New Girl "Chicago" Review: A Portrait of Nick Miller As a Young Man

New Girl S02E20: "Chicago"

Jess bought balloons from a nice guy in a van and it was all fun and games and huffing helium until Nick received an unfortunate phone call from home with news that his dad had passed away. Whaaaaat? (Somebody really needs to .GIF Cece's drawn-out "what" from "Table 34.") Why so serious, New Girl? And why so good at it? 

"Chicago" could have been one of those gimmicky episodes with an obvious endgame in sight, an excuse to meet the rest of Nick's family while giving professional musician Zooey Deschanel a platform to indie-warble her way through some Elvis tunes. And while both of those things certainly happened, "Chicago" was much more than that. 


Margo Martindale (Justified, The Americans) guest-starred as Nick's neurotic mom, Bonnie, and it's was clear from the moment we met the Miller family matriarch that she is definitely the parent Nick takes after most, what with the odd quirks, the short temper, and the habitual avoidance of uncomfortable situations. As soon as the prodigal son stepped through the front door of the Millers' perfectly normal-looking suburban house (I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that), Mom let him know he would be planning Dearly Departed Dad's Elvis-themed funeral. Nick, in turn, pawned off his eulogy responsibilities on Jess. 

New Girl's sophomore season has been the season of Nick Miller and it seems like each week, we get closer and closer to a more complete picture of who Nick really is. Every character on New Girl can, at first glance, be reduced to a single stereotype. Jess is the quirky girl. Cece is the sexy girl. Schmidt is the douchebag. Winston is the responsible one. Nick is the screw-up. Yet underneath the easy labels, they're increasingly complex characters with histories and motivations probably more at home on a drama series than on a sitcom. New Girl has proven time and again that it's capable of tossing out the TV rulebook and winging it. 

Last week, Jess found herself attracted to what appeared to be Nick's newfound sense of self-discipline and while a Nick who cared about his job and tried to do his own laundry was new to all of us, I got the sense that Responsible Nick wouldn't've surprised his family at all. When we met Nick's dad earlier this season, there was some resentment on Nick's part because Walt wasn't the kind of parent who parented particularly well. His schemes and scams took him away from his family and forced Nick to step up and take his place. When Nick returned home this week to attend his father's funeral and his mother immediately handed over the reins to the entire event, her action was based on an expectation and awareness of Nick that we as an audience have only seen flashes of. Bonnie clearly cared a great deal about getting Walt's funeral just right. No matter her own personal grief or issues surrounding what was probably an equally complicated relationship with Walt, I don't think a woman who was so concerned with holding the perfect funeral would have delegated such heavy responsibilities to the village idiot. She knew Nick could handle it because Nick proved while growing up that he could pick up the slack for his often AWOL and sometimes incarcerated father. 

And then I'm guessing he turned 18, ran off to college, and indulged in a little Nick time that ended up becoming a decade-long bender of pawning off his responsibilities on everyone else simply because for the first time in his life, he could. 

Jess was, understandably, unable to write a eulogy in Nick's place. In the face of her refusal to just crap out some nice words and the pressure to do right by a father felt some admittedly unkind sentiments toward, Nick shut down and retreated to a bar. He couldn't stand up in front of friends and family and talk about what a terrible job his father had done raising him, and he didn't want to make something up (that's what Jess was for). And that's where the serious business of Nick's relationship with his father took the spotlight and closed the book on the understated "to be continued" that ended our sole interaction with Walt Miller. 

Despite only making a single appearance on the series, the death of Dennis Farina's Walt Miller was just as unexpected for us as it was for Nick. Walt blew into Nick's life after a long time away, talking about making a change in his ways, only to leave again once the truth about his visit to L.A. was revealed. The door was left wide open for more scams, more daddy issues, and probably, eventually, a happy resolution. I commended New Girl when the episode aired for being willing to leave a broken parent-child relationship broken for the time being, rather than forcing the characters into a forgiveness scene that didn't ring true just for an aww-factor. 

But I really thought that eventually the Miller men would make up.

Nick eventually returned to his father's wake with an Elvis impersonator in tow. Both guys were totally skunked, and Bonnie moved to call the whole thing off. Better no ceremony than a crappy one, right? Funerals are mostly about making the living feel better, anyway, so it's kind of an exercise in masochism if they only making you feel worse. 

Jess couldn't write a eulogy for Walt, but she could dress up like Aloha from Hawaii Elvis and lead mourners in a rendition of "In the Ghetto." Nick found it in himself to sober up and give a heartfelt—but honest and fair—eulogy for his dad. Jess took his hand. I "awwwed." I hope you're happy, New Girl.

And most tellingly, concerning the Miller family modus operandi, Bonnie apologized for depending on Nick so much. Nick is the sort of guy who thrives on being acknowledged for the good things he does and I think this acknowledgement was a long time coming. 


What did you think of "Chicago"?



NOTES

– One-liner of the night: It's gotta be Schmidt's entire fake eulogy for Winston. 

– Nick's "Who booby trapped me?!" over the balloons. I snorted. It was gross. 

– The airline lost Schmidt's suit and he was forced to make do with... I don't even know. '90s mafia? Night at the Roxbury? His turmoil over the useless buttons on the double-breasted jacket was amazing.

– That was all-of-a-sudden-he's-everywhere Nick Kroll (The League, Kroll Show) as Nick's younger brother. 

– I was totally waiting for Schmidt and Nick's Boston cousin to knock over the casket when they were fighting. 

Comments (49)
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Mar 29, 2013
Jess as Elvis=awesome. another solid episode from my favorite comedy. last week's angry flirting was fantastic, too. :)
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Mar 28, 2013
So far i have really liked Nick, Schmitd and Jess, they have all made me laugh so hard it was hard to breathe. And now Winne is making his way into my heart thanks to his hyper sensitive side. The side that made him take of all off his clothes when he had a panic attack, the side that enjoys a bathtub like no other, and make him cry for every little reason. When he bursted into screams of agony over Nicks dad I almost fell out of my bed. Now I am waiting for Cece, waiting for her to let go, though i have really enjoyed her more serious side lately. There has been a real quality to it!

Loving the development of the show!
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Mar 28, 2013
Oh, this show is killing me. I was laughing and crying through the whole episode, I was craughing so hard! (is that a thing?). It really amazes me how the writers can hit the emotional notes perfectly without forgetting that this is first and foremost a comedy. Nick Miller (and of course, Jake Johnson), this is your season. I'm totally into the way the writers decided to deal with Nick's dad. Usually, writers decide to end this kind of father-son relationships with some kind of hopeful resolution. But we didn't get that here. And it's actually pretty realistic. Sometimes, some people are beyond redemption. And that doesn't make them "good or bad in the greater scheme of things". They are who they are, simple as that. Nick's eulogy was true and heartfelt, and real. And just when I couldn't hold my tears any longer, Elvis!Jess reminded me that this show is comedy with her "You okay, mama?".
I'm so in love with this show and with each of its characters.
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Mar 28, 2013
"Nick's Boston cousin"? That's Bill freakin' Burr!
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Mar 27, 2013
Where is the Winston love? He had some great lines and his pulpit freak-out was awesome!
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Mar 27, 2013
Schmidt that´s all I´m saying :)
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Mar 27, 2013
I knew it would be a fun episode the minute they started huffing the helium. Any show that mixes helium and a funeral will make me laugh out loud for sure. I could totally relate to Nick this episode. I was also a first born given all the responsibility for the family and when I had my chance to go to college I made sure I went as far away as I could and left maturity behind. So, now I totally understand why Nick is the way he is. I also think that once Nick has something to care about - responsible Nick will resurface. Loved all the moments between Nick and Jess. When he saw her doing her Elvis impression I totally imagined him whispering how much he loved her. I also loved watching Jess trying to open her chips with her gloves on - I do that all the time. As usual - I want to write down every word that Schmidt says. He is so hilarious. I had to pause the show every time he said, "buttons". Don't think Nick's dad is dead either - there is still a lot of comic gold available with his character.
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Mar 27, 2013
Though I don't really understand the obsession with Elvis (sorry America) I did think this was an awesome episode. Schmidt dunking his head in and out of the coffin was my favourite part.
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Mar 27, 2013
new girl hadn't been really interesting for a few episodes but this one was touching and funny! kudos!
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Mar 27, 2013
RIP Walts mustache
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Mar 27, 2013
1. I really really hope Nick's dad died for real, I mean it is not one of his tricks to disappear because of his scams. Because to be honest, I am having hard time believing the show killed off such an interesting character, even if not a regular character but like you said yourself, there could have been more.

I was actually having that thought when Schmidt was ^facing^ his fear over and over again.

Nick is not as messed up as his family is, it was very interesting show. Did I miss my laugh? I don't know, throughout the episode I was involved too much to think about it. I did have my laugh when the gang sucked on balloons and didn't respond to Nick's sad news. I was laughing before they open their mouth.

And of course Schmidt's fear of going to funeral and that reason. Love the show, love everyone in it. They should've bring Cece with them too.
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Mar 27, 2013
Oh my mistake, I was saying if Nick's dad didn't die for real*.
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Mar 27, 2013
He didn't die for real if the footage is any indication. When Schmidt and that guy were fighting, you could see him blinking in the casket.
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Mar 27, 2013
I thought I was seeing things because I wanted to see it. I have to take another look now.
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Mar 27, 2013
The is episode was SO, SO DAMN GOOD
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Mar 27, 2013
I thought the casting was incredible. All of nick's family were so well done. Nick Kroll is hilarious in everything he does, Margo Martindale is awesome and Bill Burn as Nick's cousin from Boston. I really wanted to hate this show as it appeared to be just an annoying platform for overly quirky Zoey Deschanel but, I have to admit, I love it
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Mar 27, 2013
I was happy to see Parks and rec's The Douche as Nick's douchey brother. The episode was really great. I like that New Girl doesn't waste time making things awkward between Nick and Jess. Their relationship feels natural and I like its progression. Winston was amazing in the episode. This show is getting better and better.
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Mar 27, 2013
For me, this really is the best new show on tv right now, and I'm not usually a sitcom person (well, not since FRIENDS). I think it's really a sign of talent when a sitcom can make you laugh, tear up and fall in love in one episode, and consistently add layers to characters the more you spend time with them.

PS. Another one liner worth mentioning, purely for perfect, quick offended delivery:
"Long island, son!" - Shmidtt
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Mar 27, 2013
I thought it was a nice episode, funny and some really awww'd moments :) I love this show.
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Mar 27, 2013
This show is getting more stupid this year than last year. I hope it will become better next season when they add a third female character to join the original cast, who is more likely a Jess and Cece character!
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Mar 27, 2013
It wasnt one of my favorites because of the missing comedy, but i was pleasantly surprised how well a comedy sitcom pulled off a dramatic episode, i was hoping they wouldnt try to cheese it up or anything. I think it worked out great :)
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Mar 27, 2013
I was worried it would get cheesy too. When I saw Jess in the Elvis get-up in promos I was like, "Not sure if want," but I was pleasantly surprised!
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Mar 28, 2013
I'm in the same boat. I hated the idea of it. I couldn't help but giggle and also be a little impressed at the actual impression though.
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Mar 28, 2013
yes! the Elvis get up was definitly my red flag..
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Mar 27, 2013
I have nothing deep to say, I just really enjoyed this episode even though it was missing some of my pure laugh out loud moments (even Schmidt and Winston were kind of quieter versions of themselves).
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Mar 27, 2013
Didn't care much about this episode, I hate Elvis impersonation stuff, and I didn't care about Nick's relationship with his dad. As a result, the only things I liked were Schmidt and Winston stuff..

That said, Nick is related to Nick Kroll, Bill Burr, AND Margo Martindale? That's a really impressive family cast.
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Mar 28, 2013
Ugh, I'd give anything to have been on the set during the filming of this episode because of Kroll and Burr together. I can imagine the fun the whole cast had with those two. Margo Martindale is fantastic, too.
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Mar 27, 2013
Schmidt is my favourite!
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Mar 27, 2013
Great episode.It shows the maturity of the show for being different than the stereotypical comedies that are meant for few laughs with character development of each character week in week out. So many hilarious moments like the helium voice by the gang when consoling Nick, Winstons breakdown & Nicks drunk attempts to phrase eulogy.
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Mar 27, 2013
I thought the casket was going to turn over and land on Schmidt!. I liked the small touch of duct tape on the outside of the posters in the room, that would be so Nick.
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Mar 27, 2013
Ditto!
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Mar 27, 2013
i saw that too and thought the same thing lol
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Mar 27, 2013
I am continually blown away by how incredible the writers and actors are on this show. These characters are not only hilarious, but authentic and well-developed. How often can you see that on a half hour comedy that is only finishing it's second season? The writers have done such a phenomenal job at creating characters that have so many layers to them, and are visibly evolving through the season. Every episode this season has been consistently better than the last, and the way they have progressed Nick and Jess's relationship is nothing short of amazing. What is probably the most impressive, is that there is such attention to detail within the show. If you've seen interviews (Paley, etc) they are all very vocal about episodes being written and changed as they go along, yet you can go back and watch previous episodes along it's entire run and see SO MUCH foreshadowing and consistency in the little details. It's obvious that these writers and actors really CARE about their show and their characters, and as a huge fan of the show, that is such a refreshing change for television shows these days.
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Mar 27, 2013
one of the worst episodes to date.
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Mar 27, 2013
Man. This show. Just keeps making me happy week after week. It is simultaneously heartfelt and hilarious.

I am kind of surprised that they killed off Nick's dad, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. With all the characterization and character growth they've done with Nick this season, it makes a lot of sense. Seeing that Nick has always been WAY more responsible than any of us realized, and what we've been seeing isn't some temporary thing on his part, is another step forward for the Nick/Jess relationship.

And can we talk about all the cute glances and looks between those too? So so cute. I awwed too. :)

I'm really sad that this season is starting to wind down. It has really hit its stride this season and become so wonderful.
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Mar 27, 2013
This season has FLOWN. I can't believe it's almost over either. I guess time flies when you're consistently producing excellent episodes?

I was surprised about Nick's dad too because there was still so much room to use Dennis Farina's character in the future. It seemed like an odd choice, but it worked in this episode, and as long as New Girl keeps doing what it's doing, I'm sure it'll be fine later on too.
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Mar 27, 2013
Could we always hope he's pulling the ultimate con?
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Mar 27, 2013
Overall I was pleasently surprised b/c when I origionally saw the promo pics of Jess dressing up as Elvis I assumed it would turn into an episode in which I would experience some second hand embarassment but it was nothing like that (I guess I really needed the context in which things were happening).

I didn't find this a totally laugh out episode (mainly cuz it revolved aroung a death) but i found it extremly sweet. I love the fact that this show doesnt stay stuck on being soley comedy and is willing to go outside that relm, showing a more vulnerable side to the characters and making them more 3 dimentional.

But all I can really say is that I just really want to see more of Nicks family, like i could totally see next years christmas or thanksgiving episode being set at their house and man I think that would be hilarious. I really liked the part where Nick's brother and cousin are asking Jess if She and Nick are "insert eyebrow motions". And Margo Martindale was great whenever she was on screen.

Favorite line was prob Winston reading Nicks "giggliography" : Walt , am I right?

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Mar 27, 2013
Also anyone else notice that Bonnie refered to Schmidt as Fat Schmidt?
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Mar 27, 2013
Sorry, but for me that song belongs to Eric Cartman now.
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Mar 27, 2013
Jailhouse Rock would have probably been more appropriate. But Bonnie said not to mention the felony stuff. Soooo.....
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Mar 27, 2013
YYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Sorry to do the annoying tween-drag-out-all-the-letters-thing but it was so very deserving of it! I was thinking the exact same thing.
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Mar 27, 2013
Loved it. Took us somewhere we weren't expecting, Nick being responsible, his eulogy was perfect, and Jess as Elvis I just adored. I can never say anything bad about this show. I love that I can expect the unexpected.
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Mar 27, 2013
The scene where Nick asked the gang if they wasn't gonna say anything, I got sad while I bursted into laugh because of their helium-voices.
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Mar 27, 2013
I loved this episode it once again proves how innovative and amazing this show really is.
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Mar 27, 2013
I watch The Americans and seeing Nick's mom, it was extra funny. I was surprised that she was funny as well. I can't believe they killed off Nick's father in the same season he appeared. Its odd but nonetheless made a great episode. Reminded me of 'Death at a Funeral'.
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Mar 31, 2013
There was a little Magd Bennett in there too, and her character from Dexter. The woman is a legend.
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Mar 27, 2013
I watch The Americans too and I'm glad I'm not the only one who couldn't unsee Claudia.
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