Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Girl Season 5 Episodes 15 & 16 Review: “Jeff Day”/”Helmet”

While people can debate who their favorite New Girl character is or which member of the cast makes them laugh the most, there’s one thing that pretty much all fans can agree on: the relationship between Jess and Nick is the heart of the show. Their relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic; during New Girl‘s first season, nothing super flirty happened between the two roommates, and their scenes together were still the best moments of what had become a fantastic freshman sitcom. This became even more apparent in New Girl Season 2, before and after Jess and Nick’s kiss, as their heartfelt conversations and selfless actions continued to be terrific.

However, after Jess and Nick’s break-up in Season 3, New Girl has also relied on some of its other pairings to be the heart and soul of the series, from Nick and Schmidt to Cece and Schmidt to even Winston and Ferguson (but more on them later). In fact, if there was one thing missing from this fifth season, which has been consistently entertaining, it’s the fact that we haven’t gotten many great Jess/Nick moments, partly due to the fact that Zooey Deschanel was absent from the show during the first half of Season 5 and also because, since Jess has been back, many of her storylines have focused on her own romantic life or her friendship with Cece.

Tonight’s back-to-back episodes of New Girl fixed that problem, though, as we were given a double dose of Jess and Nick stories in “Jeff Day” and “Helmet.” Even though the second of the two episodes provided us with a more emotional and entertaining story, both installments served as a reminder that, no matter the status of their relationship, Jess and Nick will always be the foundation of New Girl.

As I hinted at above, “Helmet” is clearly the better of this week’s episode; in fact, I’d even argue that it’s one of the best episodes of Season 5. But “Jeff Day” is still a fun half hour filled with some hilarious bickering between not only Jess and Nick but also Nick and Sam. Although the Sam storyline still feels under-cooked (I just don’t buy his and Jess’s relationship), “Jeff Day” is able to bypass the negatives of his romance with Jess and become a fun caper-like story, similar to Season 2’s “Pepperwood” (Nick even mentions his Julius Pepperwood persona in the episode), gliding past any speed bumps thanks to the hilarious back-and-forth banter delivered perfectly by Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson. Plus, it also helps that “Jeff Day” is ultimately an empowering episode for Jess; she realizes that she doesn’t need any man, whether it be Nick, Sam, or Billy the car salesman, and is able to get what she wants on her own.

“Helmet” also feels like a Season 2 episode of New Girl, a mix between “Chicago” and “Table 34.” Not only do you have Nick struggling to deal with the memory of his dad, but you also have Jess fighting off any attraction she feels to Nick as she tries to keep things serious with Sam. Jess’s conversation with Cece about her sex dream about Nick plays very much like the talk they had after Nick kissed Jess back in Season 2, and again, we have Sam becoming doubtful about Jess’s feelings for him because of Nick’s presence in her life.

However, where “Helmet” pivots from a New Girl Season 2 episode is when Nick decides to help Jess break free of his Chicago Bears helmet so that she can go have dinner with Sam and his parents. After “Cooler,” Nick wouldn’t apologize to Jess for kissing her because he wanted to do it, and he knew she wanted to as well. Now, three years later, he recognizes that things have changed, and he doesn’t need to be the “alpha male” anymore when it comes to Jess. If she cares about Sam as much as she says she does, then that’s all that matters to him; Jess’s happiness mean more to Nick Miller than the memory of his father, and while I don’t think many New Girl fans would have doubted that, it’s nice that the writers remind us of just how much Nick cares for Jess in “Helmet.”

And also about how much Jess cares about Nick, which is made clear when she frames a broken piece of the Bears helmet so that Nick can hang it at the bar, a little piece of his dad that’s always watching over him. It’s moments like these between Jess and Nick that transcend any type of stereotypical sitcom romance. Whether they’re friends, lovers, or somewhere in between, Jess Day and Nick Miller are always going to love each other, no matter what, and that’s why they’re still the heart and soul of New Girl five seasons in.

What did everyone else think about tonight’s back-to-back episodes of New Girl? Comment below and let me know.

[Photo credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX]

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