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

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.




Comments (33)
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I can say that I am disappointed with season two. I enjoyed watching season 1, but if it doesn't become more intriguing, then I won't continu watching it!!
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I am so baffled by all the praise for this show. It is still the same kind of awful it was last season. Re-dropping.
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It's weird how conventional methods of judging a show go out the window when it's a comedy. Everyone's idea of funny is different.
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Absolutely. Funny is subjective.
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Very fun episodes to start the season. Didn't have much of a problem with either.



Winston is the weakest character on the show, so far, but he's also hilarious. I thought we might get a bit more depth to him when he started the second episode mentioning his family coming by... but nope, that storyline went nowhere for him.
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I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.



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I laughed so much at drunk Winston "Look at me, I'm so naughty!"
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Nah, the best one-liners were by the shot girl. "I graduated from MIT but then I got into a horrible accident and lost half my brain." and "Look at my butt. Stupid jerks."
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Stupid jerks.
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-Funny stuff. Good stuff.

-I really have to agree with you. There's only so much that we can actively feel sad for. He's not that redeemable. He's pretty creepy.

-Yes, Cece and Schmidt are awkwardly meant for each other.

-She should start canning fruit. I think that would be a good move for her.

-You stole my line. Seriously. Exact same line, in the exact same tone. MaryAnn, it is working well for you.
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I don't know if it's just me... New girl feels like 10 times better than season 1... I enjoyed every minute of both episodes... made me want to see more.. something that never happened throughout season 1. Keep it up!
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I think they started finding this level of consistency later last season, and the break really helped them complete the shows identity. I agree, it's just grown so much over the Summer. :D
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New Girl hasn't missed a beat!

Usually the beginning of sophomore seasons are written in such a way to ease the audience back into the show. It's been so long since we've dived in, the writers tend to dip our toes in the waters before we're fully submerged.

Not so with Jess and friends!

The seamless transition from first to second season appeared to be effortless. We all worry about the dreaded sophomore slump from a new show last season we fell in love with. Will it be as good? Will it be the same? Well, if the combined hourlong season debut was any indication, there is absolutely nothing to worry about here.

The jokes were funny, the dialogue snappy, and the rapport of the group has never been stronger. And it must be said the transcendent Zooey has lost none of her charm. I basically loved it, guys!

But what I'm REALLY impressed with is how they're handling the Jess/Nick "will they or won't they?" dynamic. First off, it's not even a question, because of course they will. The only question is when? I actually expected them to kiss during a passionate argument near the end of season 1, but now I'm glad they didn't. The premier had the perfect amount of development and heartfelt moments between the two (the closing scene of the first episode was quite touching). These type of TV relationships are very precarious. You put them together too soon, and the inevitable and (personally) despised cycle of break-up/reconciliation/break-up/reconciliation ensues. But dragging it out too long just pisses people off. I don't know if "it" will happen this season or next, but I like the slow progression of their relationship built upon the foundation of their friendship. They have become really close friends. Nick of course has the closest friendship with Jess out of the roommates. And what's astounding is there doesn't seem to be (for the moment anyway) even a hint of URST. It's so refreshing not to have one of them realize they're in love with the other and secretly harbour these feelings for half a season before finally admitting it in the finale.

Plus, they're just plain good together. I think they'd make a cute couple, whenever that eventually happens.

All-around it was a great premier!
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I agree with you about loving the Nick-Jess relationship. It's obvious that they're going to get together at some point, but the writers aren't laying it on thick. Generally, they just act like buddies, and I think that makes it so much better. You know he's got feelings for her, but he's happy to cheer her on when she's banging dudes for fun. I like it.
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I am in the minority but I didn't really find either episode very funny. They were more depressing for me. Besides, I really missed CiCi.
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Loved the 2 episode premiere. Glad to see New Girl come back so strong. It took me until episode 15 or so last year to actually start watching it, but it has been a pleasant surprise. Schmidt is one of the funnier comedy characters to come along in a few seasons.



Very excited for the rest of this season after that great start.
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I've said it before (and this review mirrors it) - Winston has been reduced to a comedic outlet. And the storyline in this episode with his family wasn't even about him. It was about Schmidt and his relationship with the mother and daughter. I mean, come on!!
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Love New Girl and the new season has started great - hilariously funny at times (Schmidt YOU are the man if there ever was one) and touching
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Great start to the second season! I look forward to seeing what happens and how the characters relaunch themselves!
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Josh Gad as Bearclaw was great!
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I was actually guessing that Jess' meeting was taking place before the school year began (I didn't notice any children in the halls when CeCe came to pick her up), but, um, why were all the guys home? I thought Schmidt was gainfully employed (as a marketer, thank you New Girl for actually naming he job countless times last night). And as an aside, can we just appreciate that for all the joy we get from bromances recently, I kind of think Jess and CeCe have the most normal girl friendship on TV.
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laid off on your birthday?!? that sucks! ......sorry
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Parker Posey was so channelling Chelsea Handler.
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Funny you say that, because there have been several times I caught some of Chelsea Handler's routine or show and thought, "She kind of reminds me of Parker Posey's mean side."
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The first two episodes of this season were kind of complicated, but the overall is good. Next season, we should add a sixth member in this show to be even.
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I thought these two episodes were great. But I agree, I really wish the writers would give Winston something interesting to do. I mean I honestly don't care about him, and I don't think that is a good thing. He does funny things, he just doesn't have any depth.

Future Nick was hilarious, I actually believed that the writers had gone all mystical and added a crazy fantasy element for a second.
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I know that was funny and how disappointed Nick was at the end...
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For a moment, I considered the possibility too. I was kind of bummed right there with Nick when we found out he was just a crazy dude.



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thought it might start off boring, but both episodes were great, hopefully its like this all season
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Oooooh, how I've missed you New Girl! So glad you're back in my life. It had an EXCELLENT premiere in both episodes and it has me totally excited for the rest of the season.



On one of my own notes that you didn't mention

- A weird Winston is the most HILARIOUS Winston. He had me cracking up in the first episode after he got just a small taste of Nick's drink.
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I know, I love when we get glimpses into the weird Winston, as much as we know he is Nick's friend, you just have a feeling he and fat Schmidt might have been friends first.
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I also love Parker Posey.
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Excellent premiere (both episodes). New Girl never fails to make me laugh and also has compelling characters. What more can you ask of a comedy?
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