Whenever The New Normal attempts to handle a hot-button issue, it always flimsily tries to cram an answer into 21 minutes or less, making it seem that these problems are so incredibly simple. The New Normal’s viewpoint is the clear correct answer, and everyone else should agree. They handled issues like race and politics, and failed horribly at each, spouting off tired arguments, showing hypocrisies—some commented on, others not realized—and coming to simple conclusions that you’d be stupid not to agree with. In “The Godparent Trap,” the show deals with religion and actually pulls it off in a more cohesive way than the other episodes ever came close to.
It would seem like The New Normal’s creator Ryan Murphy’s simple answer would be that religion is silly, something that only people who don’t have friends of a different color or are Republicans could ever possibly believe in. But instead it shows several of the characters’ problems and grasps at regaining their religious backgrounds. Bryan grew up Catholic, and now that he has a kid coming into the world, he thinks it would be nice for his kid to find some sort of peace in religion the way that he did. David’s attempts at religion aren’t that fleshed-out: he used to seek solace in the Jewish temple in college, but basically just fell out of interest with it. Shania, as usual, has the most open-minded approach, as she isn’t sure what happens after death, but she’s willing to hope.
Bryan goes to confession with a priest who also has a very hopeful view for the future of the church, one where everyone is accepted, regardless of what the Pope states. The priest is the show’s way of showing its own look at religion, but it never feels overbearing like its past looks at different viewpoints have before. In “The Godparent Trap,” there isn’t a clear-cut answer; there’s a varying amount of approaches, each as valid as the last. This is a great change for a show that has had problems with canceling out other people’s opinions in the past.
It may not be such a coincidence that Nana is nowhere to be seen this episode. The New Normal has desperately tried to make her not such a hateful character in recent episodes, even making her the voice of reason occasionally, but “The Godparent Trap” shows that the show can reach its goals and have an effective episode, quite possibly its best, without having someone making hateful and unfunny jokes every few minutes.
The show may be evolving, but the plot here doesn’t really come out that strongly. After a check-up at the doctor, Shania starts to worry that their unusual family might come to a close once the baby arrives. But since that would mean the end of the show, there’s no real fear that this could actually happen. David and Bryan look for godparents for their child, eventually settling on Rocky and Shania. They also end up killing Shania’s class guinea pig Marshmallow. When David tries to give Marshmallow CPR, it just seems like a stretch for laughs that aren’t there. Like on most TV shows, they try to replace Marshmallow but immediately are found out by Shania, as Rocky points out that it never worked out on any other show. Most of the stories that are tried here don’t really work, without any real force behind them, or as Rocky mentions, they’ve all been done before.
“The Godparent Trap” is The New Normal heading in the right direction, with a more open mind to differing viewpoints and ability to not cast out others’ ideas. For the first time, we also don’t get off-putting remarks about other people, thanks to the absence of Nana. The New Normal still isn’t as strong as it should be, but it’s at least making steps in the right direction.