of a group of friends and, more specifically, the romance between Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick Miller (Jake Johnson). The season finale offered up a fulfilling conclusion to its story, one that left things with an appropriately rom-com-like capper that saw Jess and Nick once again acknowledge their feelings for one another, but left their exact future up for interpretation.
As it turns out, series creator Liz Meriwether and her cast still had something to say about Jess, Nick, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris), and Cece (Hannah Simone). That turned into a truncated seventh and final season consisting of just eight episodes that would, essentially, act as a denouement to the otherwise ideal ending the series delivered last year. But what season 7 brings in addition to the details of these characters lives as they venture off into adulthood away from the loft is a string of steadily funny and gratifying episodes meant to provide definitive closure for the series and its fans.
Season 7 begins with ‘About Three Years Later,’ which, as the title suggests, jumps forward in time, putting the characters all at a different place in their lives and showing the ways in which they have and haven’t changed. It’s a little like checking back in with Harry and Sally after a few years, or finding out if Tom Hanks’s Sam Baldwin is still finding it hard to sleep in Seattle after finally connecting with Meg Ryan’s Annie Reed. Mostly, though, the time jump is a way to ensure for the audience that the characters of New Girl are going to be in the place they want and need to be once it’s finally time to close the curtain and say goodbye.
From the start, season 7 feels like the end of a very long, very funny coming-of-age story. The characters of New Girl always had a bit of a Peter Pan complex — Nick most of all — which essentially put them in a state of arrested development, wherein the loft they shared wasn’t just the idea place for some situation comedy, but it was also the physical and emotional focal point of their lives. ‘About Three Years Later,’ then, sees the loft still functioning in much the same way (because why waste a perfectly good and familiar set?) despite the fact that most of its occupants have since moved out and moved on to certain staples of adulthood like marriage, parenthood, and home ownership. But as the new season quickly demonstrates, just because these people are no longer living together doesn’t stop them from inserting themselves into one another’s lives at inopportune moments.
Though it’s often a disappointing device used too often by series that don’t need it, New Girl’s use of the time jump underlines the most prominent idea in the series by demonstrating how its characters have indeed grown up and moved on, which, in turn, helps justify the existence of season 7. New Girl is ostensibly getting a jump on the inevitable revival with its final season. And by that rationale, the premiere becomes exponentially more appealing for obvious reasons: You want to know where these characters’ lives have taken them after three years, and especially after that kiss on the elevator between Jess and Nick.
As such, ’About Three Years Later’ has a field day when it comes to getting caught up with the personal and professional lives of the characters, using the audience’s curiosity to its advantage, with a Three’s Company-like set-up wherein Winston and Cece briefly appear to be having an affair. It’s a throwaway joke that toes the line of being too self-referential in terms of just how aware the show is of its own time jump, but it works in terms of jolting those watching and delivering something more than a few cosmetic changes, like Schmidt’s very not okay mustache and Jess’s nose ring. Though, working in the show’s favor is the idea that both facial decorations are ostensibly the result of time spent with or away from Nick, as he and Jess have just returned from Europe to promote the latest Pepperwood Chronicles novel, meaning there was no one to properly shame Schmidt about his choice in facial hair. And in doing so, the series demonstrates once again how, despite its title and the fact that it’s an ensemble, the nucleus of New Girl really is and forever will be Nick Miller.
Reiterating that early on allows the premiere the chance to introduce what will be the final season’s overarching storyline: Nick’s eventual proposal to Jess. But, as the episode demonstrates, New Girl isn’t in any hurry to see Nick down on one knee. Instead, with the seeds of proposal properly sown, including a terrific exchange between Johnson and Rob Reiner as Jess’s demanding father Bob, the series begins by devoting time to each of its characters as couples, starting with Schmidt and Cece, and their now three-year-old daughter Ruth.
Under most circumstances that might seem like a lot for any show to tackle in one go, let alone a half-hour comedy. But ‘About Three Years Later’ demonstrates the depth of Meriwether and the New Girl writers’ room’s experience. It also shows the level to which the those working on the series understand how to best capitalize on the serialized nature of the story being told. With just eight episodes total remaining in the series, New Girl is both anxious to deliver a bigger, more conclusive ending than it was able to at the end of season 6, but it’s also not in any hurry to see it all come to an end. And for a series that could have called it a day last season and left viewers mostly fulfilled, it’s a testament to how consistently funny and well made New Girl has been that it can make this seventh season feel so worthwhile.
New Girl continues next Tuesday with ‘Tuesday Meeting’ @9:30pm on FOX.