New Girl, a show I’ve loved and often cherished as a reliable shot of heartfelt comedy, might be done for good — and that would be fine by me.
If star Jake Johnson’s hints are right, last night’s sixth season finale just may double as New Girl’s series finale. When I first heard that, I was more crushed by the possibility than I thought I’d be (six seasons is a long time, after all). But “Five Stars for Beezus” — written by the show’s creator, Liz Meriwether — was such a satisfying episode that I finished not just fine with the idea that this could be the last I’d see of New Girl but actively hoping it would be.
We’ve spent six seasons watching dreamer Jess (Zooey Deschanel), pessimist Nick (Johnson), pragmatic Cece (Hannah Simone), melodramatic Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and lovable weirdo Winston (Lamorne Morris) make messes and find success in LA. And by “Five Stars for Beezus,” everyone’s reached their endgames.
Winston is engaged to his partner Aly (Nasim Pedrad), and in the finale he reaches out to his absent father for the first time in his life. Cece and Schmidt are married and moved into their new home, and then find out — in an escalating series of sitcom misunderstandings and bursts of happy tears — that they’re going to have a baby.
And then there’s Nick and Jess.
Always opposites, always drawn to each other, Nick and Jess have been living out a romantic comedy for almost as long as we’ve known them. In this finale, they get the moment they’ve been working toward at long last.
New Girl is always at its best when it lets itself be a romantic comedy
The minute New Girl decided to be a rom-com was the minute New Girl became great.
At first, the show sold its appeal on the fact that Jess — played by Deschanel at her wide-eyed quirkiest — was “adorkable.” The three men who became her reluctant roommates in the pilot spent full episodes skeptically eyeing her zaniness, while she careened around the world like a newborn faun still learning how to use her legs.
But as the first season wrapped up, two things became clear. First, hinging stories on Jess’s haplessness was a boring mistake. Second, and maybe most pressingly: Jess and her gruff roommate Nick had way too much chemistry to ignore.
So New Girl didn’t ignore it — and almost immediately became a stronger show.
Over the next five seasons, Nick and Jess tumbled in and out of each other’s love lives almost as if they couldn’t help themselves. Yes, Jess’s commitment to sweetness and dancing like no one’s watching clashed with Nick’s firm belief that everything is basically terrible (except the Chicago Cubs). But as with so many longstanding TV romances, that friction only made them seem more complementary, made the show more fun to watch, and made it far more frustrating when the pair couldn’t just work it out.
Jess spent the entire sixth season pining for Nick, who in turn had been obliviously dating hot pharmaceutical rep Regan (Megan Fox) while turning to Jess for all his emotional needs. In fact, Nick only broke up with Regan in last week’s penultimate episode — which made the season finale’s job a whole lot harder in terms of wrapping up his story with Jess.
But “Five Stars for Beezus” sold the hell out of a crucial moment in the romantic comedy tradition: the moment both people realize with a start of clarity that neither of them can stand the idea of living, of loving, without the other by their side.
The sixth season finale gives Nick and Jess the romantic comedy ending they — and we — deserve
For as fun as it’s been to watch Nick and Jess crash in and out of relationships with each other for years, it’s also been frustrating as hell. Why can’t these two, who are so clearly bonkers for each other, just accept that and have the life of baking and sex and sharing flannel shirts that we know they want?
“Five Stars for Beezus” makes the smart decision to acknowledge that frustration right away. Schmidt, who promises Cece he won’t interfere, almost immediately breaks that promise because he knows Nick’s in love with Jess. Why beat around the bush?
Johnson, whose Nick has emerged from New Girl as the best kind of tenderhearted romantic hero, plays this moment beautifully over the course of the episode. At first, his face screws up in concentration as Schmidt coaxes him into admitting the truth. Later, as he’s still thinking about it because how can he stop thinking about it, he relaxes into a confident smile — before rushing off to find Jess once and for all.
Because Jess, meanwhile, is packing her things to escape to Portland for the summer, where she won’t have to see Nick and pretend like she’s not head over heels for him. It’s dramatic, and perfectly in line with the rom-com tradition of putting a countdown clock on the final reconciliation. It’s obvious that Nick is going to find her and that Jess isn’t going to leave.
But the final moments of “Five Stars for Beezus” — so named for Fred Willard’s eccentric Uber driver who gets Nick home — are so purely romantic and fun that knowing the inevitable conclusion becomes totally beside the point.
(It’s hard for me to describe the last five minutes of “Five Stars for Beezus” without grinning my stupid face off, but this is my job, so I’ll do my best.)
Nick runs into the apartment building right as Jess’s moving truck leaves it. Then Jess hears the strains of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and ditches the truck, running back to find him.
The next few minutes are, in classic Nick and Jess fashion, a series of comedic errors. The two keep missing each other inside the apartment building by seconds as they race to find each other to the strains of “Green Light,” Lorde’s joyful “let’s just acknowledge we want to smash our faces together already” anthem. (“I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it...”)
By the time Nick and Jess finally find each other in the elevator, their wide and breathless smiles say it all.
When it comes to Nick and Jess, New Girl has been an infuriating and exhilarating ride. There’s also been so much buildup that having a satisfying ending to it all was rapidly approaching the point of impossibility. But this finale manages to make it obvious why these two, openhearted and bruised and aching for each other, belong together.
It’s the perfect way for them to start on their new lives together — and the perfect way for us to let them go.