[This is a review of the New Girl season 5 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
Even after its penultimate episode, 'Wedding Eve,' peppered in callbacks to what is perhaps the most complicated and nonsensical drinking game in history, and a memorable moment between Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) that has steered the series ever since, New Girl's season 5 finale managed to neatly wrap up what has been one of the series' most self-contained and cohesive seasons. On a narrative surface level, the show successfully reached its end goal of seeing Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone) tie the knot with Cece's mother (Anna George) in attendance, but on a deeper and more important character level, it also pushed all the loftmates into happy and healthy adulthood. Well, except for Jess.
As teased in the January premiere, season 5 did end up becoming a journey of growth and maturity for nearly everyone in the loft. Winston finally found his soulmate in work partner Aly (Nasim Pedrad); Schmidt was able to let go and enjoy his imperfect wedding, even though he wasn't physically there; and the self-loathing Nick gathered some self-esteem and self-worth after Reagan (Megan Fox) not only showed romantic interest in him, but invited him to join her for a three-month stay in the Big Easy. However, despite all of this positive progress, the finale, 'Landing Gear,' also made a crash landing in very familiar territory, as viewers learn that Jess is still in love with Nick.
Of course, considering that even Sam (David Walton) could sense Jess' true feelings about Nick, this is not a revelation. After all, the relationship between Jess and Nick has been the centerpiece (and often, narrative driver) of the show since the couple shared their first kiss behind the Iron Curtain during a game of True American in season 2. But does that justify the series going back to same well again as it heads into its sixth season?
On one hand, playing the Nick-Jess card is a bit of a disappointment, partly because it was somewhat expected and partly because it's unclear if there is any new, funny or interesting material that will come from heading down that road again. While the series did need to create some kind of conflict between seasons and between all of the love going on, perhaps it could have gone a different way about it.
Then again, the candid conversation between Jess and Reagan in this episode makes us wonder if there is new ground to be explored in the Nick-Jess relationship. In their time apart, Jess proved she's learned some things about herself and about what's really important when it comes to her and Nick. She realizes that she actually loves his idiosyncrasies and doesn't feel the need to fix them, showing that she's done some maturing of her own.
But the thought of Jess working up her courage to share all of this with Nick while he prepares to embrace a relationship with Reagan doesn't seem very comedically palatable. Fortunately, the show's characters are fine-tuned to wring comedy out of just about any awkward or uncomfortable situation -- and this is especially true for Jess -- but there's a chance the romantic drama set up here could supplant some of the comedy. And for a show that is first and foremost a comedy, that's not always the best move.
New Girl is really at its best when it embraces the silliness and absurdity of its characters before it tries to tap into the sweet sentimentality that will often naturally come along with the comedy. And luckily, besides the Jess-Nick stuff, last night's finale had a lot of the typical New Girl shenanigans we love. Although there weren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, some of the smile-inducing highlights included Schmidt turning the airplane cabin into an alternate wedding reception, Jess reluctantly recruiting Winston for another pranking mission and Nick's godawful toast -- during which, he reminds everyone of their impending death.
While it served as a decent episode on its own and a rather solid capper to what was a satisfying season of growth for many of its characters, the New Girl season 5 finale also instills some trepidation for what's to come. With the series potentially nearing its conclusion in the next year or so, some will argue that putting Nick and Jess back together again is essential, considering how important their relationship has been to the series. But we can't help but be a little concerned that the comedy may suffer as a result, not to mention that such a move would present the possibility for the series to literally repeat itself.
What did you think of the New Girl season 5 finale? Let us know in the comments.
Photos: Adam Taylor/FOX