Nick and Jess forever: An ode to season 2 of New Girl

NEW GIRL: L-R: Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson in the "Raisin's Back" time period premiere episode of NEW GIRL airing Tuesday, Jan. 3 (8:00-8:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
NEW GIRL: L-R: Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson in the "Raisin's Back" time period premiere episode of NEW GIRL airing Tuesday, Jan. 3 (8:00-8:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images) /

With only two more episodes left in New Girl’s seven-season run, let’s reminisce about its sophomore year, both its best season and one of the most impressive one-season romances in sitcom history.

One of the dangers every sitcom faces is peaking too early.

Sitcoms tend to follow one of two paths to success:

1.) Some start off in a rough place; The Office and Parks and Recreation are prime examples of great sitcoms with meh first seasons.

2.) Others, like The Mindy Project, begin their runs by setting a high standard the show soon proves it isn’t equipped to consistently live up to.

Fox’s New Girl, unfortunately, fell into the latter category. Its second season did such a good job of establishing Nick Miller and Jessica Day’s relationship that subsequent seasons didn’t know how to keep the momentum going.

I actually stopped watching New Girl after season 3 before picking it up again this season, and that was purely because memories of season 2 made it necessary for me to find out how the roommates’ (and Cece’s) stories end. So with mere hours before the series calls it quits, let’s look back at how well season 2 progressed Nick and Jess’ romance and the classic moments it created in the process.

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Season 2 saw plenty of firsts for the show’s leads, culminating in them finally getting together. New Girl handled their blossoming relationship with an amount of emotional maturity neither of those characters possessed without ever sacrificing the show’s patented zany humor.

The season started with Jess reeling from losing her teaching job and Nick still biding his time professionally at his bar. The first scene of season 2 involved Jess scratching underneath Schmidt’s penis cast, a solid reminder of how oddly close the four loftmates are.

The first sign that Nick and Jess might be on the verge of admitting their feelings came three episodes in when Winston convinced Nick he had become Jess’ “emotional fluffer,” meaning that they were acting like a couple with none of the fun benefits. It was one of the first times any of the supporting characters directly pointed out that there was something more between Nick and Jess than just platonic friendship.

As the season progressed, Nick and Jess continued to see other people. While Jess had fun with Sam the pediatrician, Nick had a fling with a stripper played by Olivia Munn. Side note: At this point in New Girl‘s life cycle, Nick was waaaaaaaaaay over-achieving in his dating his life.

Then came the episode “Cooler,” where a risque game of True American forced Nick and Jess into a situation where they had to kiss. As Jess tried to goad him into kissing her, he blurted out “not like this!,” prompting him to do a very Nick thing by attempting to escape the awkward situation by climbing out of the loft window.

That episode ended with Nick kissing Jess in one of the steamier moments you’ll find in a network sitcom, which he capped with the perfect line: “I meant something like that.” SWOON.

Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson’s rapport has always been the driving force of New Girl, and it was at its most palpable and organic during the golden age of season 2. It’s also worth mentioning that season 2 was the first showcase of their impressive physical chemistry, which is leagues and bounds beyond the leads of certain other sitcoms (*cough* Big Bang Theory).

The two then spent a few episodes trying to deny their feelings for each other, which was clearly a losing proposition.

Enter “Quick-Hardeinng Caulk,” season 2’s masterpiece. That episode was a comedic tour de force from the four loftmates, its best moments involving Schmidt and Winston trying and failing to catch a lion fish and Nick sensually pulling a chain at a hardware store while Jess makes accidental double entendres about construction tools.

Jess became weirdly turned on when Nick actually started trying at everyday activities. Things became a little more complicated when she found Nick was only applying himself to impress his attractive boss, but the episode did end with the two making out so hard they broke an aquarium. Hilarious progress!

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Despite their clear physical attraction to each other, Nick and Jess still weren’t quite ready to define their relationship. They went on a disastrous first date featuring one of Jess’ ex-boyfriends (the rich one that Nick had a man-crush on), and Jess even met Nick’s family before anything more happened.

It’s a testament to how well-plotted their relationship was that the slow-burn approach proved to be as effective as it did. Of course, their relationship was quite sped up compared to other sitcom couples who seemingly took forever to take the leap (looking at you, Jim and Pam).

Their sexual tension finally came to a head in “Virgins,” where Nick finally decided to “not think about” something for once and sweep Jess off her feet. It was a pivotal moment for the series, but also one of the first times Nick actually showed some initiative in any facet of his life. Character development is rarely that sexy.

The finale featured Cece’s pre-arranged wedding falling apart before Nick and Jess finally decided to go for it before literally driving off into the sunset. That ending left New Girl on a high note that season 3 would sour by immediately breaking Nick and Jess up, which thankfully the show rectified three years later.

I’m still a tad bitter about the way New Girl handled Nick and Jess after season 2, mostly because those 25 episodes did such an outstanding job investing me in their romance. Nick’s proposal to Jess and her adorable reaction in the penultimate hour of the series was both a moment worth waiting seven years for and a frustrating reminder of how much time the show wasted needlessly drawing out their inevitable engagement.

Regardless, season 2 was the realization of New Girl‘s potential as a romantic comedy in the purest sense of the term. It capitalized the most off its leads’ crackling chemistry, and the show’s nose-dive in quality after breaking them up half a season later proves just how much their relationship was carrying the show.

Goodbye, New Girl. You may have peaked early, but at least we’ll always have Nick’s panic moonwalk.

New Girl will air its final two episodes tonight at 9:00 p.m. on Fox.