Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Girl 5x12 Review: "D-Day" (Job-Swapping and Daddy Issues)

Original Airdate: March 22, 2016

The best thing about New Girl — the thing that has made it my favorite comedy for five years — is its impeccable ability to be either the silliest, zaniest comedy on television or the most heartbreaking. There's a line that is walked by the writers, and it's a very precise one. Because this show builds its comedy on hijinks. A drinking game about politics? An apartment-wide spider hunt? A fight for a parking spot? Well, if any of that happens, it's not out of the ordinary. It's just another Tuesday night in the loft. As Jess' neighbor so eloquently pointed out in "Cooler": "So much weird crap happens in this apartment." That is what makes New Girl funny, at its core.

But that's not why its beloved.

It's loved by critics and fans because its foundation is never on just shenanigans for the sake of shenanigans. The show doesn't write one-liners for Schmidt or zingers for Nick or weird songs for Jess just because. Instead, the foundation of this show is built on the emotional relationship between every character in the loft. Anything that happens to or because of them is funny or heartbreaking for that very reason. We care about these characters. A lot. And that's because we know them intimately. New Girl doesn't use the same bait-and-switch tactic that a lot of comedies do though: the tactic where an emotional moment will be undercut for the same of a lousy joke. The show doesn't brush aside emotions — it welcomes them into its zany little world and that is what grounds the sitcom.

In "D-Day," this is extremely apparent. It's an episode filled with classic New Girl staples: flashbacks to Nick and Winston's childhood, an overeager Schmidt, awkward and flirty Jess, and shenanigans in a B-story. And those moments — the funny ones — only serve to highlight the importance of the emotional reunion between Schmidt and his dad, Gavin.

So let's talk more about Schmidt's daddy issues, as well as the one thing Nick and Winston want from one another.


One of the things constantly mentioned in this show is that Schmidt had an absent father. As a result, he suffered a lot in childhood and still carries the scars of that abandonment in the present. What New Girl does so brilliantly is not oversell the father/son reunion. Even when Schmidt tentatively reaches out and allows his father back in, there's hesitancy there; he has boundaries. And I think that's so representative of a lot of people today who struggle with balancing the same kind of relationship. Again: New Girl didn't just use this reunion as a way to get Max Greenfield to shriek on cue (his horrified reaction when he discovered Jess made out with his dad is the best comedic work Greenfield has done in a long time); they used it to highlight the humanity in the hilarity. And that's what this show really does when it's at its best. It begs us to lean in closer, and to see ourselves in these characters. It's always willing to take risks with storytelling because it believes in the characters telling the story.

That's why the integration of Gavin didn't feel forced. It felt natural that Schmidt, while preparing for a wedding, would discover that his father is a wine merchant. It would make sense that he doesn't mention this to Jess or speak of it aloud. He's still trying to process exactly what he's going to do with the information that his father is so close, and yet so far away. Schmidt has spent years feeling abandoned and betrayed and angry. Even in this episode, his distaste is evident. But something else is etching away at Schmidt, and I think we understand finally why this is the right time for him to take a step forward in letting his dad back in: he's getting married.

Schmidt and Cece's relationship has always been complex, but the one thing that Cece has done for her now-fiance is make him a better person through her love and also through her gentle pushing. Cece is the one who encourages Schmidt to talk to his dad. And when that doesn't work? She takes him by the hand and leads him into the kitchen to talk with Gavin. That's why Cece is so amazing — she tells people what they need to hear, and when they don't listen to her, she takes their hand and walks into the problem with them. She doesn't push Schmidt into a conversation he's hesitant about and leave him there alone. She walks right into the mess with him, and that's precisely why she's the best.

Schmidt isn't ready to fully reconcile with his dad yet either, and Gavin is struggling with how to be a good father after being a terrible one for so many years. Peter Gallagher is so great at playing the charming, suave wine merchant around Jess (their story is hilarious, if only for Schmidt and Cece's reactions), and the brokenhearted and regretful father around Schmidt. He transitions so seamlessly between the two personality traits. And what I really admire about "D-Day" is that this re-introduction isn't a permanent fix. It doesn't undo the damage that Gavin's abandonment caused. And it doesn't make up for Schmidt's pain. But it's a small step in a direction that could be good. Schmidt isn't ready to call Gavin "dad" yet, but is willing to invite him to the wedding. And one of the sweetest displays of love was when Schmidt told his father that Cece is why he is the man he turned out to be. It's because of her LOVE, not Gavin's abandonment, that he became who he is.

And you know what? I think that's pretty great.



I love Aly a lot. I love that she's the kind of partner that Winston needs — a little fiery and feisty and unafraid to tell the truth, even when it stings. Winston and Nick spend nearly the entire episode at odds, beginning with the fact that Winston missed an important (and traditional) lunch date he had with Nick. The two begin to argue about their jobs, Nick believing that Winston's job isn't all that glamorous or dangerous, and Winston believing that Nick's job is so easy, anyone — even a vending machine — could do it.

So Nick tries to prove that he has a difficult job, and Winston actually begins to realize that bartending (and running a bar itself) is not as easy as it looks. But when Nick gets taken on a ride-along, he gets freaked out and admits that Winston's job really is much harder than his own. And Winston — in rare form — gloats about this fact to Aly. I'm glad that he's finally found a career he can be proud of and a job that he loves, but Winston momentarily missed the bigger picture. Usually he's the most in tune with everyone's emotions. And ironically, it was the stoic, not-really-emotional Aly who pointed out Winston's flawed thinking. She was able to see what he could not — that all Nick wanted was Winston's respect and acknowledgement that he's grown as a person.

I could wax poetic for 5,000 words about how everyone in this show underestimates Nick Miller. But I'll just say this: recently I re-watched "Clavado En Un Bar" and came to the sad realization that Schmidt and the rest of the group spend the entirety of the episode making fun of Nick's job as a bartender. They think he's only bartending because he's lazy and unmotivated — because he couldn't make it in a career as a lawyer. But what Nick reveals only to Jess is the fact that he DID pass the bar, just so he could prove to himself that he was bartending because he loved it, not because he couldn't become a lawyer.

That was a brilliant and heartbreaking moment. Because it means that Nick could brag and boast to everyone, showing them the paper. But he chooses not to. He takes the snide comments from Schmidt and the jokes from Winston, and he doesn't seem to be worried about them all that much. Until this episode. All Nick wants is for Winston to see that he's grown and become a better person. Don't forget, Nick and Winston have been friends since childhood. And yet, there's still a part of Winston that — upon looking at Nick — will only see that curmudgeonly little child and the slacker he grew up into. But realization hits when Aly tells Winston what Nick truly wanted most of all, and the two have a nice little make-up at the bar later on.

Nick HAS grown (which is why I'm hopeful this is leading us back to a Nick/Jess reconciliation). He still says dumb things and makes bad decisions. But he's learned how to become better at his job. He's learned how to care more and be more responsible. And he didn't do it to win a girl or to get praise — he did it for the same reason he took the bar: to prove he could.

New Girl spent a lot of "D-Day" in hijinks, but the most important parts of this episode focused on how much these characters love each other and need each other in order to make themselves better. Where there is respect, there is love. And the loft has a lot of it these days.

Additional de-lovely aspects about this episode include:
  • This review marks the 1,000th post at the site. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!
  • "Sometimes I think I was bred in a lab to help people."
  • Nick has an office in the bar! I think that's my new favorite thing.
  • Jess singing "Genie in a Bottle" softly to Schmidt in order to lull him to sleep was one of the best things Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield have done together on this show.
  • "I prefer my wine sparkling, pink, and under $11." Never have I related to a character more than I related to Jessica Day in that moment.
  • It cannot be overstated just how hilarious Max Greenfield's reactions were when Schmidt discovers Jess made out with his father. The noises he made had me cackling.
  • Did everyone notice how Gavin made sure to cover Schmidt's first name while holding the wedding invitation? I DID. Do you think we'll learn it this season?
  • There's a picture on the fridge of the group from their touch-football game during "Injured" and it made me really happy to see.
  • "So. many. emotions."
  • The end tag was SO GREAT. Only this cast could get away with being hilarious while spending a solid three seconds in just silent contemplation.
What did you all think of "D-Day"? Let me know in the comments below!

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