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New Girl’s delightful final season explores life after a rom-com ending

The last eight episodes flash forward for an incredibly charming victory lap.

NICK + JESS FOREVER.
Fox

Whenever I get sad about having fewer good rom-coms in movie theaters these days, I remind myself that there’s at least one stellar example on TV — but that comfort is going to be a little colder now that New Girl is ending.

What began in 2011 as an aggressively quirky hangout sitcom found its groove once it gave in to the chemistry between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson). She was a relentlessly optimistic crafting fan who would rather sing her words than speak them; he was a grouchy slacker who assumed everyone and everything was garbage until proven otherwise. Together, they were as classic an “opposites attract” couple as it gets, and once New Girl realized that, it became one of the most purely delightful comedies on TV.

In fact, once the show started leaning into the Nick and Jess of it all, it found ways to bring more rom-com beats into everyone else’s storylines too. Cece (Hannah Simone) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Jess and Nick’s best friends, had their own opposites-attract story develop from a secret hookup situation into one where they both realized they had — the horror — actual feelings, and had to learn how to adjust their determinedly single lifestyles to make room for each other. And while Winston (Lamorne Morris) initially just skirted the edges of the show, stumbling into his own separate hijinks, he eventually found a partner in Aly (Nasim Pedrad), a co-worker who proved to be just as weird as him in exactly the ways he never thought he’d find in someone else.

By the end of the sixth season, every one of these storylines felt like it had come to its natural conclusion. Winston and Aly were engaged. Cece and Schmidt were married, living in their newly renovated home, with a baby on the way. And after years of swerving in and out of relationships, Nick and Jess finally ditched their waffling and went all in with each other in one of the show’s most sweeping (and character-appropriate) romantic sequences to date.

So I wasn’t totally sure that New Girl really even needed a seventh season. Before it was announced, I wrote that not only did the sixth season finale wrap up the storylines in a way that made sense, but it gave Nick and Jess “the romantic comedy ending they — and we — deserve.” I even said it was “the perfect way for them to start on their new lives together — and the perfect way for us to let them go,” such was my confidence that New Girl was better off dead.

Having now seen six of the final season’s eight episodes, I maintain that I would’ve been perfectly happy with the show ending after the sixth season — but that’s not at all to say that I’m sorry we got this seventh season.

The final season of New Girl is a delightful look at how life goes on after even the most perfect of rom-com endings

Cece and Ruth and Schmidt’s mustache.
Fox

New Girl’s final season is an incredibly charming victory lap that manages to keep the characters and their relationships intact even as they enter the next, ostensibly more mature stages of their lives. Flashing forward “About Three Years Later,” the premiere picks up with Nick and Jess coming back from his European book tour, Winston and Aly working through their first pregnancy, and Cece juggling her booming agent career as Schmidt becomes a stay-at-home dad for their unruly toddler, Ruth (Danielle and Rhiannon Rockoff, instantly two of my favorite kid actors on TV). Recurring guest stars from seasons past — like David Walton’s earnest Sam and Dermot Mulroney’s suave “Fancyman” — even pop up throughout, re-entangling themselves in the core cast’s lives to varying degrees of dysfunction.

At first, it’s jarring to see everyone we once knew as lovably chaotic messes living the lives they always dreamed of. But to the credit of both the actors and writers, everyone’s evolutions end up feeling entirely natural.

Winston gearing up to be a parent makes him consider his fractured family and how he wants to make his own work. Cece’s forthright aversion to bullshit makes her an excellent agent. Schmidt, with all his perfectionism and tendency to shower his loved ones with more affection than they know what to do with, finds himself happier than ever as a doting parent to a kid who keeps him on his toes. And without their usual back-and-forth drama, Nick and Jess are a committed couple who still find time to stumble into ill-advised pursuits, like Jess piercing her nose or Nick motivating himself to finish a project by paying a stranger to punch him in the face.

What this season proves is that these characters don’t need to be playing drinking games and sleeping with the wrong people to be the people their fans grew to love. Against the odds, New Girl found a way to roll the credits on its own rom-com and show what happens next without overstaying its welcome.

The seventh and final season of New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9:30 pm on Fox. The season 7 premiere is currently available to stream on Hulu; previous seasons are available on Netflix.