New Girl's Season 2 Premiere: The Many Faces of Jess

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New Girl S02E01 & S02E02: "Re-launch" & "Katie"

New Girl came back to television intending to party it up in celebration of Schmidt losing his penis cast (RIP penis cast), but Jess’s unceremonious layoff from her beloved teaching position put a damper on the festivities. Schmidt intended his party to be a re-launch of the “Schmidt Brand” after its lengthy hiatus from the bedroom, but faced with a sudden identity crisis after losing her job, “Re-Launch” became a story that belonged almost entirely to Jess.

Jess has joined the ranks of many in our current economic suckfest. With so much time devoted to pointing out that she was running late for work on the day she was laid off, I was dreading something so cartoonish as Jess randomly getting fired for being late that ONE day, even understanding that New Girl is ultimately a comedy. In my opinion, the best comedy is that which remains grounded in reality, particularly the more unpleasant aspects of it. Christopher Titus’s one-man show Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding is my go-to example for making awful things funny and healing, but sitcoms are just as capable. Scrubs comes immediately to mind, The Big C and Nurse Jackie, even 2 Broke Girls when it brings its A-game (which was soooo not the case during 2 Broke Girls' own Season 2 premiere on Monday night).

Jess's layoff was no fault of her own. Her school district had to make cuts and decided that the fairest way to do so was to start with untenured faculty. Jess was untenured. It was just math. It happens.

I was laid off once. It’s kind of the worst thing ever, with the humiliation of the actual termination being followed by a general downgrade in lifestyle as your savings shrink and you start to think maybe Mc-Employment wouldn’t be so bad. I got laid off on my birthday, so like Jess, there was a party available to provide the perfect setting for a complete and total meltdown, complete with tiny hats and too many shots. (LOVE tiny hats.)

After I was laid off, one of my friends told me that a teacher that she greatly admired once said to her, “Every person needs to be fired once in their life.” If it happens at the right time, a firing can be liberating, the ultimate freedom, the perfect opportunity to “re-launch” your personal brand. However, Jess’s rebranding is complicated by the fact that she liked her old brand very much. She was happy as a teacher. It was all she ever wanted to do.

It was important for Fox to air “Katie,” the follow-up to “Re-Launch.” as the second part of Tuesday’s two-episode premiere because “Katie” was where the Jess we know and love began to reappear after Nick encouraged her to embrace her unemployment. The resident screw-up, Nick is no stranger to reinvention in the aftermath of crushing failure. He’s actually probably the best candidate, out of all of her roommates, to help Jess get back on her feet.

Now, the possibility of Jess finding another teaching job at another school isn’t off the table by any means, but if New Girl is aiming to reflect the climate here in the real world, well, I personally know an upsetting number of un- and underemployed educators. Reinvention may be in Jess’s best interest for the time being, but with her ideal identity unavailable for the foreseeable future, Jess has become aimless, trying on new personalities and roles the way you try on a dress. In “Re-Launch” we met Ivy the wild shot girl. In “Katie” it was Katie, a dancer who failed to meet new love interest Sam (Bent's David Walton) and whose place Jess was happy to fill in her absence.

By removing a fundamental aspect of Jess’s identity, New Girl has given itself the ultimate freedom. Jess’s alternate personae, Ivy and Katie, were fun and different explorations of Jess’s character during the season premiere, but I sincerely hope that Jess isn’t left to aimlessly don and ditch different roles throughout the season. The return of Sam, even after he learned who Jess really was, leads me to believe that Jess might be done trying different lives on for size, but even if she is willing to return to being Jess, she still needs to decide WHO Jess is.

While Jess’s reinvention was the most obvious re-launch as we kicked off Season 2, her roommates and friends had their fair share of changes as well. Fresh out of his penis cast (and Max Greenfield’s Emmy nomination), Schmidt was determined to either get back with Cece or move on from their Season 1 break-up—but he really wanted to get back together. In fact, his entire re-launch party was planned as little more than an elaborate attempt to woo her back. Unfortunately, when Cece arrived, it was with new boyfriend Robbie (The Office’s Nelson Franklin) in tow. I think I can guess what Schmidt’s story arc is going to be this season.

In “Katie,” Nick attempted to be Jess’s unemployment guru and encouraged her to use her sudden abundance of free time to do something that really made her happy. He also met his “future self,” in one of the elderly regulars at the bar who called himself the Nick of the Future. When he was inevitably revealed to be a crazy old homeless man, Nick took the guy's advice anyway, guiding Jess through the pratfall of being caught between her Jess and Katie identities and mixing her up a fresh old fashioned at Old Nick's insistence. Jess was impressed because she had always wanted to try the drink (they’re so gooood).

Nick’s season 2 story was hinted at as last season drew to a close, basically confirming his attraction to Jess. Despite his general ineptitude in life, Nick’s relationship with Jess is one of the few things he tends to handle with care—which, of course, means that their will-they-won’t-they storyline will be drawn out for at least another season or two, and certainly most of this one, if the arrival of Sam, the blind date meant for Katie that Jess intercepted, is any indication.

Poor Winston, as Schmidt pointed out, has no other role than that of “Winston.” I wouldn’t mind seeing him get his own interesting storyline this season. Dinner with his grumpy mom and WNBA star sister was a start, but surely we can find something more exciting for him to do, right?


What do you hope to see in Season 2 of New Girl?



NOTES


– One-liner spotlight goes to “I thought we talked about you not wearing your shower diaper in the kitchen,” and “Imagine all that pee on your pretty dresses!”

– I wanted to laugh at Bearclaw. I really did. But mostly I just felt bad for him. I’d say that someone needs to give him a hug, but I don’t want to get anyone groped, so I think we should all just pitch in and buy him a Real Girl doll.

– What’s the expiration date on Cece’s new boyfriend? Is she just fighting the inevitable? Are she and Schmidt awkwardly meant for one another?

– “Hi. I got laid off.” Just rip that band-aid off, Jess. No, but really, what SHOULD she do with all of her shiny new free time?

– I love Parker Posey. That is all.




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