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Thursday, April 4, 2013

New Girl: Give Jake Johnson an Emmy! Stat! (My thoughts on episode 2x20 “Chicago”)

I know that I’ve been very vocal about the fact that I think that season two of New Girl is better than the first season was and that I believe that the show has really been soaring higher than ever before creatively ever since Jess and Nick kissed in the episode “Cooler”, but I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about this episode. Don’t get me wrong though, I really liked it. Personally, I think that this episode had the potential to be a really great episode, but it sadly failed to live up to its full potential in my humble opinion.

As I was watching this episode for the first time, I couldn’t help but think that this episode would have been much better if it had been a one-hour episode opposed to being a typical thirty minutes long episode, which really ends up only being about twenty-two minutes long once you cut out the commercials. This whole episode felt very rushed to me. In the opening scene, Jess, Schmidt and Winston are playing around with some balloons that Jess had bought from a guy in a van and they were inhaling helium from the balloons, which made their voices sound high pitched. While that was all happening, Nick came into the apartment in an especially cranky mood as he was talking to his mother on the phone. A couple minutes later Nick comes back into the room and informs them that his father had died of a heart attack, and at first they didn’t want to say anything since their voices all sounded funny from the helium. It was only after Nick asked them why they weren’t saying anything that they finally said something, hugging Nick and offering him emotional support with their voices still under the effect of helium from the balloons as the show went to the theme song sequence, which I thought was pretty funny.

When the show returned from the first commercial break, Jess, Nick, Winston and Schmidt had just arrived at Nick’s parents’ house in Chicago where he grew up. Although, Nick made a comment where he says that his family apparently lived in a van from fall of 1988 to the spring of 1989. Schmidt is upset because the airline apparently lost his bags, so the only clothes that he has with him are the clothes that he was wearing when they were on the plane. Winston tells Nick that he’s also very upset about Walt’s death, which I think is really nice since they made it pretty clear in the episode “A Father’s Love” that he viewed Walt as a father figure. Winston also mentions that Walt had apparently once told him that he loved him more than he loved Nick, which prompted Nick to mention that his father had told him that too at some point. Ouch! That must be pretty tough for Nick to deal with, but I digress. Winston and Schmidt also warned Jess not to laugh when his family talk about him being responsible since Nick’s family apparently doesn’t understand why they would think that was funny.

The scene where the viewers are introduced Nick’s mother, Bonnie, his brother, Jamie, his cousin, Bobby really highlights why I think that this episode would have been better off as a one-hour episode. As soon as they entered the house you can immediately hear Nick’s younger brother, Jamie, and one of his cousins, Bobby, who’s from Boston arguing over whether soft drinks should be called pop or soda, which I think is really weird, but then again we didn’t get to hear the beginning of the argument. They also featured an elderly woman who I believe was Nick’s grandma who was repeatedly talking about weed throughout the episode. I’m not sure why she kept talking about weed, but that was pretty weird. Maybe the writers were trying to make the character come across as being senile. We were also quickly introduced to Nick’s mom, Bonnie, who was played by Margo Martindale. I have to say that I wasn’t all that happy when they first announced that Margo would be guest-starring as Nick’s mom since I didn’t like her on Justified and I wasn’t crazy about her in the episode of Suits that she guest-starred in either. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked her in this episode.

Anyway, Bonnie was instantly relieved to see that Nick had arrived since she claimed that she could count on him to take care of everything, which included planning an Elvis Presley themed funeral for Walt, much to Nick’s dismay, but he still promised her that he would take care of everything. Bonnie also instantly hated Jess before she even said anything to her. The whole thing with Bonnie hating Jess for most of the episode was definitely one of the weakest parts of this episode since they didn’t really give a reason why she didn’t like Jess. Maybe it was simply because she didn’t know Jess since that was something Bonnie mentioned at one point in the episode. Although, Nick did say that he had told her about Jess. I suppose Bonnie hating Jess could also have been at least partly because she was simply very upset about the fact that Walt had just died, which I would consider somewhat understandable, but if that was the reason, I think the writers should have established that at some point in the episode.

This episode was definitely pretty dramatic compared to the usual tone of New Girl, and a lot of that was due to Jake Johnson’s acting in this episode, which was just spectacular. He really played the whole thing with Nick being very stressed out about planning the funeral pretty much all on his own very well. Although, Jess did try to offer Nick emotional support throughout the episode, which led to Nick putting her in charge of writing the eulogy for Walt’s funeral.

As much as I’ve enjoyed all of the storylines regarding the sexual tension between Jess and Nick this season, especially after their kiss in the episode “Cooler” it was really nice to see the writers step away from that for an episode and instead focus on how Jess and Nick have frequently tried to offer each other emotional support whenever one of them is going through a difficult time. While they didn’t focus on the romantic element of their relationship too much, the writers did reference it briefly in this episode on several occasions, such as when Jamie asked Jess if she and Nick were sleeping with each other while she was trying to talk to them about Walt as she was writing his eulogy.

As Jamie and Bobby were talking to Jess about Walt, they quickly began to argue about a gold chain that Walt had and whom it actually belonged to. As the episode progressed, Nick became increasingly stressed out about planning the funeral to the point where he stormed out of Bonnie’s house and later showed up at the funeral drunk with another drunk guy who had agreed to be an Elvis impersonator for the funeral. This whole fiasco upset Bonnie even more than she already was, but then again I do think her feelings were valid given the fact that Walt had just died and she was obviously still grieving.

I know I mentioned on several occasions that the novelty of Schmidt’s character has pretty much worn off for me, but I have to say that I really liked him in this episode. The two main problems that I have with Schmidt is that I think he can be a major jerk/douche bag at times, which I know is a part of the character, but sometimes it’s just not funny to me. It also bugs me that Schmidt’s behavior can be rather weird where it seems very cartoonish at times to the point where I don’t think he comes across as a realistic person that could exist in real life. That being said, I feel like Schmidt’s behavior in this episode was rather funny, while also being grounded in reality to a certain extent. I say this because I found Schmidt’s fear of death and dead bodies very relatable. Whenever I’ve gone to a funeral and I see the person’s dead body lying in a casket, it almost always kind of makes me feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin.

I loved the scene where Winston was helping Schmidt practice being around a dead body by lying on a bead and pretending to be dead. That whole scene was pretty funny. The scene when they were at the funeral home where Schmidt kept putting his head in Walt’s casket and realizing that he wasn’t afraid of death or dead bodies anymore was rather bizarre, but it was still hilarious at the same time.

Bonnie asked Winston to say a few words to the people who had come to the funeral while they waited to start the funeral, saying that she wanted him to keep the mood light. However, Winston ended up breaking down in tears over Walt’s death as he was talking to everybody, which was just hilarious if you ask me. Bonnie felt like the whole funeral was essentially ruined at that point and wanted to just stop the funeral and have everybody leave, but Jess showed up dressed like Elvis at that point and started singing the song “In the Ghetto”.

Initially this didn’t impress Bonnie, but Nick showed up, a bit more sobered up than he had been when he first showed up for the funeral and told her that while Walt would probably have pretended to slip and fall so he could sue the funeral home, he would have liked that Jess was impersonating Elvis. Nick went on to give a nice speech about Walt, saying that while he wasn’t sure if Walt was a good person in the grand scheme of things, he was still going to miss him since he was his dad. Jake Johnson’s performance when he was giving Nick’s speech at the funeral really showcased what a great actor Jake is, but the whole episode really showcased Jake’s talent and his acting in this episode really was very deserving of an Emmy. I also like that they also once again referenced the fact that Jake Johnson/Nick is a terrible singer, which they first established in the pilot. After Nick’s speech, Jess got everyone at the funeral to join her in singing “In the Ghetto”, which I thought was really funny.

Jess and Bonnie seemed to work things out after the funeral, and I like to think that it was Jess filling the role of the Elvis impersonator at the funeral that ultimately won Bonnie over. Bonnie gave Jess a snack for the trip home and they hugged. Nick and Bonnie also shared a nice goodbye. Bonnie apologized to Nick for being so dependent on him as he was growing up, and she also told him that she was glad that he had someone who takes care of him (Jess) and asked him to visit her more often. I also loved the part where Winston and Bonnie were saying goodbye to each other. She was mad that he had taken several things that had belonged to Walt and initially wanted him to give it all back, but she quickly changed her mind and told him that he could keep the things he took. I’m really glad that they once again addressed Winston’s emotional attachment to Walt in this episode. It would have been strange if they hadn’t mentioned that, especially after what we saw in the episode “A Father’s Love”.

Apparently, Jamie was under the impression that siblings had to get married in order starting with the oldest sibling. When Jamie asked Nick towards the end of the episode how soon he thought he would be getting married, Nick glanced at Jess before telling him that he didn’t know and told him that siblings don’t have to get married in order, which prompted Jamie to run off and ask his girlfriend to marry him. That was definitely a great way to reference the Jess and Nick relationship without putting too much focus on it.

All things considered, this was a pretty good episode, but I really do think it would have been much better if it had been an hour-long episode. Making this an hour-long episode would have allowed the writers more time to flesh out the personalities of Nick’s family members a bit more, especially when it comes to Bonnie and the fact that she didn’t like Jess until the end of the episode. It just seemed rather bizarre to me that she instantly hated Jess, and yet the writers never really explained why. It would have also been nice to see a bit more of the conversations between Jamie and Bobby, which were all extremely bizarre, mainly because the viewers didn’t get to see the beginning of their arguments, with the exception of their argument over who owned the gold chain that Walt had once had. Maybe it was the writers’ intention to only show bits and pieces of their conversations, so it was up to the viewers to imagine how their arguments started. I don’t know, but their interactions with each other left me wanting more, and not in a good way.

Hannah Simone wasn’t in this episode, and honestly I’m glad that she wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I like the character Cece; it’s just that I don’t think that it would have made sense to have Cece come along to Chicago with Jess, Nick, Winston and Schmidt for the funeral given the fact that Nick and Cece haven’t interacted with each other all that much in the past.

If the writers had really wanted to include Hannah in this episode, I suppose they could have given Cece her own subplot, perhaps with Shivrang. I’m glad that the writers didn’t do that though since this episode already had too much going on for my taste. Adding a subplot for Cece most likely would have been overkill and would probably have been unnecessary filler anyway.


That being said, I give this episode a rating of a B+.

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